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Celebrating Black Culture At The Franklin Institute – by Jasmine Bullock

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson and the Association of the Study of Negro Life and History found it necessary to celebrate the contributions of African Americans with a week-long celebration. In 1976, the week-long celebration was extended to an entire month and has continued with various festivities throughout the country.

On Monday, February 25, the Franklin Institute’s
Partnerships for Achieving Careers and Technology
and Science (PACTS) program, sponsored a regionwide
Black History Challenge. PACTS is an academic youth leadership program offered by The Franklin Institute for middle and high school students in Philadelphia. It promotes science enrichment,
career development, mentoring, and leadership opportunities through science workshops, field trips, educational resources, and research.

This year’s Black History Challenge took place during the Institute’s monthly Community Night, where admission is free for all visitors. Hosted by the PACTS Alumni Association, the evening included an
appearance by the Black Panther and Okoya from the motion picture Black Panther and was moderated by The Franklin Institute’s Chief Astronomer Dr. Derrick Pitts.

The event called for local teams to compete in a high-level trivia competition celebrating the contributions of African Americans throughout history while raising awareness and funds for youth
programming initiatives and scholarships provided by the PACTS Alumni Association. This year, eight enthusiastic teams came together for an evening of fun, networking, and trivia. Participants included the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, Faculty of Community College of Philadelphia, the Black & Latino Employee Network for Diversity at Subaru, Ernst & Young,  NBC10/Telemundo62, Canaan Baptist Church, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Nubian Goddessez Social Club.

Overall, the events was a great night of fun and networking, second place contestant Tonya Lee-Phillips stated, “ This was a great night to bring the family out for a good time learning about our culture and interacting with likeminded professionals from the area.” Tonya represented the Nubian Goddessez Social Club in the competition. She was accompanied by her son as well as her mother, aunt, and cousin who is a member of the PACTS program.

The PACTS Program will continue its long legacy of celebrating diversity on March 16th at the Color of Science Program at The Franklin Institute. PACTS will provide guests with the opportunity to meet, learn from, and become inspired by local minority innovators.
In its ninth year, The Franklin Institute will welcome nine African American scientist that will speak about their professions, how they entered their line of work, perform demonstrations, and discuss the importance of science to a group of 200 students throughout the day.

This year’s STEM professionals include:
• Michael Williams, Ph.D. – Optical Science Center for Applied Research –
Delaware State University; PACTS Alumni
• Deaysha Hines – Medical Scribe – Suburban Community Hospital,
PACTS Alumni
• Antionette T. Campbell – Philadelphia Police Department – CEO/Founder of
the Association of Women in Forensic Science Inc.
• Wendy Jackson-Dow – Mechanical Engineer – CEO/ Founder of
SkyPixGroup, LLC
• Nicole S. Williams, OD – Optometrist – VIVID Eye Care
• Jason Engerman, Ph.D. – Associate Professor – East Stroudsburg University
of Pennsylvania
• Sabriya Scott, MD – Physician – Chestnut Hill Hospital Family Practice,
PACTS Alumni
• Jayatri Das, Ph.D. – Chief Bio Scientist – Franklin Institute
• Loni Tabb, Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics –
Drexel University

To find more information about PACTS and the Color of Science visit

As Black History month comes to an end, The PACTS program is constantly working to ensure culture and diversity is demonstrated and emulated throughout the Franklin Institute and throughout the city of Philadelphia.


Interviews with Special Election Candidates for the 190th District – by Alexandra McFadden

190 District Special Election on Tuesday, March 12, 2019

190th. election 2019

The Parkside Journal interviewed three of the four candidates running for state representative of the 190th district, the seat formerly held by Vanessa Lowery Brown. Brown resigned in December shortly after being convicted of several corruption-related crimes, which also followed her reelection to a new
two-year term in November 2018.

