Sunday, January 31, 2010
The vast amount of churches is curious considering they are spread across a relatively small area of the city. From Lehigh Avenue to Thompson Street, and between Broad Street and 25th Street there are approximately 80 churches, according to Google Maps.
Some are merely the first floor of a row home while others are larger, more traditional churches with vast brickwork and architecture. One of these larger churches, however, stands out from the rest.
Located at 2001 W. Lehigh Ave., the Deliverance Evangelistic Church is possibly the largest church in the area. The church began in 1961 with only 10 members, and in 1992 moved to its current location which seats 5,100 people.
Despite the bitter cold temperatures Sunday morning, the parking lot was full as members of the congregation began arriving for the 10:45 a.m. service.
Bertha Sinclair, a resident of the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, has been coming to Deliverance Evangelistic Church since 1989.
"You come here once and you get hooked," she said. "People come here from all over...New Jersey, Delaware."
"Most people don't know where to turn for help, but we have hope. We have the Word."
Given the church's unique history and significance in the community, it may be worth revisiting in the future.
By Michelle Provencher and Milan Vracarich, Group 14, North Central
It is this neighborhood that several members of the church call home. Jessie Whitaker, Deaconess, lives at 33rd and Mount Vernon Streets. She has lived in the area for thirty years.
“I moved here when I was 17,” she said. “I’m 60 now.”
Doris Pinckney, Missionary Leader, also lives in Mantua. She was seven years old when she moved to the city in 1976. Another local, Elder Rose Samuel, works on behalf of United Way and is well-connected with local organizations.
Dressed in their Sunday finest and braced for the bitter cold in floor-length fur coats and matching hats, the three women joined their fellow church members for a special Missionary Sunday. The sermon was delivered by the female Elder Sharp, who gave rousing spiritual encouragement to those present.
“It was a wonderful service,” praised Pinckney afterward. “It’s a shame more people aren’t here, though. But it’s just too cold.”
By Mary Coyle and Maureen Costello, Group 6, Mantua/Parkside
The Walking Fish Theatre Company, located at 2509 Frankford Avenue, is a non-profit theatre company dedicated to targeting the youth of the bordering Kensington and Fishtown communities. Their close relationship to the Kensington CAPA High School helps aid them in their mission.
The theatre offers weekly classes for playwriting, improv, movement and acting. Each of these classes is geared to high school and elementary school students. Workshops of new plays are also held twice a month at the theatre.
My partner and I took pictures of the minuscule lobby. The cozy theater was hosting auditions early Sunday morning. Jody Gross was overseeing the audition. She commented that she enjoys working for The Walking Fish. The auditions were for a series of new plays written by playwright Mark Borkowski whose genre of choice is "dark and twisted comedy," according to artistic director Michelle Pauls.
Pauls and producing director Stan Heleva reside in the two floors above the theatre, which only adds to the establishment's familial air. The theatre seems very much like a family business. The stage is cozy and the owners seem eager to discuss future projects. Community involvement and engaging newcomers is important to them. They even asked me if I was interested in auditioning for their workshops!
The Walking Fish provides a unique opportunity for the local youth who may not have the finances or access to attend classes run by the more distinguished theater companies in Center City.
Visit the website http://www.walkingfishtheatre.com.
By Tim Brodwater and Kymberly Bays, Group 1, Kensington
The First Presbyterian Church of Germantown hosted its first concert of the New Year on Sunday Jan. 31, 2010, marking fifty years of its concert series. The Philadelphia Sinfonia, a group of middle school through college age instrumentalists, performed classical compositions by Franz Schubert, George Frideric Handel, Dmitri Shostakovich and others.
The 235 W. Chelten Ave. church recently formed a non-profit organization called the Creative Germantown Initiative. The concert series brochure explains that the initiative has a mission “to strengthen the Germantown community through the arts, education, and recreation, serving people of all ages as they experience the joys and challenges of urban living.” The concert series, which is free to the public, is only one part of the organization’s program of activities. Other events include open-mic coffee houses for individual music performers, as well as day camp programs for children.
