by Jasmine Bullock
Jamie Gauthier is the new Director of the
Fairmount Park Conservancy
Since 1998, the Fairmount Park Foundation, now the Fairmount Park Conservancy, has invested millions of dollars in the Philadelphia park system. The organization is a “Park Champion” and has been so effective because of its understanding of the importance of parks to our city’s neighborhoods. The Fairmount Park Conservancy takes pride in increasing public awareness of the park’s role in contributing to the health and vibrancy of neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Today the Park Conservancy works very closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to develop and implement projects and programs that support, improve, and enhance Philadelphia’s parks. One of its premier programs is the Oval at the Art Museum that provides not only a play area for children, but also a beer garden and food truck hub for adults over a six week period during the summer. The Conservancy also works closely with community groups and over 115 Friends groups. The Conservancy aids in forming new groups and in sustaining and supporting existing groups dedicated to their neighborhood parks.
As of July 2017, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is under the new leadership of Jamie Gauthier. Gauthier is a native of Philadelphia who began her career at DuPont working in the field of accounting. During that time, she had a desire to do more meaningful work that helped cities and specifically the struggling communities of Philadelphia.
With a growing passion to work intimately with the community, Gauthier embarked on a graduate degree in Urban Studies and Planning from University of Pennsylvania. With a new career focus, Gauthier gave almost ten years of service to the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). LISC is a national non-profit organization that provides capital from private sources to promote and support low income housing projects and community revitalization. Gauthier described LISC as a great place to learn but wished to serve in more of a leadership position.
Gauthier then became the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business network, a “Chamber of Commerce for socially conscious businesses”, as Gauthier describes it. After four years with this group and her recognition of the new potential that the new Philadelphia soda tax would provide, she decided that now was the right time to make a career change.
She made the decision to take the leadership position with the Philadelphia Parks Conservancy in order to take advantage of the Rebuild Initiative that was the direct result of the revenue produced by the soda tax. Rebuild is a $500 million program designed to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreational centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city.
The funds are acquired from both the soda tax and private donations. Gauthier’s vision is to “connect and partner with the city to see the mission come to pass”.
Letitia House is the new home of Centennial Parkside CDC,. For
more information go to http://centennialparkside.org/
by Chris Sphar
This summer has been a busy one for the Centennial Parkside CDC. We have officially opened our office at the Letitia House at 3479 West Girard Avenue and are actively working with residents to plan how we will use the acre of outdoor community space surrounding the office building. Quentin Drew, Tracy Reed, and Johnnie McFadden, our Clean and Green Team, have been hard at work cleaning the streets and vacant lots of East Parkside in an effort to improve the quality of life of local residents.
In addition our summer programming, the Parkside Fresh Food Fest, has proven to be a great success. Close to 20 East Parkside residents have subscribed to receive a bag of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products from the Reading Terminal Market on six occasions over the summer.
In addition to receiving these healthy food shares at an affordable rate, visitors to the Parkside Fresh Food Fest experienced a cooking demonstration from a great local chef, Tess Connors.
Parkside Fresh Food Fest attendees could also access resources on Indego BikeShare, local recycling campaigns, and home health services while children read books donated by the Philadelphia Free Library. If that wasn’t enough, the Parkside Fresh Food Fest had a rocking performance by local musicians, CityLove on August 10 and anticipate a repeat performance at our closing on September 21.
This has been a great summer for the Centennial Parkside CDC and it is only a preview of what is to come as we grow to be an important resource in the East Parkside Community.
By Jim Brown
The photo above shows McKenzi Custus, surrounded by family and
friends at her sendoff to college party!
“Empowering young people is one of the greatest assets a parent, family or a community can do to have a positive return on life’s investment as they grow.” – Jim Brown, 8/28/17
As you know September is the month when many kids and young people look forward to starting their next school year whether it’s kindergarten, middle school, high school or college. Some area students start this adventure with not much more fan fare than getting new school supplies. Others however, will have the full support of their parents.
