Category Archives: Commentary

Centennial Parkside CDC and the East Parkside Residents Association host the “Our Dreams Our Future East Parkside Community Dinner” at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Cente

By Chris Spahr, Executive Director, Centennial Parkside CDC

On Monday, February 25 the Centennial Parkside CDC and the East Parkside Residents Association hosted the Our Dreams Our Future East Parkside Community Dinner at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center. There was a huge turnout from residents and partners creating a productive night of celebrating the history of East Parkside’s many residents, adding to the history and dreams for the future, and working together to design new social enterprises, services, and other projects.

The Our Dreams Our Future East Parkside Community Dinner was an opportunity for the Centennial Parkside CDC to share the many lessons learned from a series of ongoing Green Economy Chat ‘N Chews that it hosted throughout 2018 and continues to host 2019. From these Chat ‘N Chews certain issues, challenges, and opportunities were identified including arts and culture, youth programming, education, trash, zoning, vacant land and blight, affordable housing, farmers markets, community gardens, energy, green jobs, inclusive economic development, unity, health, and safety and security. The Our Dreams Our Future East Parkside Community Dinner provided an opportunity for residents, community experts, and funders to “dig in” on these topic areas and develop project proposals.

At the end of the night attendees voted on one project proposal to receive a seed grant provided by the Philadelphia Foundation. Project proposals included:

  • home repair education and support
  • health and fitness classes
  • a community land trust conference
  • a curriculum related to block captains, trash removal, and creative reuse of discarded materials for youth
  • a tribal council office to advise budding entrepreneurs
  • a nutrition and health after school program
  • and a data collection system for vacant and blighted properties

The project that received the most votes from the community making it the recipient of a $1000 seed grant was a Financial Literacy Curriculum for the neighborhood. The Centennial Parkside CDC and the team who developed the financial literacy curriculum idea will work together in the coming months to expand this project plan and raise more money to implement it. All other projects will be entered into a project idea bank that will be used to direct future funding in the community.

Attendees of the dinner also had the pleasure of listening to an energizing keynote speech by Gabriella Paez, Education and Community Development Coordinator at Esperanza and a song performed by the talented Makeda McFarlane from Central High School.

The Centennial Parkside CDC would like to thank the sponsors of the Green Economy Chat ‘N Chews and the Our Dreams Our Future dinner namely the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), and Pennsylvanian’s Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER).

For more information on the Centennial Parkside CDC’s ongoing monthly Green Economy Chat ‘N Chews, please

follow them on Facebook @centennypark or reach out via email ( or phone (267-225-8356)


Parkside Resident on Teaching Mission In Myanmar











For the last six months, one of the jewels of Parkside has been teaching in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Mrs. Allison Hatchett Stringfield was born and raised on North 42nd Street.  She attended Leidy Elementary, Beeber Middle School and Overbrook High School. She is a graduate of Cheyney University. Mrs. Stringfield taught in the Philadelphia School System for over twenty years in a number of capacities. She is a Language Arts Specialist and has provided education to many of the young people who still reside in Parkside.

Mrs. Stringfield is on a two-year teaching assignment at the International School of Myanmar. The official name of Myanmar is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma. It is a sovereign state located in Southeast Asia and shares borders with Bangladesh. Along with her husband, Robert Stringfield, a retired fire fighter, Mrs. Stringfield is enjoying this experience. She did not have to learn Burmese as the students in this school speak English and are preparing to come to the United States to attend college.

Mr. and Mrs. Stringfield hope that their experience will inspire others to reach beyond our borders for opportunities to broaden their horizons.

New Candidate Challenges Incumbent in 3rd Council District Race- by Manuel McDonnell-Smith

In 1992, Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” topped radio charts in Philadelphia while the city elected a new Mayor, Ed Rendell, and also a new councilwoman, Jannie Blackwell. In the nearly thirty years that followed, Jackson’s music became iconic, the city is on it’s third Mayor since Ed and Jannie “is a legend around here”, according to a West Philadelphia neighbor.

