In a new paper in the journal PLoSOne, a team of physicians and public health researchers report that African-American clergy say they are ready to join the fight against HIV by focusing on HIV testing, treatment and social justice.
“We in public health have done a poor job of engaging African-American community leaders, and particularly Black clergy members, in HIV prevention,” said Amy Nunn, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
“There is a common misperception that African-American churches are unwilling to address the AIDS epidemic. This paper highlights some of the historical barriers to effectively engaging African-American clergy in HIV prevention and provides recommendations from clergy for how to move forward.”
The paper analyzes dozens of interviews and focus group data among 38 African-American pastors and imams in Philadelphia, where racial disparities in HIV infection are especially stark. Seven in 10 new infections in the city are among Black residents. Nearly all of the 27 male and 11 female clergy members said they would preach and promote HIV testing and treatment.
That message would provide a needed complement to decades of public health efforts that have emphasized risky behaviors, Nunn said. Research published and widely reported last year, for example, suggests that testing and then maintaining people on treatment could dramatically reduce new infections because treatment can give people a 96-percent lower chance of transmitting HIV.
According to the paper’s analysis, many religious leaders acknowledged that they struggled with how to cope with the epidemic, particularly with challenges related to discussing human sexuality in the church or mosque setting.
Many clergy members also said they face significant barriers to preaching about risky sexual behaviors while still emphasizing abstinence.
“It’s my duty as a preacher to tell people to abstain,” one pastor told the research team, “but if they’re still having sex and they’re getting HIV, there has to be another way to handle this.”
Many clergy members suggested couching the HIV/AIDS epidemic in social justice rather than behavioral terms, Nunn said. They also recommended focusing on HIV testing as an important means to help stem the spread of the disease and reduce the stigma.
In 2010, Nunn worked with prominent pastors, local media and Mayor Michael Nutter’s office of faith-based initiatives to promote and destigmatize HIV testing across the city. This year, she will partner with dozens of churches and community leaders to oversee an HIV prevention campaign that includes door-to-door testing in an entire zip code in Philadelphia with high infection rates.
Natalie Mitchem, pastor of Calvary AME Church and director of the First Episcopal District Health Commission, has been supportive of efforts to engage faith leaders in the fight against HIV. She says HIV awareness and education is a comprehensive part of the AME church’s health ministry.
“I feel like it’s a very significant, vitally important ministry for churches of all denominations. It’s important for us to share the messages about prevention and education in our congregations and in our communities — so that people know we care,” Mitchem says.
Nunn said religious leaders are willing to engage in dialogue and HIV prevention if it’s done in a culturally appropriate and faith-friendly way.
“This means that HIV prevention should be couched in social justice and public health rather than in exclusively behavioral terms. HIV testing should be the backbone of any strategy to engage African-American clergy in HIV prevention,” she said.
Transit and city officials celebrated the $30 million rehab of two subway stations on the Broad Street Line Monday morning — holding a ribbon cutting at the Spring Garden Street station and marking similar renovations at the Girard Avenue station.
The ceremony marked the end of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s construction activities funded by federal stimulus funds — a total of 32 projects across the area over the last three years.
“These projects have created over 3,200 jobs, local jobs, in Philadelphia,” said SEPTA’s general manager, Joe Casey. “SEPTA is integral to the social and economic vitality of the city. We are proud to contribute to the transformation of the North Broad Street corridor.”
Renovations at Spring Garden and Girard were the largest two projects on SEPTA’s list. Both stations, each of which serves 10,000 passengers a day, date to the 1920s. Neither had been updated since their construction. Upgrades at the two stations generated 507 jobs, Casey said.
Among the new features: elevators, new cashiers’ booths, fare lines, turnstiles, stairs, improved lighting and reconstruction to pillars and concrete. In addition, each station was given electrical system upgrades and new fire alarm systems and fire control systems. Both also had public art installations put in place.
Elected officials hailed the improvements as a key to revitalizing the North Broad Street corridor — and the city as a whole.
“This is why our city is growing. This is why we are able to get people to jobs and to schools,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. “We’re enhancing Community College. We’re enhancing the opportunities right here on North Broad.”
Mayor Michael Nutter agreed.
“This is what infrastructure renewal is all about,” he said. “It’s about jobs, about putting people to work.”
