The Urban Philly Professionals Network (UPPN) hosted a #BlackVotersMatter reception and panel discussion on Wednesday at the African-American Museum of Philadelphia in Center City.
A nice mix of mayoral, city council and judicial candidates attended the event, stressing the importance of the Black vote and presented their platforms during a segment of the reception in the lower auditorium of the museum.
“We wanted people to see the candidates and get more information on their platforms,” said Sulaiman Rahman, UPPN Founder. “And we want people to understand why it’s important to vote. Moving to the polls and making our voices heard is going to be key.”
Rahman cited a decrease in entrepreneurship of Blacks in Philadelphia and examples of police brutality against Blacks nationwide as indicators the Black vote is important for this election season, if people want to see change.
Mayoral candidates former at-large councilman James Kenney and state Sen. Anthony Williams spoke on issues relevant to the Black community.
“I do recognize the peculiar things that different neighborhoods have to deal with,” Kenney said. “I’m frustrated with the level of poverty we have and the lack of opportunities we have for our young people to be educated effectively. I’m also very concerned about the number of people in our penal institutions who are coming back to our communities — they are our sons, brothers and cousins, and we need to make sure that they are prepared and have a job or can get a job when they come out so they don’t go back to prison at the cost of the taxpayer and at the [social] cost for their families.”
Kenney offered that ex-offenders should be assessed for their skills and experiences and helped to create a resume, before their release.
The former at-large councilman said he would also work for more investment in smaller, community driven banks, naming the Black-owned “United Bank” as a possible beneficiary of this investment. Kenney also spoke on excessive force by police.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice cited the Philadelphia Police Department for overwhelming force in Black communities. Since 2007, in nearly 400 Philadelphia Police Department shootings, more than 80 percent of the victims were Black.
“We have to fix it, we have to fix it fast [with] diversity in our hiring [and] in our recruitment to make our police force more diverse than it is today,” Kenney said. “We need [to] train [in] cultural sensitivity. We need to make sure we weed out the bad people before they get a gun and badge, and to make sure we have people in there who want to protect and serve people, not harass and shoot them.”
Williams named several ideas for the economy, including strengthening property tax abatements.
“We can drive businesses out to neighborhoods which would have a positive effect on African Americans,” he said.
The senator noted ex-offenders should have the ability “to get a license from Philadelphia to go into business” and the Office of Licenses and Inspections needs a “more streamlined process.”
As for education, Kenney believes in universal pre-kindergarten so youth are “prepared to read and socialized when they get to school.” Williams proposed “closing the gap on pensions” to free up money for the school district.