The special election race has been fraught with multiple twists and turns, with three potential candidates for the Democratic nomination dropping out (two because to residency issues and one for other reasons) in mid-January. The candidates who will be on the ballot are Amen Brown (Amen Brown Party), Michael Harvey (Republican), Movita Johnson-Harrell (Democrat), and Pamela Williams (Working Families Party). Michael Harvey did not
respond to inquiries for an interview.

Why are you running for representative of the 190th

Amen Brown (ABP): “The district needs something new and young that is from the community, someone who has been doing the work. This district doesn’t need someone just starting. My organization, my team and I have been doing the work for years. [Also,] I’m not tied to any of the leading figures in Philadelphia politics. I can’t be controlled so that’s a problem for them.”

Movita Johnson-Harrell (D): “I’m running because I think the three biggest issues facing the everyday people in this district are poverty, gun violence and education. I’ve lost my father, brother, son, and
nephew to gun violence. There’s a bigger societal issue surrounding gun violence, bigger than the actual gun. I have been speaking with legislators for many years, trying to flip legislators to support
sensible gun control legislation to protect our communities.”

Pamela Williams (WFP): “I’m a lifelong resident of West Philadelphia and my mother was a dedicated community activist. I learned from her what it meant to advocate for disadvantaged people. I believe that progress starts with people. As a state representative,
I will be a vehicle for the people, bringing the voices of the 190th district to Harrisburg. I’m running because there’s no one better suited to do the work than me.”

As State Representive, what will be the three
biggest issues you tackle?

Brown: (1) Stronger senior support services; (2)
Community safety; and (3) Help small businesses in
the community.

Johnson-Harrell: (1) Poverty Reduction; (2) Gun
violence reduction; (3) Fair funding for education  Williams: (1) $15 minimum wage; (2) Fair funding for education; (3) Universal Helthcare.

What is the biggest threat facing people living in
the 190th district?

Brown: “Voter suppression. The Democratic party isn’t informing people about the special election. We’ve done phone banking and educating people about the special election. We have to spend more
time educating people that there is a special election and why there’s an election. Then finally information about me. The party isn’t doing their job to educate people about the election.”

Johnson-Harrell: “Poverty. I think poverty and gun violence are interconnected. The 190th is a Promise Zone and federal money can be brought into creating opportunity and community reinvestment. There are very wealthy portions of the district and very poor parts of the district. There needs to be more balance. I think because it is a Promise Zone and there’s been no checks and balances of the 190th and that’s kept the poor, poor.”

Williams: “The biggest threat is dishonesty. We need people to be sincere about their service. We need to factor in—progress starts with the people. If we don’t  hear the voice of the people then we have been apart of the disenfranchisement of the people. People are
looking to receive the benefit of it. Some of us have forgotten what’s it like to be servants. [There’s a] lack of integrity and empathy with the people and the needs of their district. Who represents you and who is the voice for the people? All of the umbrella of service. My job…is to help you come out of all of the ills that affect you.”

How will you help your constituents in Parkside
deal with issues surrounding homeownership and

Brown: “I’m a heavy believer in relationships and I have good relationships with the current sheriff as well as the candidates running for sheriff right now. It will not be a problem for me to sit down [with them] because my relationships are valued [at the
sheriff’s department], more so than the average state representative. My organization alone has helped a lot of people save their homes from sheriff sale, getting extensions, getting their homes removed from sale and that was as a regular citizen. I’d like to see the City Council and the sheriff’s department to give more assistance and more protections and leniency for families losing their homes. I have a plan to put into action immediately to help the community on a lot of levels. I want to generate a district-wide trade
program for high school dropouts and graduates who choose not to go to college and who want to go straight to work.