A diverse audience packed the church to enjoy the afternoon concert. There were many families, some with young children, as well as older couples and singles, representing a broad racial and ethnic mix. However, the diversity of the audience did not approach the nearly 86 percent African American population attributed to Germantown in the 2000 census data, displayed on a timeline in the building’s entrance. The majority of the concert audience was light-skinned and well dressed. The classical music venue also may not have been the influential factor for the local public’s attendance and make-up of the audience, since the reception following the program was immediately filled with the warm greetings of apparent friends and family to the young performers.
The free monthly concerts will continue at the church throughout the spring. The Concert Series 2009-2010 brochure with more information about future concerts and the Creative Germantown Initiative can be found on the church’s Web site at
By Rachel Hooper and Travis Gold, Group #5, Germantown
One locally owned business that didn’t seem effected by the weather was Gibson School of Music and Arts, located on Fifth St. between W. Tabor Road and W. Somerville Ave. Since the school first opened its doors 15 years ago, it has held over 100 classes and trained over 5,000 students. The instructors believe that they not only educate the students in music, “but the discipline it requires in achieving their artistic goals.”
Temple University alumnus Professor Randy J. Gibson founded the school in April 1995 with the help of his wife, Wilhemina, another Temple alumna. Professor Gibson remains a primary piano instructor as well as president and CEO.
Gibson School not only offers group lessons, but also private classes on a wide variety of instruments, voice, art, drama and dance. Many of their alumni have gone on to receive further industry success, such as Grammy Award winning producer James Poyser and keyboardist Jimmy Gray.
The school encompasses practice rooms, a recital hall and a music retail store selling new and used instruments, accessories, books, sheet music and compact discs.
Along with the monetary loss, the North Philadelphia community is also losing a valuable resource. The computers served many purposes including completing job applications and social security forms, finishing college and high school papers and online shopping during the holidays. According to Branch Manager Aurora Deshauteurs, the library, which is open four days per week, accumulates around one thousand computer users per month.
“By lunchtime there’s an hour wait, at least, to use the computers,” said Deshauteurs.
For now, the library is without computers to replace the stolen merchandise due to budget limitations. They are asking for contributions from anyone who is able to help replace the computers.
The library has no video of the robbery because there are no security cameras filming that section of the library. Before they think about replacing the computers, the library is working on improving their security measures. The thieves broke into the library from an adjacent abandoned building, a reoccurring problem to other neighborhood businesses according to Deshauteurs. The library has already begun repairing the damage by rebuilding the brick wall, which was broken down using heavy construction tools, according to police.
Police have made no arrests and have no leads in the case.
By Josh Buzi and Andrew Wagner, Group 39, Spot News
Though it’s not thriving, The Little Thrift Shop is a business with a cause. New to its current Fishtown location two years ago, its two shop owners donate all revenue to toy drives around Philadelphia, Robert Brossman, 48, of Kensington, said.
Brossman is a good friend of the owners, husband and wife Abraham Cierra and Doris Medina, and volunteers in the shop each morning during daytime hours. He says Cierra and Medina are having trouble promoting the shop, but have optimism about the impending spring.
“Business seems to be better when it’s nicer out,” said Brossman. “Right now, [the shop] costs more to maintain.”
Brossman said Cierra and Medina have been involved with local charities for more than 20 years, which is what triggered the Thrift Shop’s opening at its original location on N. Fifth St.
“They have always been involved with charity, revitalization and helping people that are homeless,” Brossman said.
By Carlene Majorino and Christa Vickery
Group 8, Fishtown
Friends Rehabilitation Program is non-profit organization that works to rehabilitate blighted neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Founded in 1961, they’ve been working in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city since 2004. FRP has since worked with local residents to rehab 10 historic homes into housing for low and middle-income first-time homebuyers.
“We want to give a spark to the community,” said Anne Dicker, 37, who is the assistant to the president of FRP. “We are experts at getting more people to move into the neighborhood.”
