On November 11, 1966, John Coltrane gave his final performance in Philadelphia at Mitten Hall.
Mitten Hall will again be filled with joyful noise as the community tells Temple University: We Shall Not Be Moved.
Some background: On March 6, Temple will hold an “informational town hall” to discuss its proposal to put a 35,000-seat football stadium in the heart of an African American residential neighborhood. Temple has been planning this project for nearly two years. President Richard Englert claims Curtis J. Moody, lead architect with Moody Nolan, met with community members “to hear their concerns and has worked to integrate those comments into the designs.” Unless Moody has designed a stealth stadium, there is no way he has integrated the concerns of a community that understands a football stadium is displacement by design.
Temple’s first-ever public forum comes on the heels of a community town hall meeting convened by Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Philadelphia NAACP and Stadium Stompers.
Between chants of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” there was testimony from diverse stakeholders, including Mary Stricker, a sociology professor. Prof. Stricker noted the Faculty Senate passed a resolution by a 24-1 vote opposing Temple’s fantasy football scheme:
I really think this is a bad idea not only because it is a financial risk, but also because it’s in the worst interest of the surrounding community. Temple owes something to the community that has been hosting it for all these years.
Temple Faculty say no new stadium. We are strong, united and determined in this fight.
Pastor Jay Broadnax, president of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, said:
We love football but we’re calling a timeout. We love football but the people in this community will not be a football, passed, punted, kicked and carried across the city line in order for institutions to score profit points or get land grab wins.
The proposed stadium would be located in a neighborhood that has been subject to racial segregation, redlining and neglect. Rev. Gregory Holston, executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), observed:
For 40 years, they have disinvested in North Philadelphia. You couldn’t get a mortgage. You couldn’t get a loan. You couldn't get a home improvement loan. You couldn’t get a loan to start a business. But however today, they got all the money to make a stadium right in your backyard.
There’s something wrong with that. Whenever they start to pour money into a neighborhood, they want to push out black folks. … Race is dug deep in this thing. Race is a factor in this thing. This stadium is about moving black folks from North Philadelphia.
Rev. William Moore, pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, captured the mood of the hundreds who turned out in the rain for the community meeting. Echoing a local resident who said the stadium design is akin to “putting a whale in a goldfish bowl,” Rev. Moore said:
If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.
Can I get an Amen?