Category Archives: Commentary

Speaker Announces March 12 Special Elections for the 114th and 190th Legislative Districts in Lackawanna, Philadelphia Counties

HARRISBURG – Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) today ordered two special elections be held on Tuesday, March 12, to fill the vacant seats in the 114th Legislative District in Lackawanna County and the 190th Legislative District in Philadelphia County.

Turzai filed the writs of election, the formal documents setting the date of the special elections, with the Department of State. Copies of the writs are also being filed with the Lackawanna County Board of Elections and the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.

The vacancies were created by the passing of former Rep. Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna) on Oct. 16 and the Dec. 11 resignation of former Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-Philadelphia) after her conviction on seven charges related to a bribery case, six of which were felonies. In both instances, the former members were unopposed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election, resulting in vacancies in both legislative districts when new members were sworn in to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Jan 1.

Candidates for both offices will be selected by a process designated by their respective political parties, and the winners of the special elections will take office after the results are certified.
District offices of the former members will remain open under the supervision of the House to assist constituents with issues or problems and continue constituent inquiries already in progress. The offices will remain until a new representative takes office and decides how to manage the district.

The 114th Legislative District office is located at 802 S. Main St, Taylor, PA 18517, telephone (570) 562-2350.

The 190th Legislative District office is located at 1435 N. 52nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19131, telephone (215) 879-6615.

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A Season for Giving by Jasmine Bullock

The holiday season is always an exciting time of year. Families and friends often fellowship and exchange gifts. It is also a time for giving and the West Philadelphia area is abundant with opportunities to give to people in need, of all ages. Community Coordinator, Pamela Evans has made it her mission to provide opportunities for students and families in need. Ms. Evans spent fifteen years serving the students and families of Discovery Charter School. Within the last year, she transitioned to Alain Locke Elementary, a Community School in West Philadelphia, where she has instituted several programs to service the families throughout the area.

The Locke school and Pam Evans have initiated a “Community Closet.” This space is open for donation of clothing and hygiene supplies for people of all ages. The donations of clothing, toys, baby supplies, and bath supplies are open to all but specifically those who reside in the West Park High Rise apartments and shelters. The Locke School is continuously open taking in tax deductible donations. They are especially in need of donations of diapers children’s clothing, and clothing adults can wear for job interviews. They are also looking for school uniforms and sweat pants to help discourage student absences due to lack of appropriate clothing.

This particular community closet is special because of the personal attention “shoppers” get when looking for items. The school has acquired a volunteer to work as a shopping attendant. This individual not only sorts and maintains the items donated to the closet, he also works with individuals to choose items to best fit their needs. The personal attention allows those in need to feel special and guarantees that they receive the right items.

Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday season, Ms. Evans has several missions planned. With the help of local organizations and businesses such as Westside Church and the People’s Emergency Center, Ms. Evans was able to organize the donation of approximately 45 Turkeys to families for their Thanksgiving feasts. Ms. Evans is proud that Lavish Restaurant at 4308 Lancaster Avenue will provide dinner on Thanksgiving for 300 people free of charge.

Ms. Evans also arranged for three students at the Locke School to have a dinner at Lavish Restaurant with their families. The students will be chosen through raffle based on their attendance and timeless to school throughout the month of November.

Another initiative that is thriving is the Gifts of Warmth Drive. This project looks to collect socks, hats, gloves and scarves for children in the area. Ms. Evans has partnered with local hair salons and barber shops on Lancaster Avenue to host donation boxes for their clients and members of the community to drop off donations.

The Gifts of Warmth initiative goes beyond the doors of the Locke School. Each year, the Please Touch museum collects coats for children in need. They send all of their donations to the Second Antioch Baptist Church. Rev. Dr. Joe Nock and his leadership team distribute the gifts of coats to not only members of the church who are in need but also to community members throughout Parkside. While winter is often thought of as a season for giving, donations to many of these initiatives can be given throughout the year. Sweater, scarf, hat, glove and sock donations can be left at the Please Touch Museum from November 24th through December 8th. All donations to the Locke School for the Community Closet can left in the main office of Alain Locke School, 4550 Haverford Avenue, from 8am to 3pm weekdays.