Recently (8/12/17), I covered and attended a college sendoff of a young lady from West Philadelphia named McKenzi Custus who was accepted to Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a hundred and fifty-three miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mckenzi’s mother, Crystal Custus, demonstrated her love and support for her daughter with a special sendoff that had the theme: The World is Yours.
Watching a tireless mother be inspired by her daughter’s accomplishments, created moments that would give any first year college student the motivation to do well. Crystal and her friends transformed a former art studio in Germantown into an elegant and classy venue where they created an event to remember for her daughter, family, and friends. Over 65 people were in attendance at this dinner celebration.
“I wanted to give her a day full of love,” explains Crystal Custus. “I wanted her to feel that foundation that one last day that we’d come together in honor of her before she left to go Susquehanna University this fall.”
“One of the key things to carry her through school, is knowing that she has people that she can count on,” adds Custus. “People who recognize her achievements and accomplishments and congratulate her past triumphs is extremely important for her future success.”
As a biology major heading into her freshman year of college, McKenzi Custus felt the air of confidence that many of our kids need to feel from not only her mother but the incredible support system of family and friends that were in attendance to cheer her on that day.
“Kenzi” as mom passionately calls her mentioned that her daughter said to her early this summer, “mom, this is the best summer I’ve ever had. I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my family and friends and it meant the world to me.”
As McKenzi was celebrated, each person attending had great words of encouragement, while some reminisced about their days of college with great optimism for McKenzi. Her great-grandmother held back tears to talk about her great-granddaughter.
“Grand mom loves her very much and I’m gonna miss her,” says Marian Custus, great grandmother and the matriarch of the Custus family. “She’s special to me because she used to live with me and it makes me cry. Congratulations in everything she does, I wish her the best and I’m gonna miss her.”
McKenzi Custus will be attending a university that will allow her to travel abroad during her four years. She will see the world and yes, the world will be yours McKenzi and to all of the young people in West Philadelphia, shoot for the stars because the world awaits your contributions.
Visitors will travel through space with Star Wars(TM) characters, hands-on science experiments, musical performances and more during Super Solar Saturday
Free screening of Hidden Figures – 7 p.m.
WHAT: As part of the Mann’s New Frontiers festival, a six-month community festival, Super Solar Saturday will provide free family fun and entertainment for all ages. Throughout the day, local artists will perform on multiple stages and the Mann’s campus will be transformed into a miniature space theme park with a moon bounce, face painting, Star WarsTM characters, and much more. Other highlights include the Please Touch Museum’s Space Shuttle traveling exhibition, interactive science experiments led by Science 2 the Max and an immersive virtual reality experience with The Franklin Institute. The event concludes with a free screening of the Golden Globe®-winning and Academy Award®-nominated film, Hidden Figures.
The Mann’s New Frontiers festival, presented by PNC Arts Alive and developed in partnership with NEWorks Productions, features a collection of original, artistic programming that brings the arts and sciences together. Inspired by Colonel Guion Bluford, Jr., a Philadelphia native and the first African American in space, this festival is designed to educate, entertain and inspire the Philadelphia community. Super Solar Saturday is presented through the PNC Arts Alive initiative and developed in partnership with NEWorks Productions.
WHEN: Saturday, August 19, 2017
1 p.m. – Performances & family activities begin
7 p.m. – Free screening of Hidden Figures
WHERE: Mann Center for the Performing Arts
5201 Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site kicks off its 2017 season on Friday, May 5 with the first-ever public tours of Cellblock 3, also called the Hospital Block. Visitors have long wished to explore this space, but its severe deterioration has made touring the hospital impossible – until now.
Visitors explore Cellblock 3 in new tour of the penitentiary’s Hospital Block
Cellblock 3 has captivated visitors’ imaginations since the penitentiary opened as a museum more than 20 years ago. Opportunities to step past the head gate, ornamented with its iconic red cross, have been rare. The few hardhat tours offered over the years filled to capacity, affirming visitors’ strong interest in seeing this eerie and fascinating space. A series of stabilization projects have finally made it possible for visitors to safely enter the long-abandoned medical wing.
