Wells Fargo is gearing up to launch a program designed to boost Philadelphia’s rate of homeownership.
The nation’s largest home mortgage lender has partnered with nonprofit NeighborWorks America to launch the CityLIFT program, an initiative designed to provide down payment assistance and homebuyer education programs in areas most impacted by the financial crisis.
Vince Liuzzi, Wells Fargo’s regional president for Greater Philadelphia and Delaware says CityLIFT was created to help address the excessive housing inventory crisis facing many cities around the nation.
“At Wells Fargo, we want to do more to help stabilize neighborhoods — and in particular to help ease the housing inventory situation,” Liuzzi said during a press conference held Thursday afternoon in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.
“The demand for rental property for displaced homeowners, combined with a stalled housing market has forced home prices down. Wells Fargo is pleased to announce the launch of a program that will help boost the housing market in the city of Philadelphia, and put people in homes that they can afford.”
The new initiative is modeled after Wells Fargo’s successful NeighborhoodLIFT program — which was the first of its kind in the banking industry. Philadelphia is one of 20 cities that will benefit from a total of $170 million Wells Fargo has committed to support housing in cities affected by the economic downturn. The initiative is accompanied by a five-year lending goal of $2.2 billion for Philadelphia homebuyers.
Through CityLIFT, applicants can apply for up to $15,000 in down payment assistance grants, and tap into homebuyers education programs.
NeighborWorks America nonprofit affiliate New Kensington Community Development Corporation will determine income eligibility and help prospective homebuyers reserve down payment assistance grants and receive homeownership education. Since January, NeighborWorks has worked with Wells Fargo to bring LIFT programs to 10 cities around the country. The LIFT programs have helped create 263 new homeowners to date, with another 244 potential new homeowners in process of closing on a home.
“We are so proud that Wells Fargo has invited NeighborWorks to be a partner with them in CityLIFT, and Wells Fargo knows that a prepared homeowner is a successful homeowner. Successful homeowners build secure neighborhoods and revitalize communities such as this one — and this is our goal,” said Deborah Boatwright, Northeast regional director of NeighborWorks America.
To qualify for up to $15,000 in down payment assistance, applicants’ must be approved for home financing. An applicant’s household income cannot exceed 120 percent of area median income. For example, the annual household income for a family of four cannot exceed $97,800. Participating homebuyers must attend an eight-hour homeownership education class with a HUD-approved counselor and make a commitment to stay in the home for five years. Homebuyers can obtain mortgage financing from any lender.
“Philadelphia has a long proud tradition of homeownership, and that’s one of the things that makes our neighborhoods so vibrant. We know that homeownership is important to stabilizing neighborhoods in Philadelphia,” said Shanta Schachter, deputy director, New Kensington CDC.
Mayor Michael Nutter and Councilman Darrell Clarke were on hand to thank Wells Fargo for bringing the CityLIFT program to Philadelphia.
“This program is a continuation of ongoing efforts by our city to strengthen neighborhoods and provide quality and affordable housing for our residents,” said Nutter.
“This collaboration with Wells Fargo and local nonprofits will offer residents not only new opportunities to own a home, but also the knowledge and resources to be successful in this important investment.”
CityLIFT will officially launch during a free homebuyer workshop on September 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hall D, 1101 Arch St.
Workshop attendees can apply for up to $15,000 in down payment assistance funding to purchase a home in Philadelphia. During the event, prospective homebuyers visit a viewing center to preview featured homes for sale in Philadelphia neighborhoods. A free bus tour will be offered from noon to 5 p.m. each day to view featured homes available for sale throughout Philadelphia.
Register for the upcoming workshop by visiting www.mycitylift or call 1(866) 802-0456. Preregistration is preferred. Walk-ins will be accepted.
Mother of five killed in Grays Ferry
The manhunt is on for a second suspect in the killing of a Grays Ferry woman who was just standing on her porch when gunfire exploded on the 1500 block of Corlies Street on Friday, April 20.
