Public Forum: Is it Really Black History? Or, is it AMERICA’S HISTORY?

by Sharon Hale Jenkins

I came to know what is now known as Black History Month in my last year of high school in 1972. Its’ origins can be traced back to the pioneering work of Dr. Cater G. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago. His efforts to gain more recognition for the contributions people of color had made to American history led to the establishment of Negro History Week during the 1920’s.

By the 1970’s, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month. Since the mid-1970’s, every American president (Democratic and Republican) has issued proclamations endorsing the concept of Black History Month. While attending college in the 1970’s during the “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” period, I had many conflicting feelings about why the “Black” experience was (from my viewpoint) taught ‘separately’ from “American” history.

Let’s fast forward to today. Why are Black Americans continuing to accept the fact that their story (which is the very foundation of ALL of America’s stories), remains separate in the telling of this country’s history? In the future, the telling of America’s history should start with renaming Black History Month as AMERICA’S HISTORY: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.


Because I am not a supporter of Black History Month, it is not unusual when I forget February is the month for Celebration. While TV viewing I am surprised and often impressed with the consistent number the African American actors being portrayed in Fortune 500 commercials. The Hallmark card commercial with the family cooking and eating together, having family card game time and the very touching family TV time when the wife hands her husband a card and they lean in to kiss when the children express their “ill.”

It is then I realize, this is all for Black History Month……..

There are the many movies with significant meaningful stories of African Americans being shown just in honor of Black History Month. Why not show these movies period?


Heart Disease and Nutrition: What You Eat Can Save Your Life

by Dr Albert Hicks III, a Senior Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and in most of the developed world. Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and hypertension also disproportionally affect African Americans and other minority groups in the US. In my Cardiology practice, patients frequently ask what lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their chance of developing heart disease. For years I would tout the mantra of increasing exercise, quitting smoking, taking the right medications, and healthy eating.

The first three suggestions were easy to sell since the evidence supporting them was so robust. Exercise training has been shown to reduce deaths in people with heart failure and in folks that just had a heart attack. Cigarettes accelerate atherosclerosis and increase cardiovascular deaths, while quitting substantially reduces the risk of death. There are numerous medications such as Aspirin and Statins, that have been shown to reduce mortality in folks with heart disease. The last point regarding a healthy diet has been notoriously difficult to define.

What exactly does ‘eating healthy’ mean? Is it eating exclusively fruits and vegetables? Does it mean a diet high in protein and fat like the Atkins diet? Are carbohydrates a staple in a healthy diet? Or perhaps a diet very low in carbohydrates is healthy?

Unfortunately, at some point all of these diets were in vogue within the medical community. They were recommendations that made common sense. But when studied on a population level, none of these diets demonstrated an improvement in heart disease outcome. Because of the lack of clear cardiac benefit of any particular diet, many fad diets flooded the market. It is no wonder why my patients never know what types of foods they should eat to be healthy. But finally that has all changed.

A Gift from the Mediterranean
For years there has been discussion in the medical community regarding the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The diet represents foods traditionally found in the Mediterranean part of the World, particularly Greece and southern Italy.

But variations of the diet are found in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Bulkan region. Scientists observed that people who live in these parts of the world suffered from significantly less chronic diseases and had higher life expectancies than their Western counterparts.

What foods comprise the Mediterranean Diet
The following foods are staples in the Mediterranean Diet:
• Fruits
• Cereals, Pasta, Bread
• Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
• Moderate fish, poultry
• Small amounts of red meat
• Moderate dairy (GREEK YOGURT, cheese)
• Moderate consumption of wine w/ meals

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.28.59 PMThe foods in should be grown and produced locally. Quality of food is heavily stressed over the quantity. Fresh foods are essential to the diet. Lastly, the creators of the diet stress that food should be savored, and enjoyed.
In April 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a ground- breaking dietary study that has transformed my practice. The study examined the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease. The researchers followed over 7400 people who were at high risk of developing heart disease but were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. The participants were then assigned to assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil; a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a Control diet that was low in dietary fat. They followed folks for five years.

The results of the study showed that in people at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events including heart attack, stroke, and death.

This study finally validates a diet that can save lives and reduces the chances of developing heart disease. I now recommend the Mediterranean diet to all of my patients, friends, and family. Additionally I challenge them to change their eating culture: eating as a family, experimenting with new foods, and eating for longer periods of time to truly enjoy the experience.

