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WEEK FEBRUARY 15, 2017 VOL. 2 NO. 07

KEVIN UPSHUR Strawberry Mansion community leader honored for creating learning center. 8

HOOTATHON Temple’s student-run cancer fundraiser, in its fourth year, raised more than $400,000. 4

POLICE BREAKFAST Girls Together As One hosts breakfast with female police officers to discuss female empowerment. 6

PERFORMANCE GARAGE Spring Garden dance studio offers versatile art space. 5

ACCU-REGGIE 7-day weather forecast for the region. 3

COMMUNITY CALENDAR Events and happenings in our neighborhoods. 7

HOT OFF THE

PRESS

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ost college students have a busy enough schedule, balancing a full course load and part-time jobs. But Tejan Austin added a little more to his plate: running a full mayoral campaign. Austin, 22, will be running for Mayor of Philadelphia in the 2019 election, when he will be 25 years old. Austin’s announcement comes at a turbulent time in local and national politics. District Attorney Seth Williams announced last week that he will not be running for re-election, sparking a heated race. We may be seeing more political outsiders like Austin in our local elections, just as we’ve seen on the national stage. “I’ve always had an interest in helping people, giving back to the community,” Austin told Spirit News. Austin, who is pursuing a degree in political science, knew he wanted to work in public service from a young age, but said the decision to run for mayor came somewhat suddenly. One day at home, when he was unhappy with his current job, he decided to research public office positions and decided he wanted to go big. “There’s no other way that you can really give back and see the growth and the change unless you get into the field of politics,” Austin said. Since the next mayoral election is not until 2019, Austin said he will continue working and pursuing his degree at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) Spring Garden Campus. As part of a dual admission transfer program, Austin will transfer to Chestnut Hill in January 2018. When not at school, Austin said he works at least 40 hours a week as a security dispatcher for the Vanguard Group. Austin does his homework during the downtime of his overnight shifts and squeezes in a few hours of sleep in the morning. “I think that shows people that I’m able to be responsible,” Austin said of him being able to balance this course load with a job and a campaign.

School and work, he said, is something he has to do, but the campaign is something he wants to do. Despite his busy schedule, Austin said he was able to pull a 4.0 GPA semester at CCP. He said will continue to work as hard as he can until he receives his diploma in 2019. “I’ll graduate in December 2019, but I won’t walk until June 2019,” Austin said. “Hopefully by that time, I’ll be mayor of the city.” Austin has big plans for Philadelphia. While he said he has a lot of respect for Mayor Jim Kenney, Austin believes Kenney’s campaign only reached out to certain demographics in the city. Austin plans to run on a platform highlighting inclusivity above all else. “With my background and my knowledge, I can reach out to all of the city,” Austin said. “I can reach out to everybody and I can stand for everybody, from the youth to the millennials and our senior citizens. I can be the mayor that represents everyone at the same time.” Austin also said he believes Kenney does not give the proper attention to some problems that have been ailing the city for decades. One area where Austin said Kenney does not give proper attention is education. “Philadelphia has one of the worst education systems,” Austin said. “They pour money into it, when the money isn’t the problem, it’s the curriculum.” Austin said he wants to encourage more students to finish high school and go to college by creating a new scholarship. The proposed scholarship will be given to students who maintain a 2.8 GPA and a 90% attendance rate for their four years of high school. The higher their GPA, the more money they will receive. Austin would also want to set up ways to offer internship programs, so students can have tangible job experience Continued on Page 2.