Johnson-Harrell: “My plan is to cap the properties that universities can buy in the district and to ensure that those same initiatives that the universities offer so that their people can move in, we can offer those same subsidies to current residents who want to be homeowners. [I am also concerned about the] real estate investors that buy stuff all over the city and in the 190th specifically—who buy properties, notes, and foreclose on homeowners to push people out of properties and squeeze out their equity. In my case, [I filed for] bankruptcy to protect a property from a speculative real estate developer. These speculators are enabled by politicians who are selling us out. We have to stop them from coming into our
neighborhoods, buying up properties, driving up property taxes, pushing people out of their homes. Another issue that concerns me is property theft. I worked on creating a task force at the DA’s office
after someone fraudulently transferred property from
my name to theirs.“

Williams: “I’m putting a plan together to see developers come together with the community. How do we regulate developers to the point where they are not isolating and bleeding the community through their development? The rental costs and taxes in the 190th have increased. We all want to see our neighborhoods develop, but the residents have the right to reach for greater stability. Once you have a stable community where people own homes, but you have a moral base because people have bought into the community because they will do things to help the community thrive, look good, and do things that benefit the community. There needs to be funding
from the state level to help residents purchase abandoned houses and land that has not been developed for many years.

One of my issues is legislating funds for those persons who are affected or threatened by foreclosure, especially older residents. When some people have to make choices between your mortgage
and electricity, what do they choose? How do we help them not lose their homes? This will put people on the right track so [they] can stay in their homes.  We need to talk to the groups who live in communities to introduce legislation that is effective to and meets the needs of what you see and what you live in every day. I will stand toe-to-toe against the developers.”

How will you be accessible to the members of your
district if you should win?

Brown: “I plan to have three offices across the district as well as a mobile office. I’ll also be at all of the community meetings in the neighborhood and hold biweekly meetings in different communities. In the first 100 days, I plan every week or two to have town hall meetings in each ward to discuss the issues to know what to address and be as effective as I can.”

Johnson-Harrell: “I want to take the district to Harrisburg.
I do that by coming to community meetings and hearing
what they want, inviting them to the State House. Something else that I want to do is have a quarterly meeting with the ward leaders and a semiannual meeting with committee people. Since [ward leaders] want to be leaders, let’s make them real leaders and not just when it comes time to have an election. My scheduler will have
every meeting in the district on my calendar.”

Williams: “I’m seeing if can get donated space in every
ward so that residents can get services without having to
travel very far. I will also structure monthly town halls in
every community and hear [constituent] concerns,
whether it’s crime, development, education. I also hope
that all of the 501(c)(3)s and all of the entities that interact
with residents will open their doors to me.”

190th DISTRICT PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED!…AMEN BROWN FOR 190th District State Representative.

Press Release from:

Ebony-La’vone, Lav Society EnterprisesLLC.

Philadelphia, PA, February 4, 2019, On Saturday, February 2, 2019, the dynamic of the up  and coming special election changed when community leaders, advocates, faith leaders, celebrities, youth organizations, and politicians gathered at Over Brook Beacon
Community Empowerment Center to welcome their top pick; Amen Brown for the special election set to take place on Tuesday March 12, 2019.

Amen Brown is the youngest to enter this year’s special election and after choosing to enter the race has along with the support from his West Philadelphia community presented himself a force to be reckoned with. This is no surprise for a man who has
always overcome hardships including taking on adult responsibilities being the leader to seven siblings at a young age, and being raised by a single mother recovering from substance abuse.

The Amen Brown Announcement Party consisted of supportive speeches by Cheryl Beverly (Committee Woman), Nancy Winder (Senior Mentor) Gail Young (Civic Leader), Pastor Wade Jackson, Denise Carey (Mill Creek West Community) and more!
Amen is what this community needs, new change, new light, new mindsets,” Said one supporter. An elder in the group announced,” Amen changed my life when I was on the street this young man took me in, I now have my own business, I’m clean, and I’m a great family man. He saved my life.”

Amen Brown is a true example of turning your pain walk into a walk of faith and favor.  Utilizing the many challenges that could have brought him down to build not only him but also those around him up. This is what he plans to do moving forward in the community.



HARRISBURG, Pa. (July 31, 2018) — Three students are making history at Reach Cyber Charter School, Pennsylvania’s newest statewide, tuition-free, online public charter school. Alana Norris of Martinsburg, Amya Meekins of West Philadelphia, and Karoline Fitz of New Holland are the first students to be inducted into the inaugural class of Reach Cyber’s chapter of National Honor Society (NHS) based on their significant level of demonstrated service and leadership.