I challenge anyone that is reading this article to try this diet out. It just one day may save your life.

“Fountain” in the Park

by Michael Burch

John Welsh Fountain in Winter
John Welsh Fountain in Winter

The residents of Parkside are no doubt familiar with the picture shown to the right of this article. I, along with all the other kids who grew up in Parkside, simply called it “the fountain” (in front of Memorial Hall). No one knew its true name or origin. I guess you are young, details like the names of familiar objects or places don’t seem to matter much. “The fountain”, however, does have a specific name. It is formally known as the John Welsh Memorial Fountain. This fountain was dedicated to Mr. John Welsh for his service to the City of Philadelphia and to his country. He was instrumental in bringing the 1876 Centennial Exhibition here to Philadelphia in Fairmount

John Welsh was one of the original Farimount Park commissioners and became the principal officer and president of the Centennial Board of Finance. If you were anything like me growing up in Parkside, you probably played or even ‘partied’ around this fountain, but never actually saw it in operation. However that may soon change. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is conducting a study about the feasibility of rehabbing the fountain. This means there is a possibility that this 100 year old fountain could be functioning again!! This would greatly enhance the beauty of Fairmount Park and our Parkside neighborhood. We can ALL help in this effort. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is looking for any pictures that anyone may have of the fountain when it was actually working. If you have pictures of the WORKING fountain that you would like to share, please email them to:

New Art Gallery Signals Grassroots Cultural Revival

by Michael Burch

Located in what may seem to some like an unlikely neighborhood, a new art gallery called “A Poet Art Gallery,” has opened in the 40th St. and Girard Avenue Corridor. This new venture is located at 4032 Girard Avenue. Although this venture has been referred to as ‘new’, it has actually been in our community since last summer. The art Gallery is still in a building phase and more work needs to be done but they are OPEN FOR BUSINESS and their public space looks great!!

Residents should use this opportunity to take a new and closer look at the 40th and Girard block in general.
Those of you who do will discover a key area of our community that is slowly coming back to life. There is the beginning of a resurance of new buildings and businesses here. This is actually the second location of A Poet Art Gallery. This establishment was first located on Walnut Street in the University City section of West Philadelphia. After spending a few years at that location, the owners Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Tina Albright, and Sharnette Coles, decided they needed a larger facility with easier access to the expressway and parts west. The need for a more spacious building is what brought them to Girard Avenue. One of the main goals of A Poet Art Gallery is to bring art and opportunities for artistic expression directly into the community while establishing strong relationships with the residents who live here. The owners are community minded individuals who wanted to stay in West Philadelphia and “give back to the community.” Rachelle Pierre-Louis is a graduate of West Philadelphia High School.

A selection of the art on display at the new neighborhood gallery.
A selection of the art on display at the new neighborhood gallery.

Although A Poet Art Gallery is just getting started, in Parkside, it is capable of hosting a variety of events and activities. The owners seek to put in place many of the activities they had at the former University City location.

At the Gallery there will be regular poetry readings and open mic events fashion shows, fundraisers, book sales, music and a variety of art for sale. The property has available studio space for local artists as well as a backyard to host outdoor events. The owners hope to offer children’s art classes, drum sessions, African dance classes, and much more. A Poetry Arts Gallery has many great programs and activities to offer to our community. We WELCOME the Gallery and its’ owners to Parkside. Currently going on at the Gallery every 4th Saturday of the month is “Sounds in the Gallery” poetry, open mic, music, art and food 8pm to 12am presented by love us. Culture Corner” art, poetry and music 6 pm to 9 pm presented by broad street music group. Every 1st Friday, art, poetry, music and networking 8pm to 12pm presented by Armofeasso.

Check out more of what’s going on at A Poet Art Gallery on Facebook APoetArtGallery and on twitter @ApoetArtGallery

Parkside Edge Project Update

by Jennifer Mahar

There is exciting news for the West Fairmount Park and West Parkside community! On Tuesday,February 4th representatives from the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes presented initial design ideas for a new recreation zone’ and other immediate interventions planned for the edge of West Fairmount Park to a group of key community stakeholders in the Parkside neighborhood.

Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.
Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.