Clarice Douglas, 45, a mother of five, was standing on her front porch waiting for her children to come home from school when she was caught in the crossfire between two young Black males at 2:30 p.m. Law enforcement authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Shekinah Williams, a 28-year-old Black male from the 2100 block of Sears Street, and the Citizen’s Crime Commission is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction. Investigators allege that Williams was involved in a shootout with another Hakeem Burley, 23, who was wounded in the exchange of gunfire that left Douglas dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Police recovered a .45 caliber handgun and 18 shell casings from the scene.
Williams and Burley are no strangers to law enforcement. In 2000, Williams was 17 and pleaded guilty to robbery, possessing an instrument of crime and criminal conspiracy, and was sentenced to four to eight years in prison. A few months before, he was arrested for aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, weapons offenses and simple assault. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession. At age 16, in 2004, Burley was arrested for robbery, burglary, weapons offenses, recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats and related charges.
Douglas is just the latest victim of gun violence in South Philadelphia. On March 21, two children having fun inside a playground were wounded when they were caught in the crossfire between two other young Black males with guns. Fortunately, their wounds were not fatal. The day before, on March 20 there was a double shooting at 3:30 p.m. at the intersection of 5th and Pierce streets that left two men wounded.
“Regarding this recent shooting, we have one person being held and we recovered a gun. We have some direction on the second suspect. As for the other recent incidents, there could be a lot of things causing the violence in that part of town,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “It could be disputes between different gangs, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be something as simple as looking at another person in the wrong way, or an argument over a female. Basically, there is no shortage of thugs with guns who are not afraid to fire over any dispute. It can even be a spur of the moment thing.”
On March 29, police say a 24-year-old man was shot twice in the buttocks just before 2 a.m. at 26th and Jackson streets. The victim was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in stable condition. A few days before, on March 21, two children were wounded by gunfire at Sach’s Playground at 4th Street and Washington Avenue. Investigators believe that shooting was touched of by an earlier incident in the vicinity.
On March 20, police were called to the vicinity of 5th and Pierce streets in response to a double shooting that also happened in the afternoon, this time around 3:30 p.m. Two males were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in stable condition. On March 30, a 19-year-old woman was shot in the abdomen just before 11:30 p.m. in the 1200 block of South 13th Street. Surveillance cameras captured images of the suspect, a young Black male in his teens or early twenties demanding money. The woman tried to defend herself with mace.
Club Onyx, at 2900 South Columbus Boulevard has been the scene of several shootings and robberies in recent months. The last one happened on February 23 when a man was critically shot outside the strip club in the early morning hours. The suspect, 25-year-old Kyle Carter, was arrested a few days later. According to police, Carter was involved an argument with the victim, who died from his wounds a week later. During the argument Carter allegedly took out a gun and shot the victim in the neck.
“There are combinations of different causes behind this senseless bloodshed,” said Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who lives in the district. “Many times these are petty disputes that rise to the level of violence. Some of the reports I’ve seen indicate drug turf wars in some instances, but all of it has a negative impact on the community — and most of the victims are young Black males. This last murder has left five children without their mother, and I was just down in the vicinity a couple of weeks ago for another shooting. But the reality is that we cannot give up and just sit on the sidelines; we have to keep working aggressively to change the mindset of these young men. Just today I was at the Youth Study Center, listening to some of the teens on the inside regarding what kind of support and encouragement they need that will help them turn themselves onto a better path. Now they all had suggestions, but one of them stood up and said that what’s really needed are parents who keep a firm hand on them. He said if his parents had really stayed on him about the consequences of his actions, he might have made better decisions.”
At the 9th Annual Summit on Race, Culture and Human Relations, Mayor Michael Nutter said the country’s reaction to Black-on-Black crime is astounding when seen from the perspective of its response to terrorism.
“Black men are becoming an endangered species in America — locked up or dead,” Nutter said. “Crime also breeds upon itself. After serving their time, many of the individuals who are released from our prisons cannot find work, and do not have the training or literacy skills to keep a job. And so, these folks quickly fall back into the criminal lifestyle to make ends meet.”