“We could not be more proud of these founding members of the Reach Cyber NHS chapter,” said Jane Swan, CEO of Reach Cyber Charter School. “They have worked very hard to get to this point in their academic careers, and their induction is only a small testament to their dedication.”

Amya Meekins of West Philadelphia is dedicated to inspiring and empowering her community through volunteerism. Aside from being a “straight A” student, Meekins is a budding young entrepreneur with current projects in the entertainment and fashion industries. Meekins, who goes by the stage name Amya Roxxstar, is a singer/rapper and uses her musical talents to give back to her community. From a young age, Meekins has actively volunteered with organizations that allow her to connect with others, especially young girls like herself. She currently gives back by performing for the Beautiful Kids Organization and the Girls Who Brunch Tour, both giving her the opportunity help empower young girls. She is an elected ambassador for the Girls Who Brunch Tour, allowing her to sponsor and connect with young girls from different states to promote education, literacy, and self-esteem in inner cities across the country. The flexibility of Reach Cyber has allowed Meekins to pursue all of her passions. At only 16, Meekins is taking courses over the summer to advance to 12th grade at the start of the school year.

To become a member of Reach Cyber’s inaugural NHS class, students needed to demonstrate excellence in service and/or leadership, receive recommendation from a community member, and earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in academic courses. Once inducted, students attend monthly LiveLesson meetings and participate in service projects. Each school year, NHS members will complete a minimum of 10 community service hours

Reach Cyber Charter School is Pennsylvania’s newest statewide, tuition-free, online public charter school for students in grades K-12. The school was approved in April 2016 by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and began serving students in grades K-9 in the 2016-17 school year. Reach Cyber, a Pennsylvania Connections Academy, provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere there is an Internet connection and with an innovative online school curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of certified Pennsylvania-based teachers, an award-winning curriculum, engaging electives, technology tools, and social experiences provides a supportive online learning opportunity for students who want an individualized approach to education. Reach Cyber incorporates 21st century learning and STEM-enrichment opportunities, as well as flexible pacing options that allow students to choose from a traditional calendar option, year-round option, or for high school students, an accelerated schedule.  For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit

Summer Activities Return To The Oval+ for 4 Weeks of Summer Fun!

For four weeks, from July 20 to August 19, 2018, a portion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be transformed into a grand promenade with the theme, More PARK, More PLAY as part of The Oval+. This year’s season of The Oval+ builds directly on the public feedback and data that Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation collected as part of 2017’s “What’s Your Parkway, Philly?” More than 40 percent of visitors said they wanted to see more family-related activities at The Oval+.  This input, added to ongoing safety concerns about crossing multiple lanes of traffic, especially with small children, led the partners to build on the popularity of last year’s installations beyond the perimeter of Eakins Oval.

On opening night, July 20, for the first time, The Oval+ will feature performers from Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, one at each partially closed intersection, treating visitors to magician, hoop artist, juggler, and stilt walker from 6-9pm. The performances will conclude with a showing of “The Greatest Showman” at 9pm as the kick-off to Friday Food & Flicks.   Also new this year: Silent Philly will distribute noise-cancelling headphones in the beer garden to allow visitors to observe activity at The Oval+ while enjoying great music. (Thursdays, July 26 and August 9, 8-11pm). 150 free tickets will be released for each event day at Check Oval social media for release date announcements.


For the second year in a row, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation have retained Philadelphia-based urban design firm PORT to develop the plan and installations for The Oval+. Each closed stretch of road (see details, below) will be graced by a large-scale ground mural designed and installed by Mural Arts Philadelphia with the award winning design and illustration studio The Heads of State. The goal for both Mural Arts and the design studio was to visually represent the idea of the Parkway being a unifying element between Fairmount Park and the city’s core. From kayaks on the Schuylkill to the soaring arches within the Wissahickon to the growing towers of Center City, each crosswalk illustrates the transition from park to city and back again.