Beginning May 5, 15-minute guided tours will be offered several times a day. Visitors will explore the corridor of Cellblock 3 and learn more about this unusually well-equipped prison hospital. They will see Eastern State’s operating room, laboratories, pharmacy, X-ray lab, hydrotherapy rooms, psychiatric department, and a solarium for treating tuberculosis patients. A number of medical artifacts remain in place, despite decades of abandonment and decay.
Hospital Block tours are included with standard admission. Regular daytime programs, including “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, guided Hands-On History tours, history exhibits, and artist installations, are also included with admission. Tickets are available online at http://www.EasternState.org, or at the door subject to availability.
by Nikia Brown
“He could hit and bunt and steal and run. He had intimidating skills, and he burned with a dark fire.” -Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer
On April 15, 2017, Parkside community residents and civic leaders gathered around the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut as the first African American to enter Major League Baseball (MLB). Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Nevertheless, his legacy far surpasses that of a typical athlete. He is an iconic legend, Civil Rights ambassador, record breaker, and a man he lived by his own ethos: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
The Memorial Park Celebration attracted a diverse audience including Gwen Gould, the last surviving wife of one of the Philadelphia Stars players, Harold Gould; Kenny Johnson, Coordinator of Community Engagement for the Philadelphia Phillies; Ron Whittington, a Jackie Robinson storyteller and impersonator; and, of course, the eagerly anticipated and wildly unpredictable, Phillie Phanatic.
Gould, who is now in her late 80s, expressed feelings of deep satisfaction and pride after the day’s event. “It was wonderful. I saw a lot of little kids out here which is encouraging. It’s a wonderful thing, and at my age you appreciate just getting out and being among friends.” Philadelphia Phillies Community Engagement Coordinator, Kenny Johnson, grew up in West Philadelphia right around the corner from the Philadelphia Stars Memorial Park. He feels a connection to the community and is grateful for the positive impact of Negro League baseball on urban neighborhoods.
“This event is important because baseball is an intergenerational sport. It’s grandmothers and grandfathers passing it down to their kids,” says Johnson. “Stories of Jackie Robinson and his exemplary legacy are very important (and must) stay within the consciousness of families and the community. It shows that when you persevere, when you work hard and bring folks together, you can do some amazing things.”
Two Phillies Ball Girls accompanied Johnson to the Celebration, Courtney Williams and Trisha Lang. This was Williams’ second year coming to the event and she expressed that it is important “to look back at our history to see the movers and shakers and how we got to be where we are today.” Williams, who is African American, feels her race provides a greater impetus to survey the events of Black history and how much the African American community has progressed since oppressive times. “It’s sometimes hard to see how far we’ve come, but we really have come very far,” says Williams.
While this was Lang’s first time attending the event, she was equally grateful to be a part of the experience. She stated, “I am thankful to be able to be in this position where I can come out and be involved in such a great event that involves the entire community and brings everyone together to look back at how far we’ve come and where we started.”
The event was also well-represented by key members of the Business Association of West Parkside such as Marjorie Ogilvie, Miller Parker, Lucinda Hudson, Cassandra Hayes, and Dennis Lee.
Parker, who has been the treasurer of the Business Association of West Parkside for about 15 years, remembers with fondness the early beginnings of the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park. He shares, “One of the things we want to do is draw attention to this neighborhood and community and get the community involved in the park. We came up with this idea that baseball might be the way to go because there was a baseball field here a number of years ago where the Negro League played.” Parker believes this annual celebration is one way of keeping the legacy of extraordinary African Americans alive in the community.
Hayes, an animated and dedicated community advocate, continued, “This is something that we have been doing for the past eleven years. I’ve been a part of it every year. I come, I eat, I play, I meet folks. It’s a great way to just enjoy the community and recognize one of the historical figures in Black and American history.” Lee, who emceed the event, felt this year’s festivities was special because it marked their 11th year of hosting the Memorial Celebration and Jackie Robinson’s 70th year of remembrance. “The future is promising if we remember our legacy,” offered Lee before jetting off to his next event. The team is already expectant of next year’s activities and look forward to sharing the rich history of the Philadelphia Stars with a broader and more diversified audience.