The two newly revitalized stations represented just part of a slate of projects that SEPTA has done across the city. Other big ticket projects include the redesign of Dilworth Plaza and plans to improve the Wayne Junction station. Funding for the work came from the stimulus plan, which sent $191 million to Philadelphia. According to Fattah, the state received $18 billion in federal stimulus funding.
“When people talk about the stimulus act … for the naysayers, let them come to Broad and Spring Garden,” Fattah said.
In approving the School District of Philadelphia fiscal year 2012–2013 budget, the School Reform Commission may have closed a bumpy chapter in its history — and potentially created new dramas as well.
SRC members voted unanimously to approve the budget. The budget details operating revenues of $2.33 billion, operating expenditures of $2.55 billion and the use of $43 million in reserves.
In other words, the adopted school budget for next year confirms Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen’s findings that the school district will face a budget deficit of $218 million.
The budget also assumes it will receive $94.5 million from the city’s controversial Actual Value Initiative. City Council has held a series of debates in regard to the merits of AVI, and no decision has been made yet on if the district gets those funds.
“The greatest uncertainty is the $94.5 million. We have acknowledged that we have it in the budget at $94.5 million,” Knudsen said in a meeting preceding last Thursday’s public budget announcement. “And we hope that we receive that amount from City Council. So yes, there was a lot of uncertainty, but at this point in time, you put a pen in hand and stake in ground and say these are the conditions we know about, these are the factors we know about … so what we have had, I think, is a very complete, concise presentation of a complicated enterprise.”
According to the budget, school district revenues represent 81 percent of the budgeted revenues for the next fiscal year, and that the district actually expects revenue to increase by 3.8 percent; but AVI looms large over the entire budget, with numerous references made to the new tax structure.
“The most important single change in revenues in the $94.5 million increase in real estate tax revenues proposed by Mayor Nutter as a result of capturing the growth in property values through the Actual Value Initiative,” read the budgetary explanation. “Pursuant to Mayor Nutter’s proposed five-year financial plan, an additional $94.5 million in value will be captured based on new, more accurate assessments.”
School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said that, politically, it would be a “catastrophe” if City Council couldn’t make the AVI funds a reality, but believes Council will do the right thing when it comes time.
“I believe ultimately, City Council will recognize, and I believe already recognizes, how critical it is for the school district to get the $94 million,” Ramos said, noting that SRC officials have taken transparency to a new level by posting each individual school’s budget online. “What the consequences are of the $94 million; our intention isn’t to make any threats or projections or get ahead of it, because we think each of these school budgets is a compelling case in itself that will resonate with council members, and I believe they will ultimately deliver on the mayor’s proposal.”
Ramos and Knudsen both said the district can finance the expected $218 million gap, but wouldn’t be able to do so without the AVI funds. The budget also highlights the shrink in grants and funding the city — and thus, the school district — has endured over the past several years, including lost revenue from a recent State Tax Equalization Board ruling and the slashing of public education funding in Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget.
“At this point, we have shown what we have in terms of revenues, and that means we will finance that amount of money,” Knudsen said, referring to the district’s plans on filling next year’s budget gap. “We will sell bonds to do that; this is not a course of action any one of us wants to take, but in this circumstance, we have little choice.
“We are effectively maxing out our credit cards,” Knudsen continued. “We have the capacity to raise around that amount of money, but we don’t have the capacity to go much beyond that, I believe.”
According the budget, the school district is also bracing for a huge reduction in Title I revenues. Title I is a federal grant given to school districts throughout the country, and although the amount Philadelphia’s school district will receive hasn’t been determined, SRC officials expect it to be drastically lower than what the district is accustomed to receiving.
And since the district has to decrease Title I spending (due to the anticipated funding reduction), the budget claims that certain areas will be targeted, including kindergarten and Head Start programs without Title I grants, the district will also be forced to eliminate supplementary counselors and eliminate almost the entire lineup for summer programs. As is, the district only funds summertime credit recovery classes for seniors only.
The district’s budget also dispelled long-held public notions that the SRC is attempting to isolate charter schools and decrease the funding they receive. While the district’s five-year reorganization plan calls for an overall reduction of $149 million to charter school funding, its budget for 2012–2013 calls for a $44.2 million increase in charter school funding. However, the school district, in utilizing a formula from the state, will actually decrease the per-pupil payments for children in both regular and special education classes.