While many residents of the 3rd Council District that encompasses all of Parkside and most of West Philadelphia enjoy having a tenured Councilperson with deep connections to their neighborhoods, a new challenger to Blackwell, Jamie Gauthier, is urging residents to consider their options this election day and to “reject the status
quo.” saying that she has “the experience, the fresh ideas, and the drive to deliver for our communities.” In an exclusive conversation with the Parkside Journal, Gauthier shares why she believes she is the agent of change our neighborhoods need.

“I want to take all that I’ve learned and done to City Council for the benefit of the 3rd District.” says an introductory headline on Gauthier’s website that shares her long resume of service including serving as a Board Member of the Garden Court Community Association, the University City District, and the Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition, a collection of civic organizations that advocate for quality-of-life issues around the city. “That’s why I have my eye on City Council. Being a council member is the biggest way to have an impact on the community and positive impact on people.”, she proclaims.

Many neighbors in Parkside have already gotten to know Gauthier through her leadership of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a non-profit aimed at raising funds to support the park through partially through for-profit ventures like “The Glow”, the ticketed Halloween experience that’s been hosted just off of Belmont Avenue for the
past two years. It has partially helped to fund Centennial Commons, a multi-million dollar project aimed at remaking the park around Memorial Hall.

But big investments into new park amenities and street construction feel similar to gentrification for some residents. But it’s not, says Gauthier, who says she’s proud of how she and her staff executed Phase One of the projects. “We made sure that we listened to neighbors and ensured that the swings and traffic calming improvements along Parkside Avenue that residents wanted were part of the things that got done first.”. Its experience with projects like these she says makes her a good choice for council. “A lot of my work has been helping neighbors bring their visions for their
communities to life”.

As a single mom of two sons, Education is atop the list of priorities she plans to campaign on. “People in West Philadelphia really value and stand up for public schools.” The Penn graduate says she’s part of a local education tradition. “I went to public schools, my kids go to public schools, and I see first-hand how volunteerism and fundraising in my neighborhood have helped to bolster programs in their schools. Those efforts can help make up those areas where public resources fall short. This starts in neighborhoods, but in council, I can look for and connect organizations that want to support our schools.”

Beyond schools, she also wants to focus on training residents for jobs in the “green economy, look for new ways to protect the significant number of renters in West Philadelphia “who are particularly vulnerable to price hikes”, while also finding
ways to help longtime homeowners. “I know that there are a lot of homeowners interested in low-cost resources to fix up, improve, and keep their homes in good shape. That’s a need throughout the 3rd District”.

Being a resident of West Philadelphia herself, she understands residents’ support of Jannie Blackwell and their initial hesitation around her campaign. But she says it’s time for residents to consider their options on election day. “The Blackwells have served the community and have been in this council seat for almost 50 years if you count Lucien. Now it’s time for us to look to the future. Our communities are changing and we have all of the assets here to build a successful future for them. We can leverage the economic power of the institutions to the neighborhoods’ benefit. I believe I can do that as a councilwoman and I have the track record to do that. To
look forward to what’s next for the 3rd District..”

Gauthier’s next steps. Garnering the 750 required signatures required by city election rules to get onto the official ballots due in March. She knows these initial introductions will be an uphill climb, but she’s positive about her odds. “I feel that people are excited, we’re getting a lot of messages and calls. People are excited to
have a choice, and that’s good because it’s important to have competitive elections.” She hopes that this excitement is enough to carry her through election day.

AMERICA TO ZANZIBAR: Breaking Barriers and Celebrating Diversity by Zenab Toure

“America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” is one of the newest exhibits to come to Philadelphia. Opening just a few short weeks ago at The Please Touch Museum in Parkside, this multimedia interactive exhibit highlights the Muslim Culture, Religion, art and traditions. Religion has always been a sensitive subject, especially Islam. Therefore, it was definitely a huge surprise when I learned that ‘America to Zanzibar’ was coming to the Please Touch Museum. One might ask, why the Please Touch Museum? Why a Children’s museum? Exhibit consultant Salima Suswell stated, ”In Islam, we have this term called Da’wa, which is to teach. So it’s a teachable moment for not just children but for their parents as well.” This exhibition’s targeted audience is not only children but for people of all ages as well from various backgrounds and religions.

