Category Archives: News in Context

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.

Arrest at Philadelphia Zoo Goes Viral, Leads to Unanswered Questions

by Alexandria McFadden

On July 5th, cellular phone video showing Philadelphia police officers wrestling a 14-year-old boy to the ground during an arrest outside of the Philadelphia Zoo went viral, thrusting the East Parkside Community into the spotlight mere weeks after two young men were arrested at a Starbucks in Center City. This episode drew comparisons to other instances of white people calling the police on black people for harmless activities.

Was this incident a symptom of misunderstanding and mistrust between cultural institutions and the Parkside community at large? Why was this incident handled in this fashion and what is being done to prevent issues like these from escalating into arrests? The following story is the result of a two-month Parkside Journal investigation.

What happened?

The video, captured by an onlooker, shows police officers arresting the teen as a group of bystanders look on. Among the witnesses clearly identifiable in the video are members of the Zoo’s public safety staff and a group of unidentified young boys. After the officers wrestle the teen to the ground, one of the public safety officers can be heard screaming “is this what you want?” at another public safety coworker, who apparently flagged down the police officers. In our investigation, we were able to confirm that the incident was either over panhandling or water selling, depending on who is asked.

Dominique Davis, the woman who took the footage, in a comment to her post on Facebook said, “The sad part is these children really wasn’t doing anything wrong. I honestly sat in front of the zoo for about a half an hour and watch[ed] the officer push the minor, then start to manhandle this kid.” As of publication, the video has been shared more than 6,200 times and viewed more than 304,000 times.

To add some clarity to the issue, I reached out to members of the senior leadership team at the Zoo. “This is a lose-lose for everyone,” says Kenneth Woodson, vice president for community and government relations. “The Zoo is unhappy with this, [both] to see a young man arrested and this level of attention. We serve children and families and this community and [we’re] open to everyone.

In order to ensure this kind of incident won’t happen again, the Zoo has met with the Movement for Black Lives and other activists to review staff training and protocols on customer interactions and de-escalation tactics—and to implement new training where needed. Asa Khalif, leader of Black Lives Matter PA, described the meetings as “very productive” and that activists look forward to continuing dialogue with the Zoo as well as participating in their staff diversity trainings.

How are other area institutions responding?

With this incident occurring in Parkside, I began to wonder how the other large cultural institutions relate to the largely African-American population that makes up the Parkside community. Having these institutional neighbors adds to the richness of our community fabric, but when kids get arrested in our neighborhood for being disruptive, it highlights the cultural divide about who these organizations really serve.

Although East Parkside is home to only 3,500 residents, the neighborhood is one of the most visited in the city, with more than 2 million tourists arriving each year. These tourists spend millions of dollars visiting these destinations, but how many of those dollars flow into our neighborhood? What is the benefit to residents who experience streets-long traffic jams, congested parking, and higher car insurance costs (caused by property damage to tourists’ cars)? How do our institutional neighbors welcome our families?  The opportunities for community members to engage with these world-class institutions are vast, but only if everyone comes to the table with a spirit of partnership and understanding. Both the Zoo and the Please Touch Museum, which host the majority of out-of-area visitors, expressed a desire to have good relationships with the East Parkside community in interviews with the Journal. But how does the neighborhood ensure that those good intentions manifest into the kinds of interactions that promote community building while making the area welcome for both tourists and residents, unlike the scene on July 5th?

What can we do going forward?

Lucinda Hudson of the Parkside Association of Philadelphia said, “this will happen again if we don’t have the right kinds of conversations with the right people.” Ms. Hudson, a long-time West Parkside activist and a director on the Mann Music Center’s board, has spent decades building and navigating a relationship with the Mann Music Center. Now, as partners, the Parkside Association and the Mann work together to ease congestion, promote a diverse array of talent, encourage residents to attend events, and reduce noise and trash.