FRP is looking to rehab 24 homes in Strawberry Mansion in 2010, with a planned project on a group of row homes on 31st and Berks Streets. The homes are energy-efficient and are designed to get first-time homebuyers with disabilities or living with HIV into a home ownership program where they will learn to increase home equity and protect their investment. Potential homebuyers work with the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Committee and get one-on-one counseling to make sure they have the skills needed to purchase and maintain a home
Dicker, a democrat, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Pennsylvania Senate in 2008, says people often ask, “Why are you doing this, [rehabbing the homes] you should tear them down.” She believes that while many neighborhoods in Philadelphia are “turning around”, Strawberry Mansion is not one of them, something she hopes to change. “This really works when the neighborhood gets involved,” she said. As for the work she does for FRP compared to politics she said, “It’s better for the heart and soul.”
Phil Coles, Chris Banks
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Franklin Institute is featuring a human brain in the Body Worlds 2 & the Brain exhibit. Some of the latest findings in neuroscience on brain development, function and disease are highlighted in this anatomical exhibition.
The exhibit is back after its first visit to Philadelphia in 2005. Although there have been mixed reactions to the bodies and the exhibit as a whole, interest is quite high.
Museum goers are surprised to see the added display of the human brain. The three-pound object astonishes visitors as they pass the brain spinning inside of a thick glass case.
According to the Franklin Institute, “the human brain is the most extraordinary and complex creation in the universe.” The brain controls motion, emotion, cravings, personality and beyond and “orchestrates the symphony of consciousness that gives you purpose and passion.”
The exhibit teaches about the importance of keeping the brain well rested and healthy prevent disease. Because the brain itself is important, learning about it is even more important to one’s well being.
When you look into the mirror and ask, “who am I” think of the complexities of your brain and the constant movement of neurological signals that help make you the person you are. Visit the Franklin Institute's Body Worlds 2 & the Brain exhibit to fill your brain with knowledge that will last a lifetime.
Monica Sellecchia, Group 19, Fairhill
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The housing units that many working families once occupied has essentially been taken over by students in nearby universities. Universities in the area include the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
In the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, the population enrolled in school of the ages 20 to 24 years was found to be 45.9 percent and 25 to 34 years was found to be 28.6 percent. So the ages from 20 to 34 years make up about 74.5 percent of the population. In addition, college undergraduates make up 45.7 percent and graduates make up 44.4 percent of the people attending school in the location, which makes up 90.1 percent of the population for the Walnut Hill district. The 2000 U.S. Census also provided that 29.2 percent of the population makes less than $10,000 in income. This was the only percentage in the two digit percentage of any income in the area. The information in income confirms that the area's housing units is filled with many students. Nonfamily households make up 5,358 out of 6,627 households in the area.
However, according to the 2000 Census, most housing units are occupied by non-family households, through observation of Walnut Hill, there are many schools and parks in the neighborhood. At around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, many students are dismissed and the sound of kids fills the streets. So maybe the 2010 U.S. Census will disprove the fact that students have moved into the Walnut Hill sector of Philadelphia.
Lauren Gordon and Linda Lam, Group 18, Walnut Hill
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Despite support from the community, which Williams stresses has been “great in helping projects get off the ground,” the Hawthorne Cultural Center still needs additional funding to help complete some of the ongoing projects, such as the dance studio and the black box theater. With just a little more work, Williams envisions a place where the community can gather for performances and even a weekly open-mic night.
Tomorrow night, Williams is holding an advisory meeting at the center at 6:30pm to begin making some of those ideas a reality. The meeting will commence by holding voting for positions on the advisory board in hopes that a fresh, new team will help kick start brainstorming for the future and new ideas for funding initiatives.
Tamika Davis, 17 and Emmanual Withers, 17 were one of many students walking around North Central Philadelphia during the regularly scheduled school hours. David and Withers, both students at the Dick William School, were celebrating a half day due to a teacher meeting.