Press Preview
for Fairmount Park Conservancy
July 19, 2017

To complement the expanded footprint of The Oval+, the Barnes Foundation will present an interactive outdoor installation, the Canopy at the Barnes, designed by SHIFTSPACE. The
installation will include a site-specific mesh canopy hung from the trees lining the Parkway in front of the Barnes. Offering abundant shade, the canopy will float above café-style seating  open to all and lounge areas featuring inflatable furniture. To activate the space and welcome the community, there will be family-friendly games—including bocce ball—and every Thursday from July 19 through August 16, 11:30am–1:30pm, the Barnes will host “bring your own lunch” afternoons with live music from the Philadelphia Jazz Project. More details will be announced soon.

For the complete schedule, see All events are free.

An Evening With Paul Roberson

by Mr. Jim Brown


Recently, West Philadelphia High School hosted a gala celebration of both the 120th birthday of Paul Roberson and the 25th anniversary of the Nutter Center for Community Partnerships and the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. This was an evening highlighted by awards to our youth and artistic expressions of a man who was one of the most fascinating human beings of the 20th century. Jason McKinney, who portrayed Paul Roberson and Christopher A. Bagley who was his accompanist, reenacted Roberson’s life onstage in “Moments with Paul”, which was also written by Paul Mckinney. Legendary television anchor Trudy Haynes who was also in attendance, laughingly commented that “I’m expecting the man (McKinney) to be able to sing”. The iconic African-American news broadcast pioneer was frank as she continued by saying “McKinney, I don’t know him but I’m hoping he’s good….and can instill in the listener the same kind of strong enthusiastic feeling and vibrancy that Roberson did when he performed”.

Jason McKinney, an impressive 6′ 4″ tall actor with a baritone voice, gave a commanding performance as he told the captivating story of his character, Paul Roberson, and gave the audience a glimpse into one of the great minds of the 20th century. Roberson was a great athlete, but it was his passion as an activist and lawyer who fought vigorously against racial injustice both at home and abroad (Europe and Africa) that caused him to be blacklisted by the U.S. government during the 1950’s. Roberson was no doubt influenced by his talented and educated family which included ministers, lawyers, social activists and teachers.

After watching McKinney’s performance, I asked the eloquent actor who towered over most of the audience what made him focus on the character and life of Paul Roberson. “I heard his voice”, replied McKinney. “When I was about 15, I asked my father about him and he said ‘oh he’s a great athlete and great lawyer just like me son’ “. McKinney continued by saying “I didn’t know much about him, but when I heard the voice I fell in love with the voice. So when I had the opportunity to… stretch my artistic legs by doing this play,… I used this opportunity to learn more about the man and how tragic his life was.

McKinney explained that much of Roberson’s life story has been lost and expressed the hope that the current generation would try to find this missing information and “tell the story; because if we forget, we’re just like the rest of them”. An enthusiastic McKinney added “…it’s our second time here in Philadelphia and it’s quite an honor and that’s why we love it and look forward to coming back soon”.

In addition to being honored by various universities, Roberson received numerous other awards and honors such as the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the Stalin Peace Prize. He was loved by the Russian people who named him the ‘People’s Artist’.

The School District of Philadelphia honored the memory and legacy of Roberson by changing the name of the O.V. Catto School (at 4125 Ludlow St. in West Philadelphia) to the Paul Roberson High School for Human services. I talked to the school’s principal, Mr. Richard Gordan, about what Paul Roberson would have loved about the school that bears his name. He replied that “I’d hope he would be proud of the fact that you had a school that at first was not moving in the direction everyone wanted to see but has in the last five years managed to propel itself into one of the top high schools in Philadelphia. I would hope he would be proud of….the character of the students that we’re developing”.

