On Friday, a new public art and urban research project will be launched, Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia.
Monument Lab asks: What is an appropriate monument for the current City of Philadelphia?
The City of Brotherly Love is currently experiencing a development boom. But the hot real estate market is cold comfort for those living in poverty. Fact is, Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the U.S.
At the preview event, Monument Lab Co-Curator Ken Lum observed that there are “two emerging narratives.” A boom city with new construction and new possibilities that is facing “profound challenges and crises… How will we remember this time?”
I will remember this time as the presence of absence. Developers are erasing African Americans’ presence in the city’s cultural, political and civic life.
I think a closed door would be an appropriate monument.
On April 13, 2015, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke was a guest on “Wake Up With WURD,” hosted by Solomon Jones, on 900AM-WURD. I nearly spilled my coffee when I heard Clarke say, “I’m a developer-friendly Councilperson.” The behind-closed-doors Councilmanic Prerogative is the backdrop to Philadelphia’s development boom.
Councilmembers have arrogated unto themselves the power to sign off or veto any development project in their district. That means nothing gets built without their approval. It also means they should be held accountable when developers don’t hire black workers, don’t contract with black-owned businesses, or don’t respect African Americans’ cultural heritage.
After all, it’s their prerogative.