When asked what some of the hot spots of North Central Philadelphia were, Withers responded, "The place to be at is over there [points]. That's where the Diamond Street Boys hang out, or over there [points]. That's where the Backfield Boys be at."
We asked what the "Diamond Street Boys" and the "Backfield Boys" do at the corners, and he responded, "they be doing adult things, if you know what I mean."
Davis and Withers weren't the only residents to openly talk about the "adult things" some of the students were up to.
Mary Renwrick, 80 is the grandmother of 19 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. She's lived in the area for over 20 years and before that she lived more north in the Germantown region. She said the area was very beautiful when she first moved into the neighborhood. As we spoke to Renwrick, a young boy was getting jostled around on the street in front of us and she commented, "they robbin that man down there, they don't care." Her son, a security guard at the Children Hospital of Philadelphia stood in uniform outside of his mother's home as this occurred. Renwrick also commented, "they don't have any respect for the elderly."
Omar Ramey, 25 used to live in the area, but has since moved out to South West Philadelphia. Ramey still has family in the neighborhood and he was visiting a friend to do his laundry. He seemed out of touch with the daily happenings of the neighborhood, but when asked about the happenings in the area he responded, "what you mean the drugs or shootings? If you want to report on that you can, but they won't care. The police don't care."
It seems the residents, young and old have a jaded perspective on the happenings of their neighborhood, but with an overwhelming number of head start programs, charter and parochial schools along with numerous community centers, local businesses and churches the future of the area lies in the hands and hopes of the people.
Naima Abdi and Tiffany Yoon, Group 33, North Central Philadelphia
It’s now been over two months since the Nicetown/Tioga branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia closed its doors and posted a sign announcing the emergency shutdown of the branch. The sign, which is still taped to the entrance, implies that the closure is temporary but gives no clue as to a re-opening.
Although the Nicetown/Tioga branch was one of the smaller library sites in the city, it served as an important venue for certain businesses that are quite common surrounding its location at Broad Street and Erie Avenue, child care centers and preschools.
Within just one block of the closed branch are two major childcare centers, Precious Babies Learning Academy and Shake Rattle and Roll preschool. Samantha Freeman, activities director at Precious Babies, feels that the loss of the branch has definitely weakened the routine and curriculum at the center. “I don’t know how much it’s affected the whole neighborhood,” she said, “but it’s had a negative impact on Precious Babies.”
Deborah H. is an attendant at Precious Babies, which is attended by children from six months to ten years of age. “We used to take the kids there every day for story time,” Deborah said. “It was a really nice outlet for them. Additionally, the library branch provided computer access for the children, many of whom don’t otherwise use computers.
Although Precious Babies employees and kids were frequent visitors to the branch, they were given no forewarning of the closing. “One day we showed up,” says Deborah, “and we just saw the sign, that was it.”
Benjamin Levy and Charlie Lange, Group 31, Allegheny/Tioga/Nicetown
Dr. Jing Fang believes a healthy mind precedes a healthy lifestyle. Since 2004 she has practiced Falun Gong, a meditational exercise that emerged in China as a new age movement in 1992.
“I tried it and saw how relaxing it was for me, so I have been doing it ever since,” Fang said.
Fang, a resident of Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, practices psychiatry in Mount Laurel. The line of work demands physical and psychological endurance for the long hours of tending to patients who suffer from broken homes and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, among other circumstances.
“If I wasn’t practicing Falun Gong, I wouldn’t be able to keep up my energy,” Fang said.
Practitioners of Falun Gong don shiny gold jackets with red stripes down the center, gracefully guiding their bodies through poses to cultivate energy and achieve oneness with the universe. Fang offers free group sessions with fellow practitioners at the Liberty Bell in Old City every Saturday afternoon. There is no organization for Falun Gong group, Fang said, because the art form is directed to work at a personal level for each person.
“It is really based on the person’s own understanding and experiences,” she said. “Western medicine is all about the details, but Chinese medicine is all about the big picture.”