The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

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Continued from Page 1. when they graduate. Austin said he plans on getting the money by raising the cigarette tax and by rearranging the way the way funding goes toward schools. He believes that teachers are getting paid enough and the money needs to be focused on other options. “Our students need new textbooks,” Austin said. “Even if I spent the money on that, I would feel much better than throwing out a few raises every year.” Austin said he also wants to make major strides to fix unemployment, poverty and homelessness. He said as mayor he will try to bring many companies back to Philadelphia, which will help solve the poverty issue. For homelessness, he said he wants to build more shelters and encourage a work program for those in the shelter. “I would support local businesses that would hire people like that,” Austin said of the possible work program, “Just like I would support local businesses hiring teenagers or people who graduated from high school.” Austin said an issue with graduating seniors looking for work is people will not hire them without experience. He likened this struggle to his own experiences, noting that that the best way to gain work experience is to just do it. “How will people know what I could do if I don’t give them the chance to show them?” Austin said. Austin, who spent most of his upbringing in Pittsburgh, came to Philadelphia when he was 19 for school. He has roots in Philadelphia, though, as his father was raised here. His father, who raised six children as a single parent before meeting his current wife, has supported Austin’s political aspirations since the very beginning. “My father is just such a hard working person,” Austin said. “He’s such an inspiration to me.” As Austin will be running for mayor at age 25, he knows there will be naysayers, but said that he refuses to run a negative or slanderous campaign. Since it will be his first campaign, he said he wants to use this opportunity to learn as much as he can about the campaign process. “As for the people, all I can do is show them that I have their best interests at heart, no matter my age,” Austin said. “No matter if I’m 25 or 55, I can still handle this job and take it seriously.” Austin pointed to Svante Myrick, the Mayor of Ithaca, who was sworn in when he was only 24. Myrick, who is one of Austin’s political idols, cleared the city’s $3 million deficit and has won re-election with 89 percent of the vote, according to Forbes. Another one of Austin’s political idols is someone who was, until recently, the president of the United States: Barack Obama. Austin said Obama was someone who really influenced him to give back to the community. He noted how Obama achieved a lot, but could not do as much as he wanted due to being a Democratic president with a majority Republican congress. “The current administration, I’m not a fan of it. I am willing to give it a chance,” Austin said. However, Austin added he thinks there will be too much money spent on the Mexican border wall, adding that he doesn't think we even need one. He also doesnt agree with the current administration’s approach toward women’s rights. Austin said that while he is against abortion, he said the issue “should strictly be a woman’s choice.” Austin said if the election doesn’t work out, he would consider running for other public office positions, such as a Pennsylvania state representative or Philadelphia City Council. However, Austin said the main reason that he is starting so early is so he can build his name recognition and in turn, his ability to succeed in the future. When the next mayoral election comes, Austin said he will campaign again. “I feel like, for the people of Philadelphia, the government has let them down for so long,” Austin said. “I want to be the person who restores that faith.” •

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Tejan Austin sits outside the Community College of Philadelphia’s Spring Garden Campus before attending a class on Feb. 14th. /Patrick Clark

The Community College of Philadelphia /Patrick Clark

Did you know that Spirit News has it’s own radio show? Tune into Spirit News Radio every Wednesday night on WPPM - FM 106.5 from 6-6:30PM. We discuss local news, arts and entertainment pertaining to the various neighborhoods we cover across Philadelphia. Can’t tune in live? You can download our radio show each week in podcast form on iTunes, SoundCloud and Google Play. Thanks for tuning in!


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The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017 FORECAST FOR PENN’S GARDEN

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ast week finally brought some exciting weather back to the City. Our storm underperformed but at least we saw a general 2”-5” of snow, depending on where you live. This winter, for winter lovers like myself, has been terrible. Right now we are over five degrees above normal for the month of February and have received only eight inches of snow officially in Philadelphia for the entire winter. It’s been nothing but a dud and that will continue! This week we have a cool shot to deal with up front before spring-like weather takes over. Winter returns with a vengeance to the Pacific Northwest which means the warm southern breezes will be on this side of the U.S. This warm pattern looks to extend through the end of the month.