“The charter school per student amount is calculated using the previous year’s budget data,” read the budgetary explanation. “Thus, because the district-operated schools made severe cuts in fiscal year 2011–2012, in fiscal year 2012–2013, charter schools’ per student payments will be significantly lower.”
The school district’s budget also examined and expanded on the rising cost of labor and the attached benefits. According to the district, while the overall number of school district employees has actually decreased over the past three years, benefit and pension pay-ins have steadily risen.
The contracts for the five unions that represent school district employees — including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which is the largest with more than 10,000 members — is up in August of next year, and while the SRC plans on an open and honest negotiation with the PFT, it is also cognizant of the current bargaining environment.
“You can’t say you’re just about education or just about the kids, when adults refuse to do more or give something up,” Ramos said, noting that this approved budget contains no concessions for unions. “We all share the circumstances in which the district finds itself. At some point, labor will realize there is no silver bullet nor magic out there, and that we both have to work together to increase revenue over the long term, and provide more stable and predictable funding, like AVI, and manage expenses to what we can afford.
“Right now, we’re spending money we don’t have.”
Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Some of our locally elected Black officials may sell out their constituents for a much higher price. Still the same, they have a price and construction unions have made a science of finding out just what that price may be. How can a sector of a major industry be so racist and discriminatory but yet have the congeniality, loyalty and cooperation of elected officials who owe their offices to Black folks? Black folks, who construction unions have so rigidly blocked from employment opportunities, and Black businesses which construction unions will seek to kill on sight. Let’s look at this gigantic contradiction.
President Lyndon B. Johnson established workforce affirmative action with Executive Order 11246 in 1965 as an enforcement tool to the recently signed Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Labor has the responsibility of monitoring and enforcing this law. It requires employers to send in detailed employment reports on the ethnicity and gender of people on their current payroll lists. It also tallies the hours worked by these employees. From these reports one can gather how many Blacks, Hispanics, etc. as well as males and females are working at a particular company. The USDOL also has the responsibility of certifying construction unions. Thus, it also can easily report on the racial demographics of a particular union hall and the utilization of those workers.
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are agreements between an owner, such as a city, county, state, etc. and a coalition of construction unions (all trades). Excluded out of contracting will be nonunion shops or nonunion shops that refuse to abide by the local union rules. As a result there will be very little Black, Hispanic, etc. work utilization. About 98 percent of all Black-owned construction companies are nonunion. Obviously, if you find a working PLA you will find virtually none of us.
The city of Philadelphia along with the Philadelphia School System agreed to Project Labor Agreements a few years ago. The exercise was a total disaster in terms of diversity and it eventually ended as a result of public outrage. Remember, Philadelphia is more 55 than percent Black and more than 10 percent Hispanic. Why on earth was the city agreeing to a PLA? It’s the power of the construction union lobby and the knowledge of what “price” to offer campaign coffers. During this horror the Black community of this city paid greatly. Definitely, the unemployment rate, crime rate, despair rate and any other terrible rate you can think of was accelerated.
So it comes as a great surprise that Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed a new executive order to “re-establish project labor agreements for the bidding process.” Insanity has been compared to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The mayor is not insane. But he states, “This new PLA policy will aim to ensure stability, efficiency, quality and diversity for every major public works project in the city. These contracts will also have provisions to ensure that city residents, minorities and women are included in all of the city’s major construction projects.” We just can’t believe that and certainly anyone of such intelligence knows it deep, down inside also. Blacks in Philadelphia have just entered new and more dangerous economic ground.
The Mayor, City Council or anyone else of authority could simply ask the regional Department of Labor office to provide a detailed report on the ethnic and gender demographics of the local union halls. By viewing this inventory of workforce one could easily determine that the overwhelming majority of these crafts cannot possibly meet the goals of 32 percent minority workforce and 50 percent city residents. You can’t make “5” out of “2.” Why are they trying to sell this falsehood? The activists of Philadelphia should track this and make those responsible to “bleed” politically. The majority of the population of a large American city has just been sold-out once again.