Both the Zoo and the Please Touch Museum have already taken steps in creating community-oriented programming and collaboration. The Please Touch Museum held a Juneteenth festival for families and will host the Marvel character Black Panther in September. Trish Wellenbach, president of the Please Touch Museum, says, “We had to take a look at the community. You have to show not just in words, but in the work that you really understand, that you’re willing to listen, learn, and deliver.” The Museum’s embrace of community extends to their leadership, which has created the Parkside Community Advisory Council. This council of nearly 30 neighborhood, political, and nonprofit leaders provide advice and feedback to the Museum.  As Ms. Wellenbach says, “children exist in an ecosystem that includes parents, caregivers, and educators and we appreciate the fact that we [need] to be a mirror to the community so that all children and their families would be welcome here.”

In June, the Zoo brought together a coalition of neighborhood leaders to discuss community activities and is looking at water conservation and vertical farm ideas to promote economic opportunity. However, as this incident shows, there is more room to include community members in decision making and outreach. “The video was a wake-up call for residents and the Zoo, I think,” says Juanita McFadden, a long-time East Parkside resident and a trustee for Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation (and full disclosure: this reporter’s mother). “I’m hoping that better communications with the Zoo will open up a dialogue filled with honesty and openness so that we can build a better kind of partnership for the good of our community.”

The Parkside Journal is committed to continuing online and print coverage of the changing demographics of our community and how the institutions of the neighborhood continue to adapt and support us as they grow.


“TrolleyTransformation” Is in the works for Girard & Lancaster Avenues

by Manuel Smith

In 2024, hopping on the trolley on Girard and Lancaster Avenues could be a new experience. That’s because SEPTA is planning a fleet of new, longer, ADA-accessible trolleys for Routes 10 & 15, and the four other city trolley routes in the city. Sounds good for riders, but big changes are also in store for drivers and pedestrians on these routes.

For starters, SEPTA’s planned fleet of modern trolleys will operate in new ways. The new vehicles will be at least 80 feet long. (For comparison current trolleys are about 53 feet long.)

Longer trolleys mean more room for seats and riders, and up to four doors on the trolley, up from the current two. This would speed boarding and reduce travel times. Speaking of boarding, this is the part that would be very different. Longer trolleys will need ADA-accessible platforms that will look a lot more like stations. This is so the trolley car could meet the platform allowing riders to get on and off without steps. The platforms would also include space for benches and other passenger amenities. Of course, you could not build full stations at every corner. Plans call for the trolleys to stop every quarter-mile (or every five blocks) at new stations.

SEPTA says this will also allow the trolleys to operate faster than stopping at every block. The building of platforms will mean the elimination of parking at each stop. Depending on the length of the stations, three to five parking spots on each side of the street would be lost. But transit planners explain the effect on parking could be neutral. That’s because if trolleys are stopping at fewer stations, the city could reduce the number of no parking transit zones.

These plans are still in the early planning stages. SEPTA will have to hold hearings to secure both funding and public approval for trolley plan. City Council would also have to approve the parking and street changes that are proposed. We’re sure that there will be many concerns, especially from bicyclists and property owners along the streets to be affected.

SEPTA says the trolley modernization plan including new vehicles and street construction will cost $1.1 Billion Dollars. If funding is identified and secured, we could see new vehicles and new stations on the streets in about six years.

Wynnefield Apartment Residents to Be Evicted

Residents of Wynnefield’s Penn Wynn House have been served with a mass eviction notice. Tenants have been given until the end of May to leave the apartment complex, their homes. This move comes as owners of the complex prepare to begin a major renovation project that will displace hundreds of residents. With the continued growth of development in Philadelphia these types of stories are no longer rare, but no less painful to the neighborhood residents they effect. Penn Wynn House has some 240 apartments and many of the residents there are senior citizens, retired veterans, people with limited mobility or on fixed incomes. For many of them finding new lodgings is a challenge made doubly hard when trying to do this in little over a month’s time. After interviewing some of the residents it’s clear that this all began when new owners purchased the building in December 2016.

According to resident Willie Mobley “soon after that the letters started being stuck on apartment doors” eviction letters. The tenants have had little communication with the new owners, and many don’t see a way forward.