A return to cooler weather is set up for the beginning of March, but by then winter is just about toast. Overall, what you see is what you get this winter - brief spouts of cold and snow but otherwise very mild and rainy. With that being said, March is a whacky month so anything is possible, including big snowstorms. Wednesday is brisk and chilly with clouds; there could be some light rain at the shore and other areas south of the city. Thursday is a cold and windy day as an intensifying storm over Maine rips cold air down from Canada right on top of us. It will be the coldest day of the week. Friday is a day with plenty of sunshine but it will still be on the chilly side.

Saturday and Sunday are going to be great days! Warmth surges in from the west as our winds turn up from the south allowing milder air to settle in. Temperatures will be in the 50s on Saturday and the 60s on Sunday. Clouds increase on Sunday but it should remain dry. Monday is also a nice day but with some clouds and temperatures hanging out in the 50s. Rain looks to stay away for now. Tuesday continues what will amount to be a beautiful stretch of weather. Temperatures won’t even come close to winter-like. Eventually rain will arrive to kill this winning streak, but until then, go out and enjoy it! •

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The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

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WRITTEN BY STEVE BOHNEL

Hootathon

T E M P L E ’ S S T U D E N T- R U N C A N C E R F U N D R A I S E R , I N I T S F O U R T H Y E A R , R A I S E D $ 4 0 0 , 0 0 0

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ypically, the Liacouras Center floor is the home of Temple’s men’s and women’s basketball games, along with commencement ceremonies, convocation and the occasional concert. This past Saturday, however, hundreds of students donned shirts of myriad colors, all with the same message: For Miracles, For Childhood, For the Kids: Hootathon 2017. Saturday was the first time Hootathon — a dance marathon that raises money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), its Child Life Department and the Children’s Miracle Network — was held in the Liacouras Center. The first three years of the event had taken place across Broad Street, in Mitten Hall. Brian Cupitt, 22, a senior strategic communications major at Temple, served as Hootathon’s executive director. He said his main role is to oversee other executive members and ensure everyone is on track with fundraising and other event logistics. Cupitt has three nephews who have been through CHOP’s Child Life Department, who have dealt with genetic hearing loss, severe allergies and nephrotic syndrome, respectively. He lauded the work of the department. “The ways that Child Life has touched them is something that I’m forever grateful for,” he told Spirit News at the event on Saturday. “It’s part of CHOP’s dedication to holistic care … they treat the body, they don’t just treat the illness.” During the dance marathon, hundreds of students danced in small groups in the Liacouras Center. Individuals who have had relatives and friends affected by cancer and other diseases addressed the group on stage, praising them for their work. Cupitt said that in order to participate, individuals must fundraise at least $100 throughout the year. In 2016, Hootathon raised a little more than $280,000. This year, the organization collected a total of $404,074.85, surpassing their $400,000 goal. One individual who is grateful for the fundraising is Mary McGettigan. McGettigan, 33, has a 5-year-old daughter named Cara. Cara was born in CHOP with several heart defects and endured open-heart surgery at one day old. She was presented as a “miracle kid” at the dance marathon Saturday.

/Margo Reed

McGettigan detailed how important fundraisers like Hootathon are to CHOP. “Any services they provide are not eligible for health insurance reimbursements,” she said. “They cannot do this work without fundraising from events like this.” Kelly Ryan, a 22-year-old senior biology major at Temple, has been a part of that effort in all four of her years at Temple. She used to work in Hootathon’s operations committee, which organizes the events and coordinates with other committees, along with other logistical facets. Ryan added Hootathon has been growing significantly since it started in 2012, not only in fundraising, but also public recognition. She hopes the half-day dance marathon continues to expand in the future. “The goal is to be Philadelphia’s dance marathon,” she said. “We’re growing every year, our [fundraising] goal is increasing … I just want to see it keep growing as big as it possibly can.” Samuel Trilling, 18, is a freshman journalism and political science double major who created a Hootathon team

with other students in Johnson and Hardwick, a residence hall at Broad and Diamond Streets. Trilling has known friends and family members affected by cancer and other diseases, and his mother works in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit at CHOP. He said Hootathon is not only vital to nurses like his mom who perform critical services, but also to children who have been diagnosed with such diseases. “Being both in her position and in the position of someone who is diagnosed with cancer must be terrible, and that’s why I’m out here,” he said. Trilling added that dancing for 12 hours can be daunting, but ultimately satisfying. “Eventually, every opportunity to sit looks more and more enticing,” he said. “But it’s a nice mix of being able to express maybe not my talents, but my more playful side.” He even believes the dance marathon should have more dancing. “At the end of it, you should be crawling back to your room,” he said. • /Quynh Lee