So in the case of the attacks against Chinese-American students at South Philadelphia High School last December, reportedly carried out by African-American students, Fang said she hopes Philadelphians investigate the greater causes of cultural misunderstanding for young people rather than simplifying the incident as one minority battling another.
“I attended some of the cross racial harmony meetings leading up to Martin Luther King Day,” she said. “There were students of all colors urging us to tell the whole story.”
As a Chinese-American Fang has befriended many other Chinese who immigrated to the United States from rural, uneducated provinces. They work long hours in factories and restaurants, and struggle with the gap in language and education, Fang said, so their children often lack role models. As a psychiatrist she also sees a number of African-Americans patients, some with children who have been killed in the streets, others struggling with drugs and criminal history.
“I see so many people these days lose hope,” she said. “It’s not about pointing fingers.”
Jimmy Viola and Pete Dorchak, Group 37, Spot News
The cul-de-sac area has only four main roads to exit and enter the community. There are many secondary roads in Bridesburg and some so small; they are plowed last during snowstorms. Having lived in Bridesburg for 30 years this sometimes becomes a nuisance.
During a recent discovery, a pathway thought to be a neighbor’s driveway was found to be a very short official street.
A quick call to the Bridesburg Historical Society and a brief chat with the Society’s President, Theresa Pyott, confirmed that the area that is merely two SUV car lengths long is actually the 2600 block of Herbert Street. “
“There is no official street sign, but Herbert Street is the shortest dedicated street in Philadelphia,” Pyott said.
Answers.com notes, “A dedicated street is a street, the title of which has been yielded by an owner, either permanently or temporarily, to the authorities for use of the street by the general public.”
Maria Konidaris and Jennifer Reardon, Group 20, NEPhilly
The sidewalk outside the door of Audri's Salon on Reese Street and Hunting Park Avenue is littered with food wrappers and used condoms. There are two men pushing grocery carts down the street full of merchandise for sale, and the chemical scent in the air is caused by the steam creeping out from underneath the doors of the neighboring salon.
Stepping into Audri's Salon, I found myself humming the lyrics to Sesame Street's "One of These Things is Not Like Other." Manager, Audri Sirra, knows that her salon stands out and plans to keep it that way.
"We are still fairly new. We only opened 2 years ago. But come back in 20 years and everything will still look new," said Sirra.
The most striking element of the room is not the polished wood stations, the sparkling floors, the sophisticated decor or even the brand new styling equipment. It is the comfortable interaction between every person present. Customers, employees and manager all speak freely and with ease.
The hum of the hair dryer is complemented by the giggling of the shampoo girls and the Latina music blaring on the television. It is like sitting in on a sleepover party with giddy school girls.
Josie Rodriguez talks about how she and her mother come to the salon every Tuesday for a girl's day out. Audri used to work at another salon on Ontario Street and when she moved locations, Rodriguez followed. "I've been coming to Audri to get my hair cut since 1998. I never go to anyone else because I know I'm getting the best," said Rodriguez.
Sirra moved to the U.S. in 1998 from the Dominican Republic. She acknowledges that Hunting Park is not the ideal place to work, but even less so, to live. She misses her home country every day. "Back home, our neighbors are all like family: we are one. Here, I don't even know my neighbors and I've lived in the same place for over 10 years," said Sirra.
She finds power in her location though. "This salon means progress to me. I'm a Latina woman that became successful in a foreign country. Cutting hair makes me happy and I'll live anywhere if I can do that."
Rachel Horning and Whitney Crawford, Group 28, Hunting Park
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Books Through Bars (BTB) is a local non-profit organization with a mission to answer book requests from those incarcerated. Since the 1980s BTB has been serving Mid-Atlantic prison population by collecting and sending various books to prisoners. Collectively run by volunteers of the Walnut Hill community, individuals, school and church groups and even men from half-way houses come to the A-Space Anarchist Community Space located on 4722 Baltimore Avenue to package various book requests. These volunteers meet every Tuesday evening at 7PM to 9PM and the first and third Saturday of each month from 11AM to 2PM.