We are currently living in an era when there is so much controversy and hate happening all over the world, particularly toward Islam and its followers. One way to help foster peace in the world is to teach one another about each other’s religion, cultures, and traditions. Islam is a religion of peace. Philadelphia happens to have one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States, with over 50 Masjids (Mosques), which the Exhibit showcases in one of the
galleries. Thus, one must ask once again, what better city to come to, other than The City of Brotherly Love?

The President and CEO of The Please Touch Museum, Trish Wellenbach, has this vision to break down barriers and bring/teach the importance of diversity to not only Parkside but most of all, to Philadelphia as a whole. After seeing the America to Zanzibar exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Wellenbach was determined to bring the exhibit to the Please Touch Museum, in order to see her vision of diversity come to life. She did it along with
Salima Suswell, who heads a community advisory group of approximately 20 members from different faiths and cultures. This group helped adapt the exhibit to reflect Muslim culture in
the city of Philadelphia. As a Muslim woman myself, I’d say they have done an excellent job recreating the flavors of the Muslim religion.

At the VIP Grand Opening of ‘America to Zanzibar’, it was evident that this exhibit was not going to be a clichéd, stereotypical version of how Islam and Muslims are usually portrayed. In other words, from the virgin drinks to the halal food, to the heartwarming speeches, to the guests from all faiths and backgrounds, and finally- to walking through the exhibit that has such an authentic depiction of this beautiful and peaceful religion. I must say that I was blown
away! As I have never seen this many Muslims at an event that is not specifically run by Muslims for Muslims. It felt surreal, yet so gratifying! It was so obvious that Wellenbach, Suswell, and the community advisory group worked on every detail to really embody and reflect the true meaning of Islam and its various cultures and traditions from all over the world.

There are so many fun activities that you can do in the exhibit. I can say this because I have already visited the exhibit 3 times, and I plan on visiting again, along with my family and friends. I say this because, to me, America to Zanzibar is not just fun, creative, bold, and filled with valuable and authentic information, but it feels like home. Where I feel safe to believe in my faith and proud of where I come from. This is the safe environment that Wellenbach was hoping to create “As you explore the exhibition and discover the prayer room, I invite you to think about the importance of creating a safe space where Muslim children and families can see their faith reflected with joy and respect and where visitors from all faiths can learn about the Muslim faith in a place of joy and without fear.”

Throughout the duration of the exhibit, there will be a range of art
workshops, led by the artists featured in the exhibit. “My whole idea was to create artwork that young people could then look and find other shapes and symbols in, to learn so it’s always easy to draw someone in, and teach them something then to try to just bang them upside the head with something.” Said Keisha Whatley, a Philadelphia Artist. “So for young people, this style really works, because it’s like all this going on! and they are kind of looking like oh look there’s a star! and hey, what’s that symbol? and oh that’s what that symbol stands for? Oh and that means this! and it opens up a dialogue about the faith, and the culture, the religion and all these other things, as opposed to just being like this is this.

There are other programming activities scheduled to run through
September 2, 2019. Therefore, I recommend asking for an event calendar when you visit the Please Touch Museum, in order to stay up to date with the upcoming events, programming, and workshops. Like the Festival they will have for the first Islamic Holiday, Eid-ul-Fitr on June 4, 2019.

The exhibit consists of five different galleries. You will find one of the
oldest Quran’s, dated from 1854, a prayer room, and a living room filled with objects donated from Muslim families in the community. There is also an architecture area where visitors will be able to see and learn about Mosques from various countries. A global marketplace is the perfect hands-on experience for youngsters. Children and their families will be able to see and smell spices and fruits, wear different African fabrics filled with beautiful colors, see rugs from Morocco and ceramics from Turkey. The representation of Islam and Muslims in artwork is magnificent. I could go on and on, but I would rather let you, the reader go see for yourself and indulge in this amazing journey that America to Zanzibar brings!

Smith Memorial Playground’s Black History Month Exhibit Celebrates 120-Year History of Racially Integrated Play

In celebration of Black History Month, families are invited to Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse at 3500 Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19121 on Saturday, February 23 from 10am-12pm for “120 Years of Integrated Play” presented by Ballard Spahr LLP, a free exhibition of historic photographs and artifacts that highlight Smith’s commitment to the African American community and integrated play spaces since 1899. Visitors will also enjoy special craft activities and a story collection room where families can share their memories of playing at Smith.