/Quynh Lee

/Margo Reed


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The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

WRITTEN BY GRACE SHALLOW

Performance Garage S P R I N G G A R D E N D A N C E S T U D I O O F F E R S V E R S AT I L E S PA C E

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hroughout the 19th century, 1501 Brandywine Street was the address of a horse stable. In the 20th century, it was renovated and became an auto repair garage. Since 2002, it has housed hundreds of artists as the Performance Garage, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit providing affordable practice and performance space for Philadelphia-based artists. Phase One of the space’s Capital Project, an ongoing renovation, was completed in November 2016. Dance companies, ranging from ballet to jazz and West African style, use the space for rehearsal, auditions and performance. In 2015-16, the garage hosted 63 performances and 85 studio renters for more than 2,700 hours. Megan Sauve, Performance Garage’s director of marketing and development, said the studio and theater’s sprung, Marley floors — surfaces used in professional dance settings that are softer on the joints — allow a versatile group of artists to use the space. It’s also open to non-dance performance groups like comedy and theatrical troupes, she added. “About 20 percent of what happens here is something other than dance,” Sauve said. “Not every theater or every space is able to have something specifically for a dancer’s body, so we’ve focused on that.” The organization received a $500,000 grant from the city’s Cultural Corridors fund in November 2015 that supported the construction of Phase One. Upgrades and repairs for the studio, theater, dressing room and lobby were completed as part of this phase. A $1 million grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program will fund Phase Two of the project and renovations to the building’s unfinished upper floors. Sauve said the second and third floor will be rented to businesses with missions “concerning the body,” like a yoga or pilates studio, once completed. “What’s really, really nice about pushing out these two floors is not only would we be offering new services to our neighborhood through the businesses that would be there,” Sauve said. “But we’d also have a sustainable way to maintain our operations without having to be so reliant on the fluctuating grants, donors and the economic climate.” Phase Two does not have an official end date yet, but Sauve said the organization anticipates construction being finished by the fall of 2018. There were less artists who used the space in 2016, when construction was being completed, than previous years, Sauve said. But the space’s rental and operations manager Judy Williams said she has received more phone calls about touring the space since Phase One’s completion, and January marked the month with the highest number of new renters in the space. “I think people have heard about it and have been checking us out,” she added. The Lady Hoofers, the only all-female performance and professional tap ensemble in Philadelphia, has been dancing regularly at the Performance Garage and performed two concerts there since January 2016, with another scheduled there in May.

The Lady Hoofers tap ensemble practice at the Performance Garage. /All photos by Grace Shallow Katie Budris, the Lady Hoofers’ managing director, said the space was “perfectly adequate” pre-Capital Project, but has been taken to another level since Phase One’s completion. “This is really the best space that we found that has the room for us, the level of professionalism we’re looking for in terms of the stage, the lighting capabilities, the sound capabilities, the staff support and a great, professional and positive experience for our audience,” Budris said. “There’s no bad seat in the house.” The company practiced in the suburbs before holding a weekly class at the Performance Garage, which is open to the public for a $15 admission fee. Since then, she said there have been drop-in students every week, as opposed to few before. “Now, we’re more central in Philadelphia,” she added. “It’s easier for people to get here if they don’t have cars or

already live in the city.” Artists can use the Broad Street Line, Regional Rail and bus routes to get to the rehearsal space near Spring Garden and Broad streets, or find parking space on surrounding streets. Budris added that the Performance Garage provides not only a much-needed, accessible space for tap, but a sense of community among all performing groups. Sauve said artists’ nature is to naturally make connections and be sociable, but the Performance Garage is special because it houses emerging artists just out of college, seasoned professionals and “everything in between.” “It provides a space for people to practice technique, but also to learn new things,” Sauve added. “It’s just really nice we can provide a space for people to create and do different things.” •