Over the past two years, BTB sent over five thousand book packages to prisoners in Pennsylvania and other surrounding states in the Mid-Atlantic region. Tim Dunn, BTB organizer and volunteer, is ecstatic about the recent delivery of law and criminal justice books from a Drexel student led book drive.
“We get a lot of request for dictionaries, thesauruses, vocational books, GED [study books]. Spanish and English [books], Black history, Korans and Bibles come in, too,” Dunn said.
Not only does BTB answer book requests, but streaming from the walls of the A-Space is numerous art work from prisoners. In early January, BTB has even started the Library Project at the Riverside Correctional Facility. The Riverside library now has the most well-stocked library within the Philadelphia Prison System. For information about book donations or volunteer opportunities vist their website: http://www.booksthroughbars.org/
Taqiya Miller & Trenae McDuffie Group 35, Walnut Hill
Among the cobblestone streets and various statues, many of the stone structures once housed something or someone that makes the city of Philadelphia influential to early America. Simply stroll down any sidewalk and an informational plaque regarding a building’s past is sure to catch your eye.
The digital divide is the unequal access to computers and the internet across race, location and socioeconomic lines. Many different factors add to the digital divide, such as lower-literacy skills among users. Many websites don’t follow the guidelines for writing for lower-literacy learners. Studies have shown that websites which harness these guidelines make it much easier and more enjoyable for users. Dr. Jakob Nielsen, the co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, tested two different websites written differently with 50 different users, including both higher and lower literacy users. He found that lower-literacy users completed their tasks 46 percent of the time on the website not written for lower-literacy users. Conversely, on the rewritten website lower-literacy users succeeded 82 percent of the time. As well, it took lower-literacy users 12 minutes less to complete the tasks on the rewritten site.
Income is another big factor influencing the digital divide. A Pew Research study found that 58 percent of those making under $30,000 use the internet occasionally, compared to 94 percent of people making over $75,000. As well, after applying national statistics on internet use to Philadelphia, it can be estimated that 30 percent of Philadelphians with a yearly income below $35,000 do not regularly use the internet. After the downfall of Wireless Philadelphia’s 135 square mile Wi-Fi network in 2008, cheap internet service was no longer available. However, other city organizations offer programs attempting to close the digital divide.
The Mt. Airy Community Computer Center provides internet access and computer training for older adults, ex-offenders, children and women in recovery. As well, the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s mobile Computer Labs travel to different PHA developments and offer access to computers for children. Also, the Nonprofit Technology Resource’s Learning Through Technology Program gives out refurbished computers to families who couldn’t afford them. Many different organizations are offering aid to close the digital divide, but more is needed to give access to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
Jared Pass and Chelsea Leposa, Group 36, Technically Philly
Lizette Ortiz, a resident of Ludlow for the past twenty years, acknowledges that despite the recent wave of housing construction, a lot of work still needs to be done to make the neighborhood a safer and more accommodating place to live. In our conversation Ortiz expressed her concerns with the lack of adequate recreation facilities, businesses, and educational resources in Ludlow. Ortiz’s son has dyslexia, and although he is now grown she can recall the hardships he faced in school. “Special needs are not a priority,” she says.
Another issue in Ludlow, not uncommon to many areas in Philadelphia, is the reuse of vacant land. Handmade signs on Sixth Street speak for themselves: “Vacant today, ? tomorrow.” Ortiz has a few improvement ideas of her own, including creating a park for children and families and a community garden for senior citizens.
Such a garden could help provide healthy, accessible food options desired in an area that lacks its own grocery store. Although a number of small bodegas dot many corners in the neighborhood, their variety is often limited to items like Tastykakes, popsicles and cold cuts. The food is also on the expensive side so many residents, including Ortiz, travel outside of Ludlow to nearby Cousins Supermarket in Kensington to do their grocery shopping.
Speaking to a variety of individuals, many of who were walking home from Sunday church services, gave us a better understanding of both the problems and possibilities Ludlow has to offer.