One day ahead of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, Vice President Joe Biden was in Philadelphia on Monday hosting a roundtable discussion advancing the administration’s gun control proposals.
The discussion, which was held at Girard College, took place as Delaware State Police were investigating a deadly shooting that happened inside the lobby of the New Castle Delaware Courthouse in Wilmington, Biden’s home state.
Biden was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter, local law enforcement officials, members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Congressmen Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady, Senator Bob Casey and Rep. Allyson Schwartz were also in attendance.
“As mayors of major cities, many of us do all we can to reduce gun violence, but our efforts are too often thwarted by trafficking from other areas and states,” Nutter said following the administration’s outlining of their proposals in January. “The president’s plan would institute background checks nationally and crack down on those who buy guns for the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. It will be an enormous help to us.”
The Obama administration has been pushing for new gun control laws since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Twenty-six people, mostly children, were murdered in the mass shooting.
“How much more bloodshed are we willing to tolerate? There is no need for assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips to be a part of the American civilian stockpile. I wholeheartedly support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and I also support universal background checks for all those lining up to buy weapons of what should be termed weapons of mass destruction,” Brady said at an earlier press conference.
Last week during the House Democratic Issues Conference Biden said that the federal government has a duty to take the lead on this important issue.
“I can't imagine how [the parents] deal with it," Biden said in a published report. “But I can imagine how we will be judged as individuals, judged as a Congress, judged as a nation, if we do not. It's simply unacceptable. The ability, because of all this happening, to misrepresent our positions no longer exists as it did in 1994. The world has changed. The American public has changed. You can go into areas you're told you can't go and politically survive. I'm telling you, the times have changed.”
The Obama administration has outlined several key points in the gun control debate. Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, reinstituting the federal ban on assault weapons and a ban on high capacity magazines, a federal gun trafficking law and giving law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crimes.
Disco legend Donna Summer died Thursday morning May 17 in Naples, Fla., at age 63 after a battle with cancer, said her publicist Brian Edwards. Her family released a statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.” The five-time Grammy-winning singer had numerous hits in both the 1970s and 1980s, including “Last Dance,” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “Bad Girls.”
“The City of Philadelphia and the music world are deeply saddened by the passing of an incredibly talented musical artist, Donna Summer,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who was once known as club DJ “Mix Master Mike.” “For people in my generation and many others, she was one of the greatest vocalists of the second half of the 20th century. An innovator of note, she had a wide range of musical capabilities. She was one of the leaders of the disco wave in America and Europe, and she broke new musical ground with songs like ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ ‘Bad Girls,’ ‘MacArthur Park Suite’ and ‘Hot Stuff.’”
Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart: “Live and More,” “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II.” She became a cultural icon, not only as one of the defining voices of the era, but also as an influence on future pop divas from Madonna to Beyoncé.
Nutter recalled playing “the Queen of Disco” during her heyday while deejaying at the Impulse Disco at Broad Street and Germantown Avenue. “For a young guy working in a night club at the high point of disco, and for everyone who came together in those days of joyful music and dance, she represented a singular musical style and a towering artistry. We all carry fond memories of Donna Summer. Whether performing alone or in duets with talents like Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer was one of the very best. I loved her music, her beautiful voice, and her grand musical talent.”
Summer reportedly did not embrace the “Disco Queen” title and later became a born-again Christian, but many remembered her best for her early years, starting with the sinful “Love to Love You Baby.” Released in 1975, a breakthrough hit for Summer and for disco, it was a legend of studio ecstasy and the genre’s ultimate sexual anthem. She simulated climax so many times that the BBC kept count: 23, in 17 minutes.
“All other erotic tunes, like ‘Jungle Fever’ and Pillow Talk,’ were mere foreplay to ‘Love To Love You, Baby.’ In the first place, it took up the whole album side and it set the scene for the 12-inch single,” noted author and cultural critic Richard Torres.
What started as a scandal became a classic. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland, and Beyoncé, who interpolated the hit for her jam “Naughty Girl.” It was also Summer’s U.S. chart debut and the first of her 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 — second only to Madonna.