The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

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WRITTEN BY GENEVIEVE KOTZ

Police Breakfast

G I R L S T O G E T H E R A S O N E H O S T S B R E A K FA S T W I T H F E M A L E P O L I C E O F F I C E R S T O D I S C U S S F E M A L E E M P O W E R M E N T

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hiladelphia police officers met with a group of middle schoolers from the Girls Together as One program on Friday, February 3 to discuss female empowerment over french toast and donuts. Officers Charleen Small and Jackie Hyk of the 9th District, Julie Carpenter and Lori Jackson of the 6th District and Kidijah Velez of the Center City District joined the young girls at the Science Leadership Academy to talk about issues such as negative stereotypes of police officers and dealing with cyberbullying. “We’re really excited anytime we have an opportunity to work with this generation and explain what we really do,” Small said. Nadia Green and Savannah Manns, the two high school students who created Girls Together As One, set up the police breakfast for Najah Mouzon, Symiah Carson, Arianna Reynolds and Thanairy Martinez, who went through the four-week mentorship program. “I learned a lot. We talked about cyber bullying and fake friends,” Reynolds said. She added that the program made her feel more prepared for high school. The girls had also set up a food drive for Philabundance at their school, William H. Ziegler Elementary. While the girls did not reach their food drive goal, Manns and Green said the girls accomplished something just as important — they had learned how to lead, collaborate and communicate from the program. “I could see a difference in each one of the girls throughout the program,” Green told Spirit News. “I could see how they are able to better analyze challenging situations and become more vocal.” At the breakfast, the police officers spoke to the girls about issues touched upon in the program, such as the importance of having good friends. Carpenter, who is the community relation officer for the 6th District, told the girls how she hated public speaking but learned to get through it with the help of Officer Jackson. “She made me stronger by having my back all the time,” Carpenter said. “It really helps to have someone by your side. That’s why I like us girls, we always stick together.” Small chimed in and advised the girls to make sure they were choosing friends that were respectful of them. “Choose someone who picks you up,” Small said. “Someone in your life that means something to you should not make you feel sad or uncomfortable.” The police officers warned the girls about the dangers of social media and cyberbullying. They told the girls to be careful about what they post online, especially with the chance that future schools and jobs will be able to find what you post. “Nothing is private,” Velez said. The police officers also talked to the girls about school and the importance of studying hard, especially because the girls who were in seventh and eighth grade had to start thinking about applying to high school. “If you’re not doing the best that you could possibly be doing, start doing the best that you could possibly be doing,” Jackson said. The police officers and the girls also talked about the negative stereotypes police officers face in communities like North Philadelphia. When Mouzon asked the police officers how the stereotypes made them feel, some said they felt sad or angry, while others said they try not to let it get to them. Jackson asked the girls what they had first thought of the police officers upon seeing them. Martinez smiled and said, “They’re gonna be funny.” Ultimately, Green said the breakfast went well and was not only a learning experience for the young girls, but for Green and Manns as well. “I feel great after accomplishing this event,” Green said. “I've learned a lot from this experience and it is only helping me grow.” •

/All photos by Rachel Wisniewski

Have a question for Mayor Jim Kenney? Spirit News is giving you the opportunity to ask! Just email your question to news@spiritnews.org and in a few weeks we will be publishing the answers.