Megan Linkfield and Sandra Rollins, Group 40, Ludlow
“Not every place you hear gunshots in the distance, but here it’s very frequent,” Arroyo said.
One day when Arroyo was walking to a carnival with some friends he saw two guys getting into an argument. As the fight got more heated one of the men pulled a gun and shot his opponent. Arroyo ran away with his friends.
Despite these painful memories, Arroyo still visits his old neighborhood every weekend to see his mom and friends. Most Sundays he also attends services at the Wyoming Avenue Baptist Church and listens to Pastor Luis Centeno who has been around for about 10 years.
Although many of the storefronts resemble stores in Mexico and the sounds of Spanish bubble in the air, Arroyo said that many different populations live in the area.
“It’s a very diverse community,” Arroyo said.
Feltonville has significant Asian, African American and Latino populations. There is very little tension between the races and the community is described as being fairly close.
“Race is not that big of an issue,” Arroyo said.
Rebecca Hale and Patrick McCloskey, Group 22, Feltonville
After a year of circling the skies the non-profit writing center Philly Spells finally found a place to land and build a nest in Fairhill.
Its new home at 2526 North Adler Street serves as the latest addition to the north Philadelphia community’s Village of Arts and Humanities.
“We decided on this location because we want to serve a community where there might not be a lot of opportunities for fun with writing,” says Philly Spells Programming Director Karen Zaino.
The serene peacefulness of the village comes as a shock after pushing through the hustle and bustle of commercial Germantown Avenue. It is decorated with stone statues and murals reminiscent of South Street’s magic garden and feels like a safety net from the desolate urban stretch you have to trek through to get there. It is no wonder that thousands of community members attend workshops here each year.
The village offers a plethora of performance and design art forms and the addition of Philly Spells will add a written word component. The kick off event last Saturday “As Seen on TV! Write Your Own Commercial” prompted kids think outside the TV screen, and there is a long list of workshops and events lined up.
Volunteers ranging from professional writers and journalists, to college students have already signed up to help. However, Philly Spells is always looking for more hands to help them accomplish their mission.
“Writing or creative expression should be engaging and personal,” Zaino emphasizes. “It should be meaningful and expressive.”
Ariela Rose and Steven Ciccarelli, Group 29, Fairhill
Monday, January 25, 2010
In the southwestern-most part of Philadelphia is a ghost town called
Eastwick. Upon our decent from the R1, we saw no movement- or any
other sign of life- aside from the handful of people exiting the train
with us. While standing on the platform, shocked by the
neighborhood’s despondence, we spotted a fellow train-rider trudging
toward a busy highway through a dry, muddy field. With no sidewalk in
sight, we set after him, following his path through the barren field.
As we crossed the street that separated the platform from the field, a
white limousine slowly crept in our direction. Relief swept over us,
for we had found proof that life- maybe even decadence- was somewhere
to be uncovered in this neighborhood. Then it turned around and
hopped back on the highway. Was this what we were assigned: a
neighborhood that serves as a roundabout for lost travelers?
Disappointed, we continued our trek, still lurking behind the man from
the train. We lost him when we reached 86th and Crane Streets. Now
on our own, we only two young men were in sight. We approached one,
hoping to find the route to the neighborhood’s social Mecca. Luckily,
this boy had just come from a high school basketball game at George
Wharton Pepper Middle School. He directed us to the school’s gym,
where he suspected we could find people lingering from the game.
After tugging on several locked doors, a man exited from one- our
opportune entrance. We had finally found what we were searching for:
life, and lots of it.
Physical education teacher and middle school girls’ basketball coach,
Leighann Hayward, filled us in on community happenings and some of the
school’s activities- including the honors award ceremony scheduled for
next Wednesday. It took longer than expected, but we finally made a
promising discovery in Eastwick.
Danielle Dorwart and Adia Barboza, Group 23, Southwest Philadelphia (Eastwick and Elmwood Park)