Even during the Jim Crow Era of segregation in public schools and facilities, Smith remained a racially integrated play space and operated additional locations that served large African American and immigrant populations. Smith has been an important part of many Philadelphia families’ lives for generations and continues to serve a diverse population, welcoming children from every zip code in Philadelphia and beyond for free family visits as well as a wide range of on-site programming, events, and community programs.

Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse is a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia’s East Fairmount Park. Founded in 1899, Smith welcomes visitors from more than 500 zip code areas including every zip code in Philadelphia. The mission of Smith is to provide and promote opportunities for unstructured free play for children and it contributes to the development of healthy children, strong families, and safe communities by: 1) maintaining a proud tradition of free family admission; 2) partnering with community-based organizations to reach a diverse audience; and 3) advocating for the importance of play. For more information about Smith please visit 

Contact: Zoe Lowry

215.765.4325 x101 (O)
610.609.1590 (M)


2019 SUBARU CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL OF GREATER PHILADELPHIA Saturday, April 6 through Sunday, April 14, 2019

Presented by The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 29, 2019) — The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival returns to Philadelphia in April to mark the start of spring. Presented by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP), the annual festival begins on Saturday, April 6, 2019 and ends on Sunday, April 14, 2019. It will feature family friendly events highlighting Japanese culture throughout the region. Attendees will experience traditional performances, music, and arts, learn how to make sushi and matcha tea from experts, and take part in the colorful contemporary cultures of cosplay and anime.

Sakura Sunday marks the exciting conclusion of the festival and transforms Fairmount Park’s Horticultural Center into the region’s largest Japanese cultural experience. This day-long outdoor event on Sunday, April 14, 2019 is a celebration of all things Japanese. It features a Sake Garden presented by Parks on Tap, Japanese food, live music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, crafts, the Little Akiba anime & cosplay area, access to Shofuso, Fairmount Park’s Japanese house and garden, and activities for all ages. For more information, visit

Festival events begin on Saturday, April 6, 2019 with extended hours at Shofuso. The 17th century style house and garden will be open until 7:00 p.m. daily during the Festival, granting visitors plenty of opportunities to tour the house, visit the garden, and view the world class collection of koi. Attendees can also enjoy a drink at the Sake Garden, a pop-up beer and sake cocktail garden presented by Parks On Tap located just outside Shofuso’s walls on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7 and from Friday, April 12 through Sunday, April 14.

In University City, the University of Pennsylvania will present a free public screening of Hirozaku Koreeda’s 2011 film I Wish on Wednesday, April 10. Internationally acclaimed taiko artist Kaoru Watanabe will bring a “musical dialogue” performance to the festival on Friday, April 12 at the International House Philadelphia. Sushi making classes led by Madame Saito, Philadelphia’s Queen of Sushi, will be held throughout the week at Tokio HeadHouse, culminating in an amateur sushi making contest on Thursday, April 11.  For seasoned athletes and casual walkers and runners alike, the Cherry Blossom 10K/5K returns to Fairmount Park on Saturday, April 13 with courses that offer great views of Shofuso, Memorial Hall, and MLK Drive. A complete listing of events is available online at or call 267-237-3550 for more information.

The Cherry Blossom Festival takes its name and central inspiration from the fleeting beauty of the sakura, the Japanese name for cherry blossoms. The first blossoming cherry trees in Fairmount Park were planted in 1926 as a gift to the City of Philadelphia from Japan. Cherry blossoms are gorgeous pink and white flowers, a must-see natural wonder calling everyone outdoors to welcome spring, and an annual inspiration to artists and photographers. The events of the Festival celebrate Philadelphia’s rich cultural connections with the art, music, food, natural beauty, and industry of Japan.

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is a project of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) with support from Subaru of America, Inc as its title sponsor. JASGP inspires mutual curiosity, understanding, and respect between Japan and Philadelphia, and the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival builds on this mission by fostering the Japanese tradition of blossom-viewing and planting and maintaining cherry trees. JASGP has planted more than 1,000 cherry trees, supplementing the 1,600 flowering trees presented by the Japanese government as a gesture of friendship in 1926. Digital photos and additional information on cherry tree viewing, cherry blossom traditions in Japan, and the work of the JASGP are available at Follow @phillysakura on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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.