It’s been more than three months since Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. The city is on pins and needles as it awaits the grand jury’s verdict which is expected to be handed down in the coming week.
Groups across the country are mobilizing for after the verdict protests. At Saturday’s action rally at the House of Justice, Rev. Al Sharpton said the “abuse of the grand jury” is fueling suspicion:
All eyes around the country have been on Ferguson, Missouri as the grand jury has wound down there… The abuse of the grand jury is the reason there is the suspicion from many of us that they are setting up to do nothing, which is why we want the federal government to come in.
It doesn’t take three or four months to determine if unarmed men were responsible for what happened. So you’re trying to figure something out that we done already figured out. We’ve done figured out you’re trying to figure something else. We are on high alert that within 24 hours we’ll be hitting the streets in 20 cities.
Sharpton said “the object of the protest is to put the pressure on the federal government to go forward.”
The community is on high alert. And so are the police.
Before you go to the protest, know your rights. If you are in the Philadelphia area, you are invited to a free interactive training session co-sponsored by Up Against the Law Legal Collective and Avenging the Ancestors Coalition (F)ilm the Police Committee (full disclosure: I’m co-chair of the committee).
Come hear and see what to do when you have an encounter with the police whether walking, driving or chilling on your porch. For more information, call (215) 552-8785.
It’s about to go down.
UPDATE On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in Ferguson activated the National Guard.
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.
The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. Thirty years and more than 3,600 murals later, Philly has become the “City of Murals.”
The murals tell the story of Philadelphia, a city of neighborhoods:
But as stunning as the murals are themselves, they are, most importantly, the visual products of a powerful and collaborative grassroots process in communities. The mural-making process gives neighborhood residents a voice to tell their individual and collective stories, a way to pass on culture and tradition, and a vehicle to develop and empower local leaders.
Murals reflect the character, history, activism and people specific to that location. The faces on the wall are family members and neighbors. Understandably, folks are outraged when a mural is torn down or covered up.
Don’t just complain how gentrification. Get in this good fight. Our fight is not to save brick-and-mortar structures. Rather, we want to preserve African Americans’ cultural, civic and educational heritage in Philadelphia.
To get involved, call Avenging the Ancestors Coalition Arts and Culture Committee at (215) 552-8751. With technology, we can recreate better murals. We can make walls talk.
Philadelphia is changing. From the “Lost Our Lease” signs on Market Street to the “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs in gentrifying neighborhoods, the signs of change are everywhere. There is growing concern that gentrification will displace longtime residents.
Black Philadelphians have seen this movie before. African Americans were pushed out of Society Hill. Black business owners were advised to leave South Philly because an expressway was going to be built. It wasn’t. The neighborhood was once chock-a-block with black-owned jazz spots and small businesses. Dubbed the “Harlem Quarter,” it now looks like its namesake. African Americans are no longer the majority in Harlem.
On the heels of the destruction of the John Coltrane mural, another iconic African American mural is on the chopping block. The Philadelphia Housing Authority plans to tear down the Women of Jazz mural in Strawberry Mansion.
The blonde next to Nina Simone is Dorothy “Dottie” Smith. A longtime resident of Strawberry Mansion, Mrs. Smith died in January 2013. Her family and neighbors are outraged that PHA is doing nothing to preserve the mural. Their outrage is shared by the community at large.
When I brought the destruction of the murals to his attention, Michael jumped on it. I will update the community tonight at the monthly meeting of ATAC, which starts at 7:00 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church, located at Broad and Venango.
On Saturday, I walked the back streets of Philadelphia and cried.
No, I wasn’t crying over a lost love. With no notice to the Strawberry Mansion community, Pennrose, a multifamily development and residential property management company, took the wrecking ball to the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural at Diamond and 32nd Streets.
My understanding is that they’re supposed to be replacing that mural. How they’re supposed to do it, I don’t know. I’m just waiting to see.
I’m not one to wait. On their “About Us” page, Pennrose says “(f)rom new construction to historic preservation, we maximize value and provide outstanding quality. I will contact the company to find out what they did to preserve the mural. What is their plan to replace a mural that was valued by Strawberry Mansion residents and the Philadelphia jazz community?
One of the goals of All That Philly Jazz is to transform vacant spaces into vibrant places. Pennrose has transformed a vibrant space into what looks like a freshly dug grave.
In my presentation at Fast Forward Philly’s DesignPhiladelphia event, I said what’s next for Philly is to move beyond Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia to John Coltrane’s Philadelphia. “John Coltrane” is a metaphor for an innovative city where people want to live, visit, invest and long-time residents have more pride.
The destruction of the Coltrane mural undermines neighborhood pride, as well as Strawberry Mansion residents’ sense of ownership of their community.