Watch the increase in murder, robberies, car-jackings and poverty caused by the unemployment this is going to cause. There will be a terrible social and economic price for the local citizens to pay because of this. All this, for the love of money — oops! I meant to say unions.
They will come up with “pre-apprentice programs,” “third party monitoring,” “oversight committees” and “public outreach,” and other such public relations gimmicks to distract the public from this atrocity. Remember, construction unions have had 46 years (1965–2011) to adequately integrate. They aren’t going to do it now. Why should we play with fire without expecting to get burned? Construction union-only projects are racist, and none of us should entertain the evil concept. — (NNPA)
Despite silence on details, city says more building plans are in the works
Plans for a $60 million, nine-story, 246-room hotel adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center were announced on Monday by a beaming Mayor Michael Nutter, who touted the project as a jobs generator.
“Every hotel generates economic activity and jobs,” he said. “Folks have to build it right here and of course people have to work in the hotel.”
Construction is expected to create 123 jobs and upon opening the hotel, the Hilton Home2 Suites is expected to generate 146 jobs.
In addition to more than 200 rooms, the project includes 846 parking spaces, 2,000 square feet of meeting space and 9,750 square feet of retail space. Groundbreaking at 12th and Arch streets is expected in December, with the building scheduled for completion early in 2013.
It was the second announcement of a new hotel in the last two weeks.
On Sept. 14, Nutter announced that Kimpton Hotels would open a new hotel, the Hotel Monaco, in the Lafayette Building on Independence Mall. That 286-room project is expected to create 400 construction jobs and employ 200 people when it opens.
Philadelphia hotels tend to employ people who live in Philadelphia, Nutter said on Monday while lauding Hilton’s plans.
“It is estimated that 80 percent of the jobs related to hotels here in the city of Philadelphia are held by Philadelphia residents,” he said. “It is a tremendous job generator. These are folks who live in the neighborhoods, who are taking care of themselves and taking care of their families.”
Earlier this month, administration officials told reporters that Nutter would make a number of “economic development” announcements this fall. They were expected to include announcements about the construction of six mid-sized hotels, expansion of a healthcare facility, relocation of a major company to the city and the opening of a new corporate headquarters.
Just after that, officials at Children’s Hospital announced an expansion in West Philadelphia and the Kimpton announced plans for Hotel Monaco. Administration officials remain mute as to what the other projects might be.
“All in all, when you consider us in comparison to some other cities across the country, quite frankly, we’ve done a little better than some other cities,” the mayor said. “That’s because of a tremendous diversity and great balance: education, medicine, pharmaceutics, life sciences, and of course, the green economy.”
Hilton’s hotel will be 25 percent more energy efficient than required by city code, earning green status with features like a partially green roof and a high-efficiency HVAC system.
Several city agencies will kick in funding for the hotel: $5 million in loans will come from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., $3 million in EnergyWorks funds from PIDC and the Reinvestment Fund and $2.75 million from the state.
Officials estimate the city needs 1,000 more hotel rooms to match the recently completed expansion of the convention center.
With an eye on the future, Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis Tuesday announced the appointment of two full-time executive advisors and a financial operations and systems working group to assist in the ongoing reforms of the School District of Philadelphia and to make the transition to a full-time superintendent a smoother process.
“Today marks phase two of the city and commonwealth’s Educational Accountability Agreement with the School District,” Nutter said at a midday press conference at District headquarters. “In cooperation with our partners, the city and the commonwealth will be providing educational, financial and management expertise and knowledge to the School District so we can better work together and educate Philadelphia’s students.”
The city and the state each designated an executive advisor who will work in the School District’s executive office at the level of acting superintendent, the office currently held by Dr. Leroy Nunery.
Nutter appointed Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr as his choice for an advisor. The state appointed Edward Williams, a long-time educator. Together they will provide Nunery advice, input and recommendations in the weeks to come.
Craig Carnaroli, the executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, was named chair of the Financial Operations and Systems Working Group. The group will consist of four to nine people, when complete, and advise the SRC regarding the District’s financial systems, contracting systems, personnel control and general administrative organizations.
The group will be composed of executives from the business, education and non-profit communities.
In June, Nutter, Tomalis and the SRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the Educational Accountability Agreement, calling for increased cooperation, partnership and ongoing communication between the three.