Eight years removed from a Centennial District Master Plan that produced several important changes to the area but few that directly impacted the adjacent neighborhood on a daily basis, the Conservancy believes that the time is right to bring community-inspired changes to the park that will dramatically improve the experience of and interaction with the park among Parkside residents.

This planning work has been guided by a set of principles established by the Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes, namely that the project must benefit the surrounding community, celebrate the rich history of the Centennial District, connect to existing local, citywide and regional assets, and offer diverse programming that provides options for all age groups during different seasons.

  1. With these guidelines in mind, the Conservancy identified and presented five key project areas:A gateway where Girard and Parkside meet that will calm traffic at the corner and provide sculpture or signage that designates the historic area.
  2. Parkside Edge improvements, including a plaza-like edge alongside Parkside Avenue, safer crossing features, and bringing some of the park’s gorgeous trees across the Avenue and into the neighborhood.
  3. A new youth play area near Kelly Pool , which would include a small building with restrooms and other amenities that would be open to the public, natural playground feathers, a spray water feature and a ‘trail of water’ that could be waterplay in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
  4. A creative play area just south of Smith Memorial Arch, which would provide recreation opportunities for kids who are slightly older but are still looking for imaginative play and exercise, potentially with giant swings, climbing walls, climbing nets, hammocks and trampolines.
  5. Restoration of the historic Smith Memorial Arch.

At the February 4th meeting the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was also on hand to report that they have hired Studio: Bryan Hanes to conduct a planning study for improvements to the once-iconic and long idle Welsh Fountain in front of the Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall. In addition to hardscape and planting improvements, Studio: Bryan Hanes will be exploring ways to make the fountain functional again. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation recently scheduled improvements to the Abstinence Fountain located near the Mann Center.

In other West Park news, the Conservancy is now working with an engineering firm to determine why Concourse Lake has been losing water. Knowing that so many residents enjoy Concourse Lake, the Conservancy made improvements to the area surrounding the lake several years ago, installing a native plant garden, signage, walking path, and benches. Knowing that maintaining an adequate water level long-term is key for the health of the thriving local habitat, our current work at the lake will allow us to determine the cause of water loss at the lake and ultimately solve the problem, restoring Concourse Lake to proper levels to ensure that it continues to provides a beautiful visiting experience for both people, birds and other animals.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church

Finally, this we spring will be bringing a fabulous project to communities surrounding West Park. On Saturday, May 10th, the Conservancy will kick off our third annual Love Your Park Week at Parkside Evans. All residents and park user are welcome to join us for a volunteer service day from 9am – 12pm followed by the first ever ‘PUMPJAM’ at the new public Philly Pumptrack from 1pm -4pm.

All are welcome at this event, which will feature demonstrations, raffles, music, giveaways and more, and celebrates the grand opening of Philadelphia’s first pumtrack- the fast-growing attraction in biking among cyclists of all ages.For more information on LOVE YOUR PARK WEEK and the volunteer service day at Parkside Evans, please call 215-988-9334

Fact Sheet: President Obama’s Promise Zones Initiative

excerpt from a January 2014 White House Press Release


Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.
Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.

For decades before the economic crisis, local communities were transformed as jobs were sent overseas and middle class Americans worked harder and harder but found it more difficult to get ahead.  Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zone Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.  Today, the President announced the next step in those efforts by naming the first five “Promise Zones”. 

The first five Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, have each put forward a plan on how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity.  In exchange, these designees will receive the resources and flexibility they need to achieve their goals.

Each of these designees knows and has demonstrated that it takes a collaborative effort – between private business and federal, state, tribal and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; children and parents – to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American, in every community.

Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia)

The City of Philadelphia’s key strategies include:

  • Putting people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses; and the development of a supermarket providing both jobs and access to healthy food.
  • Improving high-quality education to prepare children for careers, in partnership with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation, through increasing data-driven instruction that informs teacher professional development; developing school cultures that are conducive to teaching and learning; mentoring middle and high school youth with focus on college access and readiness; and increasing parent engagement.
  • Preventing and reducing crime in order to attract new residents and long-term investments, through strategies such as focused deterrence, hot spots policing, and foot patrol. 

