On Monday, January 19th, the nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. In Philadelphia, a broad-based coalition will remember the drum major for justice by reclaiming his legacy and marching for justice, jobs and education.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition is moving beyond the sanitized version of Dr. King (Full Disclosure: I’m a member of the planning committee). We are taking back the King Holiday and organizing MLK D.A.R.E. (MLK Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment). At least 10,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets on the day of action and agitation.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition’s demands include an end to stop-and-frisk, an independent police review board, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a fair funding formula for public schools and a democratically-elected school board.
It’s only fitting that we open our doors in light of the role of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, our founder Bishop Richard Allen opened these doors in 1817 for the first large scale, national demonstration of free African Americans.
Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that -- Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.
I’ve attended at least half of the conferences dating back to, well, never mind when I started going.
There’s a mash-up of workshops and braintrust meetings from the “Art of Social Entrepreneurship” to “Working Families Fight Back.” To be sure, some folks will be moaning and groaning about the lack of follow-up. It somehow escapes them that the follow-through starts with the person in the mirror.
A. Shuanise Washington, the president and CEO of the CBCF, said in a statement:
Any discussion about African-American history and culture must include African-American artists. Through the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts, the CBCF and the CBC Spouses pay homage to those whose creative bodies of work convey the rich and diverse African-American experience.
About Bill Withers:
Bill Withers is a legendary singer-songwriter with a music career that spans more than four decades. Between the 1970s and 1980s, he won “Song of the Year” Grammys for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Just the Two of Us” and “Lean on Me.” His songs have been covered by numerous artists across various genres of music, including Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight, Michael Bolton, John Legend and Jill Scott. In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
I can’t pick a favorite Bill Withers’ song because there’s one for whatever mood I’m in. That said, some of my favorite lyrics are from “Moaning and Groaning”: “If she ain’t the best in the world, she’s good as the goodest one.”
On Saturday, I went on a tour of the historic Uptown Theater. Opened on Feb. 16, 1929, the Uptown began life as a movie house. In the 1950s, it became a jazz venue. The jazz greats who graced the Uptown stage included Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Gloria Lynne, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Brown, Jr., Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Jimmy Smith.
According to the docent, John Coltrane and Miles Davis played there one Christmas Day, but after the first show, they left for New York City because the promoter didn’t pay them.
In 1958, legendary disc jockey Georgie Woods began producing rhythm & blues shows at the Uptown. The 2,040-seat theater became a stop on the “chitlin’ circuit.”
The Uptown was where jazz met R&B. Saxophonist Sam Reed was the house bandleader. The Sam Reed Orchestra included Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Heath and Odean Pope.
The Uptown’s heyday was the 1960s and ‘70s. Since the final curtain in 1978, the interior of the Uptown has deteriorated almost beyond recognition. With the exception of the seats, none of the original artifacts remain.
Linda Richardson, president of the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation (UEDC), hopes to bring back the good times. In 2001, UEDC purchased the theater with the goal of renovating the theater into a technology center, artist lofts and office space.”
Fifty years ago in June 1964, hundreds of students from across the country joined civil rights activists and changed the course of American history. Freedom Summer, aka the Mississippi Summer Project, was a 10-week campaign to register African American voters in Mississippi, and operate Freedom Schools and community programs.
Philadelphia’s traditional public schools are in a death spiral. While public school children are warehoused in schools with no nurses or guidance counselors, school leaders and City Council are throwing shade on each other over who’s to blame for the financial crisis.
At a news conference, Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite Jr. threw down the gauntlet:
Let’s stop acting like these are other people’s children. They are our children. Today we’re asking City Council to save the children of Philadelphia from significant budget cuts.
City Council President Darrell Clarke posted his response on Facebook:
For the fourth consecutive year, City Council has voted to increase funding for the School District of Philadelphia. But instead of talking about how best to utilize new revenues to improve education outcomes, the District is dealing with a current-year budget deficit of its own making. Last fall, City Council authorized an additional $50 million at the request of Superintendent Hite. The School District then proceeded to leave that $50 million on the table.
Considering City Council is the only funding authority that has consistently increased revenues for the state-controlled School District of Philadelphia over the last four years, this disrespect toward City taxpayers is disturbing and unfair. While other large cities are enhancing services and infrastructure following the Great Recession, the City of Philadelphia remains in perpetual recession thanks to the School District’s ongoing fiscal challenges. Instead of improving core City functions like public safety, we are looking for more ways to squeeze money from our residents to send to a School District that feels it is not accountable to us.
At a June 12th meeting with the School District of Philadelphia, WPDC was suddenly informed that the sales process has been accelerated “only” in the case of William Penn High School stating “political pressure” by City Council as the reason behind the accelerated process. WPDC aims to communicate to the public the unacceptable shift in process as well as the community’s protest of the William Penn High School being developed without community participation or consideration to the future of our beloved neighborhood, history or future.
Clarke has refused to meet with WPDC, which is comprised of Yorktown homeowners and other stakeholders who would be directly impacted by the development of the William Penn campus. Yorktown is in Clarke’s district. They are his constituents.
In this pay to play city, elected officials are playing their constituents for fools. As blues legend Bobby “Blue” Bland would say, I “pity the fool” who thinks they will not be held accountable when they come seeking votes in 2015 and beyond.