He touched the lives of thousands, and it was in his honor that hundreds gathered to say farewell to “a scholar with an African mission.” The funeral of Dr. Edward W. Robinson, Jr. was held Friday morning at the church in which he was born and raised, the A.M.E. Union Church, in the heart of North Philadelphia.
Just outside the church, a dozen drummers of all ages played in the midst of an oppressive heat wave. All morning, city dignitaries streamed through the church to pay respects to the educator and his family.
While his body laid in repose, images of Robinson in various stages of his life played in the background, as ushers carried baskets of fans and circulated through the aisles with bottles of cold water. The several hundred gathered fanned themselves endlessly as they comforted their hearts in the words offered by friends, colleagues and family members during the two-and-a-half hour service.
Robinson's casket, draped in a United States flag, was flanked by floral displays in the colors of the Pan-African flag — red, black and green — with one especially stunning arrangement forming the shape of the continent of Africa.
Proclamations were read from Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, State Senator Leanna Washington, and Congressman Chaka Fattah, along with resolutions from the Institute for the Preservation of Youth, the Paul Robeson House, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Chaney University Alumni Association and the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP. Also noted in the audience were music producer and educator Kenny Gamble, producer Bob Lott, activist Pam Africa, Judge Thomasina Tynes, Rep. Dwight Evans and Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams.
Remarks were offered from every branch of Robinson's life - from political to civic to personal. Speakers included Christine Thomas Wiggins, Founder of IMHOTEP Charter School; Ali and Helen Salahuddin, founders of the D'ZERT Club; Activist Michael Coard, Esq.; African-American scholar Dr. Molefi Kete Asante; Cody Anderson, former WDAS General manager and Dr. Mildred Johnson of Virginia State University, and Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia. “Dr. Robinson served his generation in an outstanding manner,” noted Goode. “The question is, who is going to serve this generation?”
“A great soul has passed this way,” said Asante. “A great man has lived among us.”
The amazing life that Robinson had lived and shared with those closest to him was obvious in the various titles accorded him: father, grandfather, great-grand-father, great-great grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, and most importantly, husband.
Robinson's widow Harriet eschewed the podium, instead choosing to stand next to the casket as she recited a poem while holding the arm of her beloved husband of 41 years. “I wanted you for life, you and me in the wind. I never thought there would come a time that our story would end. ... Maybe all I need to know and if I listen to my heart, I'll hear your laughter once more. And so I’ve got to say I'm just glad you came my way. It's not easy to say goodbye.”
The city’s move to base property taxes on the actual value of a property rather than a millage based assessment will hit gentrifying neighborhoods the hardest, the head of the Office of Property Assessment told members of City Council this week.
“When you have neighborhoods that are evolving, some of the younger, yuppie individuals will buy the most basic house, almost literally in shell condition, just because they want to get in,” Richie McKeithen, head of the assessment office told Council members during budget hearings on Wednesday. “That’s how neighborhoods increase in desirability and increase in valuation.”
The price new buyers pay for their home will ultimately serve as part of the basis for their neighbors’ tax bills. Under the new system, called the Actual Value Initiative, property taxes will be driven by recent sales of comparable properties and demand in individual neighborhoods. Other factors, like size and condition, will also affect tax bills.
But, with sales value playing a larger role in determining property taxes, longtime residents could face large increases in their tax bills.
“We’re going to really hurt some folks who have not moved out of the city, not moved to southern New Jersey, not moved to Delaware County,” said Councilman Jim Kenney. “They’re going to get this bill in the mail that it is going to knock them off their kitchen chair.”
Politically, the issue is complicated by the fact that many new homeowners can avoid paying property taxes for 10 years under the city’s tax abatement rules — pitting new residents against old.
“I don’t want to chase folks out of town because certain neighborhoods are doing better than they have done in the past 20 years,” Kenney said.
It is a scenario that has many Council members, some of whom have agreed to tax increases in each of the last three years, worried as they face their confused and angry constituents. Council members are also frustrated by the fact that they have so little information for their constituents.
City officials have repeatedly said they hope to have assessments on paper and mailed to residents by October, with new bills out by December.
But, Council has to approve a budget based on revenue figures linked to new assessments by May, long before the administration hopes to have a handle on just which direction property taxes are moving.