I also spoke with the Executive Director of the Paul Roberson House and Museum about the concert. “I loved that these men were performing” said Ms. Michael. “They performed very well and captured the crowd. As we look to serve the community, we have a list of activities and things that we do at the (Paul Roberson) house; we have a myriad of things that we do for the house with a lot of organizations and groups to help with the Roberson House”. Ms. Michael proudly explained that”……Paul Roberson was my adopted uncle. I lived across the street from the Robersons and our families go way back. before I was born”.

In 1965, after the death of his wife Eslanda Goode Roberson (a civil rights activist in her own right), Paul Roberson moved to Philadelphia where he lived with his sister Marian until his death in 1976. Born April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey, Roberson died in Philadelphia on January 26, 1976.

“He didn’t give interviews, not even to the late (black) Philadelphia Daily News reporter Chuck Stone”, said Westside Weekly Editor Tyree Johnson. “He was bitter about the press but good with his neighbors who knew him”.

We thank the late Mrs. Frances Aulston for her dedicated work and passion to bring Paul Roberson’s life to all who visit (the Roberson House) to learn about the man who served the people without prejudice. For those wishing to visit the Paul Roberson House and museum, it is located at 4949-51Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Pa. 19139. The phone number is (215) 474-1378 and the website is

A Legacy Continued

By Jasmine Bullock

Ms. Jacquelyn Kelley had a vision to educate young people and expose them to the world around them. She wanted them to experience life outside their neighborhoods, outside their city, state and ultimately outside their country. In April of 2007, this mission became a reality with the first charter for Discovery Charter School.

The curriculum was designed to take an expeditionary learning approach that would combine what students learned in the classroom to what happens in real life situations. It was Ms. Kelley’s desire to build the bridge between the information learned in books and how it is applied in everyday life.

Throughout the years, the school has maintained its original mission by providing a quality education and opportunities for Parkside area youth to travel throughout the world. Each year, kindergarten through third grade students tour the Delaware Valley learning about the city of Philadelphia and surrounding counties. The fourth graders continue their growth by traveling to Washington DC to tour the Nation’s Capital and are hosted by a local member of Congress each year.

Middle school students have the opportunity to take all the information they have learned and put it into application abroad. Throughout the years, several 6th grade classes have travelled to Detroit with a final destination of Canada to explore the route of the Underground Railroad. During this year, the students also pick their 8th grade trip abroad. This gives them two years to fundraise for the journey. Discovery Charter School has been privileged to take groups of student to Africa, Costa Rica, Italy and Spain.

Each year, Discovery Charter School celebrates Founders Day with a school wide “Fun Day”. The School is transformed into a fun zone. Elementary aged students use the gymnasium to enjoy bounce houses, photo booths and pizza. Middle school students gravitate to the school yard where several video game and virtual reality trucks are available for their entertainment. This Founder’s Day DCS CEO, Ms. Elmore, found another way for a legacy of excellence to continue for generations to come. The school hosted its inaugural Spring Gala in celebration of Ms. Kelley’s legacy and the children and alumni of the school. This gala served as a ribbon cutting for the Jacquelyn Y. Kelley Museum. The event featured musical offering from The Sounds of Philadelphia, The Blue Notes and the Tramps.

The museum serves as a home for current students and the community to see memorabilia from Ms. Kelley and footage of the expeditions the school has taken since its inception. There are rooms dedicated to various aspects of Ms. Kelley’s character, personality and vision for the education of young people.

The museum has four rooms that share the history of the school in various ways. Kiosks are set-up throughout the building with photos of the various trips students have taken and film footage of Ms. Kelley and events throughout her tenure. There are also live action and animated videos to meet the needs of all ages visiting the museum. In addition, there is also a room in the museum that is filled with items from Ms. Kelley’s wardrobe as well as a look at the evolution of the uniforms and paraphernalia worn by students throughout the history of the school. The final gallery is a time capsule. The room holds all of the school’s yearbooks as well as a memorial to Jacquelyn Kelley. This museum will serve as a gateway into the past for students to come.

As Discovery Charter School continues to educate and shape youth into proactive, positive citizens, the administration and faculty will know they are continuing the legacy that Jacquelyn Kelley began with her original vision many years ago.