Fattah on Promise Zones: It’s not Parkside’s turn

by Manuel McDonnell Smith, Special Correspondent

With a bold declaration that the nation has “cleared away the rubble of crisis” during his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to refocus his second term efforts on the middle-class and “expanding opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up.” He used the rest of the speech to unveil several several initiatives that he plans to use to deliver on that commitment, including the much publicized Promise Zone Initiative.

The initiative, intended to deliver on the President’s promise of a “better bargain for the middle class” pledges investment in partnerships with business and community organizations in twenty designated areas in the nation by 2016. The first five zones were announced by the President just before the State of the Union, one of which is West Philadelphia. There are no specific federal dollars allotted to the execution of the program, but many specific benefits were promised to the area in a White House press release including job training for adults, loans for resident-owned businesses, investment in education, and a focus on the prevention and reduction of crime “in order to attract new residents and long term investment” through hot spot policing and foot patrols.

Quite naturally, interest around federal attention and potential investment directed towards our neighborhood sparked a lot of interest among neighbors when news of the new Promise Zone designation began leaking out, prompting meetings among community leaders and major area institutions about what long-term strategies could be supported by the new plan. But the excitement quickly turned to confusion, and disappointment once maps of the new Promise Zone were released. While the Zone does cover much of West Philadelphia from 30th Street to 47th Street going east and west, and from Market Street to the South, it comes to a halt at Girard Avenue, almost specifically leaving out Parkside and many of the neighborhoods that residents have been working for years to maintain, support, and redevelop.

Given the area’s historical overwhelming support of the President and the area’s federal elected leadership in Washington, The Parkside Journal began looking for answers. We quickly hopped on an opportunity to meet with our local Congressman Chaka Fatta, who was bound to have answers about the Promise Zone and the lack of Parkside’s inclusion in it as a Senior Member of the House’s Appropriations Committee and as lead Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies.

Parkside Journal (PJ): Congressman, thanks for meeting with us. What exactly is a “Promise Zone”?
Fattah: “One of the things the President asked, last year, for us to do is Promise Zones. The commitment was to do twenty of them, and the first five have been announced. Philadelphia got one of the five nationwide. …..We got one. It is just what is says. A promise zone is around collaboration and creating opportunities around educational attainment for the long term residents of that community.

PJ: And who was it designed to include?
Fattah: It’s everybody from the People’s Emergency Center through Drexel and others who made a commitment to work in this regard, and a lot of work has already happened for at least the last five years. Everything [has been included] from embracing a number of schools there for STEM education purposes.

PJ: Some here in Parkside have feel “left out” of this Promise.
Fattah: With five promise zones in the nation, it dosen’t include everybody. And it doesn’t even include everybody in West Philadelphia. And it wont even benefit everybody in Mantua. It will benefit young people in Mantua, and children in Mantua. It will interrupt the generational cycle of poverty, and hopefully it will create some models that we can use in other places.

Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.
Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.

PJ: Does that mean that the zone could be expanded to include us?
Fattah: This is in some ways kind of like history repeating itself. You talk about Parkside Avenue. When I started in Congress, we won one of five empowerment zones in the country. We won it for West Parkside. And in what used to be an industrial tract, there now is a major shopping center. It’s got the highest grossing supermarket in the nation, its got a whole set of resources about 400 jobs for people in the neighborhood.

PJ: But this grant specifically targets Mantua. Is your commitment to Parkside still a top priority?
Fattah: I walked along Parkside Avenue 20 years ago when all of those Parkside Mansions were vacant and abandoned. I could show you the pictures on the covers of some publications in Philadelphia, and I said that we were going to re-do [the area]. All of those mansion have been redone, and on the back streets major rehab has been done. You take the Microsoft High School and you go all the way up through to the new Carousel House, The Please Touch Museum which we funded, to the new transportation [center] at the zoo. I could show you that whole area and major transformation has taken place, and at that point Mantua was left out.

PJ: So you’re saying that this time, the attention needs to be focused on another part of the neighborhood?
Fattah: These choices are based on a set of dynamics, and the dynamic here is that for the city to win one of these, we had to make our best case for a neighborhood that life chances were less than they needed to be. Mantua has got a set of challenges, and we were able to make a case that here was palace that the country wanted to indicate that the American Dream, the promise of it, could be made real. And we wanted a very challenging place to make that statement and Mantua fit the bill.

PJ: Congressman, thank you for your time.
Fattah: It has been my pleasure.

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.