“There is significant concern about wrapping up this process, from Council’s perspective, without a real sense of the actual values and what we’ll ultimately be voting on,” said Council President Darrell Clarke.
Council members have been pressing the administration for new assessment numbers as soon as possible. McKeithen said this week he hoped to be able to provide data snapshots of certain neighborhoods by May, then added, “That depends on what happens. I oftentimes run into roadblocks, so it’s hard to commit.”
Most sources expect a rise in values, despite the recession.
In putting together the fiscal 2013 budget, the administration assumed, overall, a 25 percent increase in values since assessments were frozen in early 2010. That rise in value translates roughly to an 8 percent increase in taxes for the average homeowner. Administration officials have stressed that some residents could see their taxes go down.
Finance Director Rob Dubow said the administration would put together numbers that reflect market values and average assessed values for neighborhoods across the city, which can serve as an indicator of what residents might expect.
“That won’t be exactly what happens with assessments, but it will give you some general idea,” he said.
The administration has taken steps to try and ease the pain of new tax bills, Dubow said, noting that it plans to implement a “smoothing process” which will allow taxpayers to stretch payments on their new tax bills out over the next three years. Administration officials are also hoping to enact a homestead exemption that would allow residents to cut $15,000 off their property tax bill for their primary residence. There is some uncertainty as to whether or not that will happen, as it requires the approval of the state legislature. A bill is pending in Harrisburg, but it’s unclear whether it will pass.
“We’re happy to talk about other possibilities that could help with these issues,” Dubow told Council members.
Though there seems to uniform agreement among council members, Mayor Michael Nutter and members of the administration that an overhaul of the property tax system is necessary, Council and the mayor have been sparring over when and how to implement a new system.
Administration officials want to have the new system in place by the end of the year. As Nutter put it recently to reporters: “It’s time to bite the bullet.”
Some Council members want to wait until next year to move on actual value, putting off any decisions until Council has time to see and digest all the information relating to the new values.
“There has been no analysis done in terms of what the impact might be in Philadelphia,” said Council President Darrell Clarke. “I’d be interested to know that.”
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials laid to rest another murdered Philadelphia police officer Monday.
Officer Moses Walker Jr., was eulogized by Mayor Michael Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and others during a tearful, dignified, and at times, angry going home ceremony held at Deliverance Evangelistic Church. During his remarks, Mayor Michael Nutter used the words of the popular John Lennon song, “Imagine,” to segue into his more caustic remarks regarding the violence that dominates in some communities in the city.
“I like the Ray Charles version best,” Nutter said. “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one. Imagine a peaceful Philadelphia, where people take responsibility for themselves, their families and their neighbors. I want you to imagine a safer city; we can have one. A city where children can play in the streets, working people go to work, seniors enjoy their lives. We can make that happen.
“I’m angry, I’m very angry that someone would kill Moses Walker. I’m very angry about this. I want to thank our citizens and our men and women in law enforcement that helped track down these killers, because that’s what they do. Whether it’s Moses Walker or any of the other people who are shot, stabbed, robbed or beaten up, we track down those responsible and we catch them. We catch almost all of them; I don’t know why people do this — it’s pretty stupid.
“But I read the Good Book; it tells me, ‘Vengeance is mine saith the Lord’ but while these two are in custody here on this earth, their butts are mine. I’m sick of the ignorance and I’m sick of the violence, sick of the deaths and disruption. I’m sick of it! I’ve had enough!”
Moses Walker entered the Philadelphia Police Academy in March 1993. In August of that year, he was assigned to foot patrol in Center City. After walking the beat in Center City for several months, he was assigned to the 23rd District on March 31, 1994. Moses found a home patrolling the streets of North Central for the next 18 years. By all accounts he was known by both his fellow officers and the residents he served as a courteous, polite and humble man. He was shot to death early Saturday morning, Aug. 18.
Walker was an active member of the Deliverance Evangelist Church and served as a deacon. He was known as an optimistic man. He is the 10th Philadelphia Police officer to die in the line of duty since Officer Gary Skerski was shot to death on May 8, 2008. Officers William Barclay, Charles Cassidy, Stephen Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Patrick McDonald, Timothy Simpson, John Pawlowski, and most recently, Brian Lorenzo, all fell in the line of duty.