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The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

COMMUNITY

calendar N E W S @ S P I R I T N E W S . O R G • 1 4 2 8 E . S U S Q U E H A N N A AV E • 2 1 5 . 4 2 3 . 6 2 4 6 February 1-25 TWIST OF NATURE AT CERULEAN ARTS Cerulean Arts is pleased to present Twist of Nature, featuring mixed-media paintings by Caroline Furr and sculptures by Linda Brenner. The artists will talk about their work at 2PM February 12. For more information call (267) 514-8647 or visit ceruleanarts.com. February 1-28 ART EXHIBITION AT RYBREW Local artist Selene Nunez-Cruz is bringing her art exhibition, titled “Hipsturbia Food,” to Rybrew (2816 W. Girard Ave) for the month of February. According to Nunez-Cruz, the exhibit is based on Rybrew ideology: great atmosphere for urban-zen generation seeking out palatable alternatives and drinks in a laid back, retro and authentic place. FREE BIKE PICKUP AND DELIVERY FOR TUNEUPS FROM FAIRMOUNT BICYCLES Fairmount Bicycles is offering free Sunday afternoon pickup and delivery with purchase of full tuneup. Get your bike tuned up without leaving the house and help keep your local bike shop busy this winter! One week turnaround. Here's how it works: 1. Call Fairmount Bicycles to schedule at 267-507-9370 2. They’ll pick up your bike on Sunday 3. They’ll call with an estimate, tune up your bike, take payment, and then... 4. Your bike arrives back at your house the following Sunday! Offer good through the end of February. Delivery range within 2 mile radius of Fairmount Bicycles. February 23rd, 10AM-2PM PUBLIC SECTOR JOB FAIR State Representative Curtis Thomas of the 181st District and his staff will be hosting a public sector job fair at 900 Jefferson Street (formerly the Wakisha School). The event will feature workshops and attendees will be invited to meet public sector employees from the Department of Education, the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Revenue, the City of Philadelphia and more. For more information, contact Sharon Stocker at (215) 5603261 or SStocker@pahouse.net. February 24th, 8:30PM STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW On February 24th, Performance Garage (1515 Brandywine Street) is hosting a comedy show featuring headliner Shane Gillis. Gillis was named 2016 Philly’s Phunniest at Helium Comedy Club. In 2014 he was named Baltimore’s New Comedian of the Year at Magoobys Joke House. Shane has worked at several clubs including The Stand in NYC, Caroline's on Broadway, Helium Philadelphia, Punchline Philadelphia, and many more. Other featured comics include Michael Adams, Matt McCusker, and Chanel Ali. Doors at 7:30PM. Tickets are available on gillis.brownpaperticket February 25th, 11AM AFRO AMERICAN HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY MONTHLY MEETING Topic: How to Research African American Family History. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meeting will take place at Community College of Philadelphia, Northwest Campus, in room 244. Will begin promptly at 11AM. For more information call 215-747-2786. February 26th, 10AM REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SYMPOSIUM AT RODEPH SHALOM Rodeph Shalom will host a panel of top local, reproductive endocrinologists to discuss issues surrounding the difficulties of becoming pregnant and the tests and treatments currently available. Q. and A. to follow panel discussion. Free and open to the public. Mondays, 6-8PM TOUR AMBASSADOR TRAINING PROJECT The Strawberry Civic Association is looking for young and young at heart folks to come out to Mander Rec Center (33rd and Diamond St.) to learn Philadelphia history, Fairmount Park history, museum and trail information, etc. Tourism is a lucrative industry…. Be prepared. For more info call 215-765-9500

Tuesdays, 7-8:30PM SUPPORT GROUP FOR PARENTS Learn about substance use and mental health disorders every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at Rodeph Shalom (615 N Broad St). This group is for parents living with adolescent and adult children living with addiction and brain disease. Those affected can share experiences and resources as well as how to support their children anonymously. For further information contact Caron at 800-854-6023 or Rabbi Jill Maderer at (215)-627-6747 x216 or rabbimaderer@rodephshalom.org. Tuesdays, 7-9PM OPEN MIC NIGHT Mugshots Coffeehouse (1925 Fairmount Ave.) hosts an open mic night every Tuesday. For more information visit Mugshots Coffeehouse on Facebook.