In early May, some of the residents partnered with the Philadelphia
Tenants Union, to hold a demonstration outside the Penn Wynn
house. PTU is a tenant-led organization dedicated to winning safe,
decent, and affordable housing for renters in Philadelphia. The
demonstration held outside the Penn Wynn House was planned to
bring awareness to their plight. The Tenants Union is asking the new
owners to give the tenants an extension of three months and to return security deposits in full. Residents could use this money as they seek new housing in the area. Members of the press were there along with many onlookers. Councilman Curtis Jones was on hand to
speak to the crowds and he stated that he would introduce legislation concerning unfair eviction practices during city council session in May. The Parkside Journal will continue to follow this story, look for updates on our website at:

Update: Councilman Curtis did Introduced a bill, in late May, that would require landlords in gentrifying neighborhoods to give residents at least six months’ notice before eviction can take place.

Urban Adventures In America’s National Parks

Bikers enjoy a fall day at Philadelphia’s Valley Green in Fairmount Park, the largest urban park in the nation.Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™
Bikers enjoy a fall day at Philadelphia’s Valley Green in Fairmount Park, the largest urban park in the nation. Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

Each year over a million people visit the

Wissahickon Valley in Beautiful Fairmount Park.

The Valley has over 50 miles of trails that offers

runners, hikers, and mountain bikers the opportunity

to explore Fairmount Park’s rich forests, woodland

and creeks. However, many of us urban dwellers

rarely visit places like Forbidden Drive, Devil’s Pool,

Andorra Meadows or Climbers Rock. Some of us just

don’t get out there. Keep reading and you will

discover David McCullough’s efforts to change his

community’s mindset regarding the outdoors.

In just about every way, I feel better when I can get

outside. It’s hard to find the time, though. I’m a

father, husband, graduate student, and professional

science educator. Like a lot of us, I’m really busy.

But when I get out into nature, I feel better physically

and emotionally. I get exercise and push myself to

get stronger. I have time to think. I can smell fresh

air and see new things. I can reflect. I can meet new

people. I feel more alive. And anything helps – from

walking the dog to blowing bubbles in the yard with

my kids.

For me, nothing beats hiking in the woods. It’s a

perfect combination of being grounded and

transported at the same time. A nice hike makes me

feel connected with nature and all of us in it, but I

also feel like like I’ve gone to some other world.

Maybe that says something about how wrapped up

we are in our daily lives that just walking through

trees and listening to the sounds of nature can seem

like you’re on another planet. There’s no feeling quite

like it.

Part of Philadelphia’s 4,400-acre Fairmount Park, Valley Green is located along the Wissahickon Creek. Visitors to the park often partake in hiking, fishing and biking activities.Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™
Part of Philadelphia’s 4,400-acre Fairmount Park, Valley Green is located along the Wissahickon Creek. Visitors to the park often partake in hiking, fishing and biking activities. Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

This year, I wanted to do more than just be better

personally – I wanted to join with and help others

experience the same thing. Fortunately, I was chosen

to serve as a Philadelphian leader for Outdoor Afro, a

non-profit organization spreading around the country

with a simple, but powerful, mission: to celebrate and

inspire African American connections to nature. I get

the honor of being the leader for bringing that

mission to Philadelphia.

So how exactly do we celebrate and inspire black

people’s connections with nature? By getting outside

and sharing knowledge about the world around us,

including our special connections to nature. Of

course, this celebration isn’t to exclude anyone–we

just want to bring out stories that are all too often

forgotten, about how Black people have and continue

to be essential to our planet’s health and well being.

At the same time, we’re working to improve our own

health and well being.

A child enjoys the outdoor pleasures of Kelly Drive, one of the gateways to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the largest urban park in the United States.Credit: Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia™
A child enjoys the outdoor pleasures of Kelly Drive, one of the gateways to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the largest urban park in the United States. Credit: Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia™

In fact, our personal health and the health of our world are

deeply connected. Natural places aren’t intrinsically mysterious

and scary – they belong to us. They nourish us and help us feel

strong. But they also need us. When each of us is interested and

invested in nature, we make choices that benefit our natural world

and each other. We start to make small changes in what we eat

and how we get around, and think more about big choices like

how public money should be used to support parks and green

spaces. Our voice – the voice of Black folk – is important, and

needs to heard. Believe it or not, we can start speaking just by

getting outside.

This, of course, is all a bunch of great ideas. Let’s get down to the

nitty gritty of how a hike with Outdoor Afro – or even on your

own – can make your life and world a richer, happier place.

Exercise – We all know we need exercise. Hiking

just happens to be my favorite kind. There are small

hills and declines that give you a bit more activity

than you might find on a simple walk. And even the

most well kept trails have tree roots and rocks that

you have to step over and navigate, all giving your

body a little more stuff to do. All of this while being

distracted by serene surroundings and great


Of course, hiking is just one of many outdoor

activities. Outdoor Afro gatherings can include

activities like biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing,

and even sailing! The sky is the limit…so far.

Healing time – This one is hard to explain until

you’ve experienced it. But trust me – the outdoors

has healing powers. As your body moves and your

mind relaxes, you find yourself reflecting and

thinking about your life, and yourself, in new ways.

You release tension and embrace the calm sights and

sounds of nature. Make no mistake, a good hike does

the spirit good, too.

Fellowship – While Outdoor Afro is new here in

Philadelphia, the program has been going strong for

five years and most participants come for the

fellowship. Outdoor Afro draws in people from all

walks of life through a common interest in getting

outside and enjoying nature. It’s an amazing way to

meet new friends, hear new stories, and get new


There’s a special kind of togetherness that comes

from enjoying healing exercise and beautiful

surroundings with good people.

Rollerblading enthusiasts enjoy the smooth and flat 8.4 mile path that winds from the Philadelphia Museum of Art along Kelly Drive and West River DriveCredit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™
Rollerblading enthusiasts enjoy the smooth and flat 8.4 mile path that winds from the Philadelphia Museum of Art along Kelly Drive and West River Drive.Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™


Learning – One of my favorite things about

Outdoor Afro is the emphasis on sharing

knowledge. We talk about the plants, animals,

rocks, and waterways that make up the environment

for each of our hikes. Also, it’s important that we

talk about the history of these regions, and in

particular, the history of black people. We have

been so important to this country, but our

contributions are too often overlooked. Outdoor

Afro wants to bring those stories back to forefront,

and make them part of our common knowledge.

While my job as leader is to find and share

information, we know all of you have deep

knowledge, too. Outdoor Afro is a great place to

share your own expertise about nature, history,

Philadelphia, or even stories about your own family.

We all know so much. Come share your knowledge

with Outdoor Afro!

Members of Outdoor Afro in Yosemite National Park Photo courtesy of Outdoor Afro
Members of Outdoor Afro in Yosemite National Park Photo courtesy of Outdoor Afro

If you want to join Outdoor Afro-Philadelphia on

the trails and wherever our journeys take us, you

can find us at

Afro-Philadelphia and on Facebook by searching

for Outdoor Afro-Philadelphia. All of our

scheduling is online, so log on in and join us in

feeling better, one hike at a time!

Homeschool: A Complicated Issue

The following article is a editorial

comment on one aspect of a larger issue

(education) that has generated widespread

debate and comment within our

community. This subject is of particular

concern and interest to the writer, C. Fox


How a society educates its children has

always been of paramount importance.

There was a time in America where many

children were homeschooled. Many

families lived far away from any type of

school setting. Therefore, out of

practical necessity, much education took

place in the home. Reading, writing, and

arithmetic formed the core of the basic set

of skills or knowledge that was

considered necessary or sufficient for an

educated person to function or survive in

a primarily agrarian society.
Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.53.49 PM

For a society to function well, it needs the

majority of its population to be well

educated. In order to do this in today’s

highly diverse and urban centered society,

our school systems have created large

bureaucracies. In order for a large

bureaucracy to be effective, key societal

groups need to “buy in” to it: parents,

educators, administrators, politicians,

taxpayers, etc. For a long time in our

country this system has functioned

reasonable well.

Recently, however, we’ve begun to see a

significant new trend or challenge to the

traditional school system. More and more

children are being homeschooled. Current

statistics show at least 2 million

homeschoolers in the U.S. Many Black

families are beginning to explore this

option. What are the benefits &

disadvantages of this?

Phillip Daniel brainstorms with homeschoolers about mechanical engineering project ideas on a farm outside of St. Louis, MO
Phillip Daniel brainstorms with homeschoolers about mechanical engineering project ideas on a farm outside of St. Louis, MO

Parents seem to choose the

homeschooling option for a variety of

reasons. There is evidence to suggest that

parents, who have a strong belief system,

use homeschooling as a way to ensure

their beliefs remain a strong presence in

their children’s lives.

While most school systems try to

maintain a secular environment, no such

requirement is necessary if children are

taught at home. A parent can be as

religious or as non-religious as he or she

chooses in a private home. There is also

the perceived added benefit of developing

a stronger bond between parent(s) and

child than the one that would normally

exist when relying on others to teach your

child outside of the home. For some

parents, this is very significant or


There is also an increased need or desire

among some parents to “protect” their

children. In today’s society, children may

seem to be less safe than in earlier times.

Parents who homeschool often feel that

they will have more direct control over

their children’s safety. And yet, this same

perceived benefit may contain some

pitfalls. Many children judge what

obstacles they can overcome based on the

obstacles they encounter everyday.

Removing a child from a traditional

school setting could eliminate many of

the obstacles or challenges they might

otherwise learn from.

It has been said “you cannot discover new

oceans unless you have the courage to

lose sight of the shore”. Some parents

can be overprotective. A sheltered child

may become a child unsure of himself or

herself, afraid to explore new challenges.

While a parent can protect his or her child

in the short run, sooner or later that child

will have to learn to protect himself or


It is a significant step to remove children

from the mainstream educational system.

Parents need to be aware of all the

implications that such a decision entails.

First and foremost, educating your child

at home does not mean you will be

completely free of oversight by the

government. Therefore, a parent needs to

be well prepared for such an






Strong Parkside Support For Its “Please Touch Neighbor”

by Juanita Alexander

The @SixersDreamTeam greets season ticket holders at the Please Touch Museum (courtesy: Philadelphia 76ers)

Many of our readers probably know that the Please Touch Museum has had its share of difficulties since moving to the Parkside area in 2008. For a number of reasons, in September The Please Touch Museum filed for chapter 11. During this time the museum remains open and continues its good work of educating children through play. A ground swell of support for the Please Touch Museum has spread throughout the Parkside community amid reports of these financial challenges facing the highly regarded institution.

We at the Parkside Journal are certain that the Please Touch Museum will survive its financial struggles and emerge from bankruptcy proceedings. Please Touch has become an important part of the Parkside community. They offer many programs that directly help Parkside and the neighboringcommunities. Many of these programs are housed within their Community Learning Department. To most of us this means outreach programs. In these programs the museum goes beyond the walls of the building and out into the community. Some of the programs they offer are Youth and Family Programs. These programs seek to empower parents and caregivers and help to mentor youth as they grow into adults. The museum’s ACES program is one of these stellar programs and was featured in the Parkside Journal’s Summer 2015 edition. The School Readiness program is designed to support children and families who are transitioning into kindergarten. These are just a few of the many programs that West Philadelphia residents benefit from in having The Please Touch Museum as a neighbor.

Whatever the final outcome of all of the current negotiations, etc., the Parkside community stands firmly behind its Please Touch neighbor. The Parkside Journal urges all of its readers to support all future endeavors of the museum. This paper strongly feels that the current Please Touch Museum situation should be a “wake up” call for our community; Parkside can no longer take the cultural institutions in its midst for granted. This paper hopes that the varied Parkside community organizations will make a concerted effort to help support and sustain ALL of its valued cultural institutional neighbors.