Remember, the holiday season is a time for fun and family but also a time to think about giving to families.

Food Cupboards in the Parkside Area

PEC
325 North 39th Street
267-777-5477
Saturdays; 10:30am – 1:30pm

Church of New Hope and Faith
662 N. 39th Street
215-222-7672
Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 9:30am – 3:30pm

Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
19 South 19th Street
215-386-0234
Mondays; 10am until 150 households are served

Grace Lutheran Church
3529 Haverford Avenue
215-222-3570

Mt. Zion United Holy Church
4110 Haverford Avenue
215-349-6734
West Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church
4527 Haverford Avenue
215-222-5707

Centennial Parkside CDC Tree Tenders Plant 12 New Street Trees in East Parkside. by Chris Spahr, Exc. Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC

Photo provided by Tashia Rayon

The Centennial Parkside CDC Tree Tenders Program conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) planted 12 new street trees throughout East Parkside on November 17. Over the course of the past year, multiple East Parkside residents have been trained as Tree Tenders through PHS. This training involves learning about various types of trees, how to plant and care for trees, and how to bring trees to the neighborhood. Even though East Parkside sits directly adjacent to Fairmount Park, only 3% of homes have on-street tree coverage.

On-street trees lead to cooler sidewalks in summer, cleaner air, better water drainage during rainstorms, and cooler porches and front rooms due to tree canopies. Unlike trees planted decades ago that pose a risk for overhead wires, homes, and pipework, PHS trees are much shorter, skinnier, and are easier to care for. This was the second of the Centennial Parkside CDC Tree Tenders plantings bringing  the total number of new trees in the neighborhood to 23. If you are interested in becoming a Tree Tender or planting a tree in front of your home, contact the CDC at 267-225-8356 or info@centennialparkside.org.

Ujima Developers Invests in Real Estate Solutions for our Community – Leon D. Caldwell, Ph.D

Ujima Developers and Ujima Community Transformation Partners as a CDC were launched to help solve problems with existing residents. The mission is to co-create strategies for affordable housing while also re-designing neighborhoods so that people can live an optimal life, if they choose. It is no secret that many of the blocks in our neighborhoods have not had investments for some time. We can argue if this is intentional or happenstance however it will not move us closer to putting the chairs back on porches. At a certain point we need to move past the analysis and start working to restore.

This can all be done but it’s going to take people in our community voicing their vision for what is truly impactful for the neighborhood. This means giving developers projects, programs and long-term plans that improve your quality of life not just check off a box in an RFP. Too many times neighborhood associations and RCOs only flex their power for zoning hearings. Another form of power is looking for partnership opportunities with developers that create development projects that benefit everyone over time.

As a social impact real estate development group, Ujima Developers, demonstrates how to collaborate with neighbors for solutions to challenges in the community. For example, we are working on age-friendly housing strategies that are intergenerational, affordable and accessible. This could help many of our neighbors worried about aging parents living alone in big row homes. Or maybe you are reading this concerned that soon you will be faced with the decision to stay or move out of your row home. The narrow bathroom, steep flight of steps and high energy bills add up. What if we could design a row home that functions for grandparents just as well as it does for grandchildren? Can you imagine a community that has healthy food options, community owned stores with services for the entire family can enjoy? Or can you dream about a livable community that values your ideas for how to improve Parkside without inviting the kind of gentrification that disrespects people already on the block?

Ujima Developers is extending an invitation to contribute solutions for creating age-friendly row homes in our neighborhoods. We are planning an Age Friendly Row House Summit in East Parkside community. Dinner will be served and your ideas accepted. In addition, we will be discussing age-in-place remodeling solutions. This effort is being sponsored by AARP, American Institute of Architecture, West Philadelphia Financial Services, and American Society of Interior Designers, and Locus Developers.

 

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.

 

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