Wednesdays, 5-8PM WEDNESDAY NIGHTS GAMEPLAY Every week there are different games to play in the galleries of The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Play with friends or with fellow visitors in friendly competition provided by the Museum. For further information contact Philadelphia Museum of Art at (215)-763-8100. NETWORKING EVENTS 1st Tuesday of the Month, 6:30-8:30PM DIG - Philadelphia Commercial Sub Group Diversified Investors Group Meetup for London Grill 2301 Fairmount Avenue For more info, contact Joe Scorese 215-290-5108 jscorese@ firstrust.com

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The Spirit of Penn’s Garden – February 15, 2017

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WRITTEN BY STEVE BOHNEL

Kevin Upshur

S T R AW B E R RY M A N S I O N C O M M U N I T Y L E A D E R H O N O R E D F O R C R E AT I N G L E A R N I N G C E N T E R

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bout a decade ago, Kevin Upshur paid tribute to his late mother by turning her bar into a learning center at 30th and Dauphin Streets in Strawberry Mansion. Now, while he understands the neighborhood is still stereotyped as impoverished and full of violent crime, Upshur urges local communities and the city to do something about it. “They need to come in and find out what they can do to help,” he said. “Even if you can’t come in physically to help, to give some advice … it’s always better when you have more ideas on the table.” As the founder/director of the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, Upshur, 57, has mentored numerous kids in the neighborhood. Last month, the state chapter of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice recognized his work, giving him the Lucien E. Blackwell Humanitarian Award. The award, named after the former state representative and City Council member, was originally named after Martin Luther King, Jr., said Lillian Dixon, a chairperson of the NABCJ. It was renamed following Blackwell’s death in 2003, days after he delivered a keynote speech to the organization. Mark Temple, president of the NABCJ, and Dixon both said Blackwell served lesser-known communities and citizens in the city. He also was a key player in multiple pieces of notable legislation, from allowing minorities and women to compete for city contracts to increasing the maximum building height. Temple, 59, said Upshur was an easy pick for the award. “When you have someone doing things in that capacity, especially in that immediate community, it needs to be recognized,” he said.

Temple, like Upshur, grew up in Strawberry Mansion. He used to shine shoes at the bar, and saw people coming in and out with gunshot wounds and other injuries. The learning center serves as a reminder that people can accomplish remarkable goals, even in what appears to be dangerous areas, Temple said. “In the midst of everything going on around you, you can show folks that there’s a different way,” he said. “And give our children a different opportunity to take advantage of that way, especially through education.” The Strawberry Mansion Learning Center offers after-school programs, a mentoring program on Saturdays, and also offers free meals to the community on the third Saturday of every month. Dixon, 73, said Upshur and the learning center was a “hidden secret” in Philadelphia, and that the award recognizes those who positively impact the community through their work ethic. Upshur was humbled to learn he had won the award, given Blackwell’s legacy in the city. “He did quite a bit, he changed a lot, and helped a lot of people, and that’s what he was about,” Upshur said of Blackwell. “[What we do] is sort of the same stuff, he just did it on another level.” Upshur received the award at the Haven Peniel United Methodist Church on January 15th. Dixon said it was apparent Upshur’s mother, Shirley, was the driving force behind the conversion of her bar into the learning center, as Kevin was emotional while receiving the award. Dixon added that when Shirley gave Kevin the bar, the message was simple: do good in the community. “She said to him, ‘This is being left so you can take it to the next generation … take this and do a positive thing.’” •

/Photo courtesy Kevin Upshur

The Spirit of Penn's Garden - February 15, 2017  

In this week's issue, we talk to Tejean Austin, a millennial who wants to be Philly's mayor.

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