Officer Moses Walker was killed just a few blocks from the station house. He was a 19-year veteran of the force — just a year away from retirement.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he had met Walker on several occasions before his death. He always had something positive to say, Ramsey said.
“Officer Walker was a faithful minister, son, brother and police officer — one that was taken from us far too soon,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “He finished his tour of duty in the 22nd District as the turnkey, as we call it. That’s the person charged with the safety of people taken into our custody. Not everyone in our custody is happy to be there, and it takes a great deal of patience and skill — and Moses had that. During the vigil on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, two young men came up — who had recently been in custody at the 22nd District, and they were paying their respects because he respected them. I don’t have the answers as to why Moses Walker was killed. None of it makes sense to me. What does make sense to me are the men and women of law enforcement you see here today. In spite of the fact that it never seems to end, they know they make a difference. “
Police officer Moses Walker Jr. was buried at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Delaware County.
Civil rights activists, organizers, elected officials, and community stakeholders gathered at the Sheraton Hotel at 17th and Race streets for the 30th annual awards and benefit luncheon of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence on Monday.
Hundreds attended the event, presided over by broadcaster E. Steven Collins. Several people were recognized for their work to elevate humanity. Among them was actress and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, who received the Drum Major for International and National Humanitarianism award for her work in the fight against the AIDS virus.
“I accept this award in the spirit of C. DeLores Tucker,” said Ralph, who burst into song when accepting her award. She also brought up the late Tucker’s famous battle against vulgar and violent rap lyrics. “C. DeLores Tucker was right then, because we are feeling it now. When you turn on the radio you feel like you are being sexually abused.”
Ralph told the audience that she cried for both sets of children, those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
“On a day like today, with an audience like this, we are the people we have been waiting for. With an audience like this, there is no reason why they should call Philadelphia ‘Killadephia’,” said Ralph.
The award of Drum Major for Global Human Rights was presented to Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, who built three schools in Ghana and serves as a board member of the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial Center.
Shabazz accepted her award while posing a question to the members of the audience.
“How many of you knew that 2011 was the international year of people African descent?” she asked. One hand went up, at which Shabazz instructed the audience members to use their computers to seek out such facts, as opposed to downloading video games.
She was followed by her sister, Ilyasah Shabazz, who received the Drum Major award for International and National Youth Development. Ilyasah, an author and lecturer, also produces training programs for at-risk youth.
“My premise is very simple: I believe that every child should have an opportunity to feel good about him or herself − that every child, regardless of race, creed or gender, should feel safe and secure,” said Ilyasah after receiving her award.
She spoke proudly of her mother, who witnessed the execution of her husband, raised her children on her own and continued to fight for the rights of her people against incredible odds.
Other awardees included Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel J. Hilferty, who received the Drum Major for Corporate Cooperation award; Red Cross CEO Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who received an award for ‘Community and Civic Responsibility, and Rosalee Smith, who received an award for ‘Equal Rights, Equal Justice and Equal Opportunity’.
During a ceremony held earlier that day, both daughters of Malcolm X were given the honor of ringing the Liberty bell during the National Bell Ringing Ceremony, held each year in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Surrounded by local dignitaries, elected officials and a crowd of onlookers, Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz were greeted with applause as they stood, one on each side of the Liberty Bell, for the ceremonial ringing.
The sisters were introduced by broadcaster and talk show host Thera Martin Milling, who said it was the late Mrs.Coretta Scott King, who personally commissioned the Philadelphia Association’s founder C. DeLores Tucker to launch the celebration of her husband’s birthday.
“Every time we get to celebrate Dr. King, it is a great day,” said Milling.
While reflecting on King’s Dream, Mayor Michael Nutter took the opportunity to address the problem of violence on Philadelphia’s streets.
“What better place is there to talk about love than in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection,” said Nutter. “We have had our challenges in recent times, not just economically but also civilly.”
Nutter said that all Philadelphians need to check themselves to see that they are living up to King’s legacy.
“We must be a more peaceful city, a more loving city and a less violent city. That is my hope every day,” said Nutter who has had to address the growing problem of violent crime on the cities streets.
Nutter was joined by Sen. Vincent Hughes, Congressman Chaka Fattah and U.S.Sen. Pat Toomey during ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell.