Category Archives: Commentary

June Rocked with the 11th Annual West Park Arts Fest

by Niesha Kennedy

What a beautiful day with more than 20 arts, cultural, and community partners contributing to provide a fun day for over 2,300 attendees of all ages in West Fairmount Park. This annual free public event created by West Park Cultural Center (WPCC) in 2008, moved into the park two years ago with Fairmount Park Conservancy joining WPCC as a presenter. This year Mural Arts Philadelphia also came on board.

The West Park Arts Fest brings communities together in the park and promotes greater awareness of the area’s history and heritage, all while celebrating the arts and cultural diversity of Philadelphia. On June 9, 2018, the 11th West Park Arts Fest took place on South Concourse Drive adjacent to the Centennial Commons along Parkside Avenue. Centennial Commons, a “new park within a park” is the project of Fairmount Park Conservancy as part of Philadelphia’s Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

There was something for everyone!

Live music performances by the West Philadelphia Orchestra, always a crowd favorite. Patrice and The Show gave us some R&B flavor and got the crowd to their feet, dancing and singing along. West Park Arts Fest veteran performers, Badd Kitti and Gretchen Elise Music rocked the stage with their upbeat performances. And that was just the music stage.

At the other end of the festival attendees enjoyed performances on the dance stage by Sam Watson, who performed the history of dance, starting with jazz and culminating with recent hip hop. The Philly Clicks tap-danced their way around the stage keeping the crowd excited. Penn Chinese Dance Club is always a visually appealing, cultural performance. The teen girls of West Park Cultural Center’s dancelogic program, performed after completing Saturday classes that combined dance and coding. Festival-goers shopped the Handmade Marketplace with artwork, handcraftedjewelry, clothing, ceramics, children’s books, pet gear and much more. Food vendors were a hit, from Korean Fried Chicken with Slurp Philly to water ice, pretzels and ice cream to keep cool with Cold Pink Treats.

Activities for kids of all ages, young and old included art making, robots from the Franklin Institute, storytelling, face painting, make and takes, interactives with the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Philadelphia Zoo and many more. Attendees hopped aboard and enjoyed the West Park Arts Fest, free narrated trolley tours of the Fairmount Park Centennial District. Kathy Lee and Ed Miller of the Fairmount Park Conservancy shared the history of the area going back to the World’s Fair in 1876 as well as information about the cultural and natural resources that are currently available in West Fairmount Park.

 

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Indego Bike Profile: Lorraine Gomez

by Michael Burch

Meet Lorraine Gomez a longtime resident of East Parkside and a relatively new member of the Indego Bike family. Lorraine lives in Parkside and works in Mantua. Lorraine is the community coordinator at Mount Vernon Manor, a CDC that specializes in neighborhood revitalization and related services to West Philadelphia. Lorraine is also a driving force in her community and serves as block captain to her East Parkside neighborhood and president of VSRA.

She does not yet ride her Indego bike to work but she is building towards it. Lorraine is a stanch supporter of the senior citizens who live in her community. To that end she has partnered with Indego to host community friendly bike workshops for adults to learn to ride a bike again. This turns out to be very helpful for adults who may not have been on a bike in years.

She has run many programs to keep Seniors active. She feels that Indego bikes are a good way to keep seniors active and ambulatory for many years to come. As mentioned earlier a upcoming Adult Learn to Ride class is enrolling people now .These classes teach you the basics of urban riding and give you the confidence and knowledge to ride on Philadelphia streets. If you are interested in being in the next class call 215-910- 9206 for details and look for the flyer in the Parkside Happenings section of this paper. Lorraine is also working with Indego to create a neighborhood bike map for Parkside. That is something new bike riders could use. Lorraine feels that bikes are the perfect solution to the residential parking problem in her neighborhood and are a good way for older residents to stay in shape. For urban living, bikes could be the wave of the future. See you on the trail Lorraine!

 

Historic Preservationist Of Parkside, Mr. Jim Brown, None Better – By Jim Brown

Photo with Mr. James L. Brown, IV & Mrs. Charlotte
Brown is a picture of Mr. Brown’s first hand-built structure
from a North Philly alley near Temple in 1962.

Recently, I visited the home of the great historic preservationist, Mr. James Leroy Brown, IV and his wife Charlotte. The 80-year old Mr. Brown sat down with this reporter of, no relation, to talk to me about his work, his life and the great reputation he’s built over 54 years as a historic preservationist in Philadelphia’s East Parkside section of West Philadelphia.

Here is Mr. Brown’s Journey in Parkside

Starting his restoration company, the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation (PHPC) in 1964, James L. Brown was to become an African-American preservationist that few had known but over his career stood out as one of the best in the City of Brotherly Love.

Mr. Brown originally worked as a biologist at Temple Medical Center as a medical researcher from 1960  to 1965.  He began work under Dr. Harry S. Shay who was the Department Head of Gastroenterology at the Fels Research Institute at Temple University.

Mr. Brown was born in 1937. His father was a doctor and his mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated south. He says back then many of the landmark cases in civil rights dealing with school cases were won in Virginia.

Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte moved from Virginia to Philadelphia in 1961. Mr. Brown rented their first apartment in the Parkside area from the landlord, Mr. William Henderson who was one of the first blacks to purchase one of the mini-mansions on Parkside Avenue at 4224.

Having the love of his life Charlotte Brown, a schoolteacher whom he met through her sorority sister an AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) at Whitcomb Court Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia on December 6, 1958.

“It was my first teaching job,” says Mrs. Brown

They both graduated from historically black colleges in Virginia. Mr. Brown is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and graduated from Virginia Union in Richmond and Mrs. Charlotte is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and graduated from St. Paul College in Lawrenceville.

Mrs. Brown later worked as a schoolteacher at the Morton Mc Michael Elementary School in Mantua during the early 1960’s when they moved to Philadelphia. The two would marry in 1961. They have two adult children, son James L. Brown, V, is a financial planner, a restorator and a property manager. His daughter Nancy W. (Brown) McRae, Esquire and teaches legal writing in Washington, DC at the University of the District of Columbia. They both have two children each.

They worked together to build a life and a business that would benefit and celebrate a community that has reflected their life’s commitment to each other for 56 years and counting.

The Parkside area was going through an ethnic change as the Browns explained. This happens when parts of an area of one ethnic group move out and another ethnic group moves in to create and establish themselves as the new community residents. Mr. Brown stated that the first black to reside in the East Parkside area was a gentleman named Postel Vaughn and he lived on Parkside Avenue.

This was a period when Jewish families began moving out of the Parkside area and African-Americans families were moving in. The buildings were not in very good condition and needed to be rehabbed to the proper living conditions that were expected for families to live in according to Mr. Brown.

“Mrs. Brown says her husband’s first fight to defend his neighborhood was to join forces with the community and protest and boycott a nuisance bar at 42nd Street. People were coming out that bar getting into accidents. We got a petition, went to city hall and wanted that bar removed. This was a movement in Parkside and people were very supportive of the things we fought for in this community.

While living at the Apartments with his wife, in his off hours, a young James Leroy Brown was working with his landlord William Henderson and began rehabbing and working on houses in the neighborhood of East Parkside.

Mrs. Brown mentioned during our recent interview that, “redlining in Parkside in the 1960’s was so prevalent that they were forced to use one income to sustain their family. We saved up enough money to buy our first building, which was a 6-unit apartment building at 4218 Parkside Avenue.

In order for us to get funding and assistance,” says Mrs. Brown. “It was easier for us to get funds if we were restoring and preserving the homes that were already there like they were before (run down and dilapidated).”

“We looked at each other,” adds Mrs. Brown. “And we said, we can save this block. We then started cleaning up the 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue. ” Mrs. Brown says, “It was absolutely necessary that we sought funding for the work that we were doing. Those areas of funding included the City of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania and the Federal government level. We looked for grants and partnerships in order to achieve all of the restorations that was completed here.”

Mr. Brown and wife Charlotte say they were thankful to the Berean Savings & Loan Association at 52nd & Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia. This was the historic black bank that gave them the loan to purchase their first building. People like Mr. Jim Hughes (father of our State Senator Vincent J. Hughes), were instrumental in making that dream happen for the Browns.

Both generations of the Hughes family, the late Jim Hughes and current State Senator Vincent J. Hughes have played an important role in the ventures of Mr. Brown’s Historic Preservation efforts. “Vincent Hughes has been to many of our ribbon-cutting ceremonies,” says Mrs. Brown.  Also, Mrs. Brown reminds us that the wonderful churches in this community have been very supportive of Mr. Brown’s efforts and participation as a community activist over the years.

Mr. Brown was able to meet and network his skills with other community leaders like the Rev. Dr. Andy Jenkins and late Dr. Herman C. Wrice who were having similar issues in their community of Mantua in the early 1960’s when the cultural transitions began for both Mantua and Parkside.

When working for the Redevelopment Authority in the mid 60’s, I met Andy Jenkins of Mantua while he was developing the Mantua Community Planners in Mantua and I was reviewing their plans for their community.

Mr. Brown also worked alongside Rev. Jenkins, and the late Dr. Wrice, who came together to build a set of row homes on the 3600 block of Warren Street across from the former University City High School in the late 1960’s with tenants still currently residing there.

Mr. Brown has made a career in the neighborhood preservation that has captured the eye of thousands when they see his works along the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue.

In 1994, fire struck The Brentwood Apartments and destroyed a majority of the properties as shown in a photo and article in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on Wednesday, June 22, 1994, in the Metro section B from page “Fire Hits Parkside Restoration Row”. Mr. Brown is quoted as saying “Just another challenge”.

Mr. Brown was able to restore the buildings as you see them today from the devastation that the damage had done to the properties during the fire. Wife Charlotte adds, “He doesn’t take ‘No’ for an
answer” when things or problems come up. He has been celebrated with many awards and accolades such as the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 1996, the Rudy Bruner Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment in 1999 and the Henry A. Jordan Award for his Outstanding Historic Preservation at the local level for his community.

The Parkside Historic District was created in 1983  because of the preservation work of Mr. Brown. His work in the Parkside area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

All of Mr. Brown’s historic and restored buildings such as The Lansdowne (4102 Parkside Ave.), The Brentwood (4200 – Parkside Ave. and The Brantwood (4146 and 4150-52) can be seen throughout the Parkside area.

For the past few years, The Pennsylvania Lottery uses his building at 42nd & Parkside Avenue as its great backdrop to advertise their winter commercials to promote its lottery scratch-off games. I asked Mr. Brown the question, what advice would you give a student from the School of the Future about becoming a historic preservationist? Mr. Brown responded by saying, “My mother said always give back to your community,” states Mr. Brown. “I had talents and things I could do with my hands.”

“Also, to create something that’s long standing in your community,” adds Mr. Brown. “They should have an interest in history. I want the young people to be passionate about why they want to be a preservationist and work in your community to complete your restoration projects to give your community a sense of pride.”

During Mr. Brown’s journey, he has accomplished many things and done the one thing that many often fail to do, that’s to give something back to your community. That sentiment is a favorite staple of Mr. Brown’s thinking, along with his feeling of the importance of working together and sharing his life with his soul-mate-Charlotte Brown.

Mr. Brown met Muhammad Ali, arguably, the greatest heavyweight champ of all time. He also met Joe Louis, a true champion from his era. Doug Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia, was a good friend and he grew up with Spotswood Robinson and Oliver Hill families and both were civil rights lawyers in Virginia during the segregation era.

The people and celebrities that Mr. Brown has met and befriended gives you a wow moment to think about the people you may meet in your life when creating a passion and need to serve not only your community but your heritage as well.

“As I reflect on the goals that I set out to achieve with my Historic Preservation Company in Parkside,” reflects Mr. Brown. “I have overachieved my goals. Really to my surprise, with belief, faith, and some hard knocks, things worked out. But stay in there brother and everything will be alright.” Mr. Brown has left an indelible mark on the Parkside area and throughout Philadelphia.

“I’d like to see the fruits of my work continue through others,” says Mr. Brown. “In particularly through my children. With the courage and belief that they can do what seems to be impossible can be done. And to do your best and that’s all I can say to them.”

The last question asked to Mr. Brown was about his health and from what I saw during our interview was a tall, lanky man and he walked with a cane. He was reserved, initially but when the conversations started, Mr. Brown was able to give me the information I needed for this story about his life’s work.

“He suffered a mild stroke in December of 2013,” explains Mrs. Brown. “He’s been a real soldier. He’s fought it and he’s doing the very best that he can. And he stopped smoking.”

“It’s been a nice ride with my husband”, says wife Charlotte Brown. Mr. James Leroy Brown turned 81 on August 30th. Happy Birthday Mr. Brown from the Parkside Journal.

This was a great two and a half hour engaging conversation with Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte that I was excited to have with community history. Know your neighborhood heroes because they live among us.

Email Jim Brown at brownthefansview@netzero.net

 

 

A Vision of Inspiration

by Jasmine Bullock

London based artist Richard Wilson has taken a simple desire to paint a beloved actor (Will Smith) and created a vivid symbol of inspiration for students to see every day. Recently, his dream became a reality due largely to the support of the Mural Arts program. (Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program and is dedicated to the belief that art ignites positive change.

It seeks to transform public spaces and individual lives). This program enabled Wilson to share his love for art and his appreciation for Philadelphia native Will Smith by creating a representation of the actor on the wall of a warehouse adjacent to the Global Leadership Academy (GLA) Charter School (located at 46th Street and Girard Avenue).

When Richard Wilson began work on the Will Smith mural, school was still in session. Student excitement was evident. For example, rising 5th grader Destin Phillips described watching the muralist work as inspirational. He expressed his interest in the entertainment industry; being able to see a successful entertainer on the walls near his school has made his goal to be an actor seem more realistic.

Parents and guardians of students were also thrilled with knowing that a representation of a Philadelphia legend would grace the property where their young scholars come to be nurtured. Student grandmother and former educator Lynette Jenkins knows that the Will Smith mural will help GLA scholars and other area students to understand that although the children like them are from the inner city and attend public schools, they are still capable of finding individual success. Ms. Jenkins is also hopeful that the mural will inspire classroom conversations about the correlation between hard work and success and interest in stories about the success of other Philadelphia natives, not only in the entertainment industry but also in other career paths. The mural serves as an inspiration to not only the students of GLA but also the immediate neighborhood. To date, there are a total of 10 murals in the area and the number is continually growing. From Ed Bradley on Belmont avenue to Reading a Journey on Pennsgrove Street, color and beauty surround Parkside streets. With the recent addition of the Parkside Edge, the residents of the Parkside community have the opportunity to explore and enjoy both the arts in the neighborhood and the natural beauty of the park.

While inspiring the youth of GLA, the Will Smith mural joins a growing set of murals in Parkside helping to beautify the neighborhood and encourage the growth of arts in the community. The many artistic inspirations include:

  1. Wall of Rugs: The Global language of Textiles (4398, US 30)
  2. History of Parkside, Leidy School (4850 Parkside Avenue)
  3. Black Family Reunion (4850Parkside Avenue)
  4. Will Smith (4545 W. Girard Avenue)
  5. Reading a Journey (3969 Pennsgrove Avenue)
  6. On the Block (3956 Pennsgrove Street)
  7. Animal Kaleidoscope (123 W. Girard Avenue)
  8. In Nature Nothing Exists Alone (Zoological Drive)

Indego Bike Profile

by Manuel McDonnell-Smith

Studies show that there are many benefits from riding bikes. It only takes a few hours a week to improve your general health. Riding is low impact, a good muscle workout, fun and easy to do. Check out the profile of Al Harris and share his Indego Bike experience.

Al Harris, from 32nd Street in Mantua is the founder of Team OverTime and Cancer Who? His foundation helps people with Cancer by going to chemo, radiation, doctor’s appointments and more. Al’s also a regular Indego Bike Rider and ambassador for the service.

PJ: What’s been the best thing about Indego for you?

Al: “I think the bikes have encouraged me to move around the city more. Just from riding from station to station, I’ve gotten to experience the scenery and much more of the neighborhoods.

PJ: How about people who are afraid of riding or getting back on a bike, what would you say?

Al: Just using the bikes is a great experience. They are not super heavy bikes, they are great to move around in, easy to switch, and fun to ride.

PJ: Tell us about one of your favorite rides using Indego?

Al: One of my best rides was from 41st and Lancaster back to Drexel University. I really enjoyed being able to be up close with all of the scenery and being able to see and experience differently types of people on the ride.

Indego & Al will be collaborating on a group bike ride and walk at the end of May. Find out more about this event and his organization at https://www.facebook.com/TOTCANCERWho/

 

New Parkside Fields Announced

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
MAYOR’S OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2018
Contact: David Gould, 267-240-2010, david.gould@phila.gov

Parkside Fields Announced as One of First Rebuild Projects to Start Later This Year

PHILADELPHIA – Today, at an event at Parkside Evans Playground, Mayor Jim Kenney was joined by Councilman Curtis Jones and City officials to announce Parkside Fields as one of the first projects to launch under Rebuild.

The project will create two new public fields that will serve the schools and sports programs in and around the Parkside community – many of which have limited options for home fields to practice or play on.

“Too often I hear stories about our youth sports teams who have to travel to the suburbs to compete,” said Mayor Kenney. “They don’t have fields that are good enough to play on in their neighborhood, so they are forced to travel to the suburbs to play. Our kids should have the same quality facilities as the teams they compete against and have the opportunity to play in their own community. They deserve a place they are proud of.”

The Parkside Fields project will be completed in two phases. The first phase will convert a grassy area near the Parkside Evans Playground on Parkside Avenue into a public practice field for many of the neighborhood sports teams. The second phase of the project will renovate a second field that will be used for games.

“For some, it’s a field of dreams,” said Councilman Curtis Jones of the upcoming Rebuild project. “For inner-city youth, it’s a pathway to scholarships, college campuses, and a better life.”

The first phase of the project will start this year as a part of a small set of sites that will launch using the $8 million in funding that has already been approved for Rebuild in the City’s FY2018 capital budget. Most projects, including the second phase of the Parkside Fields project, will begin after the majority of Rebuild’s funding becomes available through bond proceeds that will be repaid by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax. The bonds won’t be issued until after the tax has been upheld by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court.

The other Rebuild sites expected to start this year will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Rebuild
Rebuild is a historic investment in Philadelphia’s parks, recreation centers, playgrounds and libraries. Rebuild seeks to improve community spaces, empower and engage communities, and promote economic opportunity in the design and construction industries through diversity and inclusion. 

Spotlight On Local Author With Parkside Roots

by Juanita Alexander

Saundra Terrell

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Saundra Terrell, an engaging and delightful author who grew up and was nurtured in our very own Parkside community. I was spellbound as I listened to her discuss her childhood experiences and her latest book, WATER THICKER THAN BLOOD.

She explained that the underlying ‘theme’ of the book is that “you can have people come into your life in a meaningful way and that they can have more impact on your life and often be more supportive than your blood relatives”. Ms. Terrell’s book is a work of fiction but she feels it is filled with characters that everyday people can relate to based on their own life experiences. Characters like Johnny Mae who suffers from unrequited love and Pearl who must deal with feelings of inadequacy because she feels she is too dark and too fat compared to her prettier’ sister, are people most of us can empathize with.

Saundra Terrell moved with her family to Parkside (near 42nd and Viola Sts.) when she was about six

years old during the 1950’s. She attended Leidy Elementary School (the ‘original’ Leidy before the larger school was built). She remembers a beautiful neighborhood with grocery stores, pharmacies, and produce shops lining Parkside Ave. and nearby streets. During the 1950’s, the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish and Leidy was racially mixed. She believes that Parkside began to experience a decline when people moved into the community who were not homeowners and who did not have a vested interest in maintaining their properties. It is her belief that the decline of the neighborhood accelerated when a nearby restaurant was converted to a bar, leading to fights and other undesirable activities.

Despite the challenges facing Parkside today, Ms. Terrell remains deeply connected with her childhood community. Her sister still lives on Viola Street, right next to the original family home that her son is renovating. In addition, members of her late husband’s family still live on Viola Street.

Although her first book, NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MY OWN, was published fairly recently in 2009, Ms. Terrell’s interest in books and writing dates back to her childhood years. In the fourth grade, the teacher would allow her to put on plays after the recess break. All of her classmates eagerly looked forward to her plays and wanted to be characters in her ‘productions’. When other children were outside playing, she stayed indoors and read Nancy Drew romance novels. She especially related to the character of Allison in the sensational 1950’s best seller Peyton Place because Allison wanted to go to New York and become a writer. Ironically, despite her obvious talent, she had low self-esteem as a child because she was a poor speller. However, she compensated for her difficulties with spelling by using words she found in books she read. Later on, in life, she found that other people identified with her early feelings of inadequacy.

Ms. Terrell’s creativity is not limited to writing. From the age of six she enjoyed just taking needle and thread and creating. After her husband’s death in 1999, she opened a business on City Line Avenue in the former Iroquois. There she sold crafts, jewelry, and dolls representing African-American family figures. In the near future, she intends to resume creating crafts, especially dolls and pictures made from cloth materials. All of her creations (crafts, books,etc.) are marketed under her business name, SAUNDRA TERRELL ORIGINALS.

As we concluded the interview, Ms. Terrell expressed her passion for books and writing by stating, “It’s almost like the books write themselves and the characters and stories just come to me. I cannot imagine a world without books. I hope people get the same feeling when they read my books”. After talking with her I was so moved that I went to my local Barnes and Noble store and ordered a copy of WATER THICKER THAN BLOOD. I am encouraging all of our Journal readers to do the same.

Ms. Terrell has scheduled two upcoming book signings (September 23rd at the African-American History Museum and November 6th at Thomas Jefferson Hospital). Please try to attend these events and be sure to go to her website http://www.saundraterrell.com/ to learn more about this multi-talented lady who makes Parkside proud!!