“The funny thing about that track is that it really does warrant that length,” explained Torres. “There is no filler on that track. It’s hypnotic. ‘Love To Love You, Baby’ is the American ‘Ravel’s Bolero’ — it’s the beginning and middle, and,” Torres reflects with a chuckle, “it gave a man something to shoot for.”
Musically, Summer began to change in 1979 with “Hot Stuff,” which had a tough, rock ‘n’ roll beat. Her diverse sound helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
“She’s the most underrated great singer of the last 35 years,” noted Torres. “People would have thought of her as a — and this is pun intended — one-trick-pony based on the orgasmic ‘Love to Love You, Baby.’ But even in that song she showed tremendous range. What people forget is that she also received a lot of scorn, because there was this racist movement to anti-disco, and because she was the ‘Queen of Disco,’ her vocal and artistic contributions were diminished in the mainstream press. This is a woman, who by the way, more than held her own in a duet with Barbara Streisand on ‘Enough Is Enough/No More Tears.’ What she had was this unfailing rhythmic ability — and disco was all about could you ride the rhythm — she wasn’t a shouter, a la Lolita Holloway, but she was a chanteuse. She created a mood with every song.”
Summer released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants. Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, and three daughters, Brooklyn, Mimi and Amanda.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
With all that’s been going on in our fair city lately, you may have forgotten that there’s a major election less than six weeks away. I think this time around the incumbents prefer it that way.
The School District of Philadelphia, and the School Reform Commission that runs it, have squandered whatever public goodwill they still had. School superintendent Dr. Arlene Ackerman got her nearly million-dollar payout, and instead of going away quietly, has lobbed incendiary grenades at everyone she feels is responsible for her ouster.
Most people would be lounging in a beach chair, sipping on some fruity rum drink with a tiny umbrella in it and toasting their good fortune, but not Ackerman.
She has implicated SRC chair Bob Archie, Mayor Michael Nutter and state Rep. Dwight Evans, among others, as major players in this shameful fiasco that just won’t go away. If she’s telling the truth, those three guys are guilty of serious ethical breaches and violations of the public trust, if not outright crimes.
Archie, partner at Duane Morris, one of the city’s top law firms, has been a power broker in this town for many, many years. While the general public may have just learned of him since his appointment to the SRC, the movers and shakers have long known Archie, and his reputation for getting deals done.
The problem is, the School District is not a private law firm, and deals made on their behalf are public deals using public monies, secret agendas and closed door meetings have no place in a public entity, even though we all know that in Philly, that’s generally how things work.
But Archie turned in his resignation from the SRC early this week, leaving the School District’s governing body with just two members. (SRC member Johnny Irizarry, perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, quit the same day as Archie.) Mayor Nutter quickly appointed old friend and former employee Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor of Rutgers University, to fill one of the empty slots, but the damage is done, and the District is almost completely rudderless, at least for now.
I don’t know how he’s managed to do it, but so far Nutter seems untouched by this whole stinking mess. After all, the mayor appoints two SRC members, and he certainly played a large role in Ackerman’s departure — the hideous details of which have yet to come to light.
Speaking of which, isn’t this the same mayor who campaigned four years ago on clean government and an end to municipal corruption? Isn’t this the guy who promised us transparency, integrity and accountability in City Hall? Now he’s lobbying local rich folks for Ackerman’s buyout money and keeping it hush-hush, and if Ackerman’s accusations are to be believed, he’s turning a blind eye to corruption by sitting on a report which would blow the lid off the Martin Luther King charter school scandal, and was not averse to holding 5-year-olds ransom by threatening the end of all-day kindergarten simply to advance his political agenda.
Now, it seems to me that a man — especially an incumbent mayor up for re-election in a few short weeks — would vigorously, publicly and immediately defend himself against such vile accusations.
His opponent in November is Democrat-turned-Republican Karen Brown, who has been making some noise herself lately by demanding a number of debates with Nutter before Election Day. Nutter’s people have agreed to only one public forum, which in all honesty makes more sense for them. You don’t give an unknown opponent the opportunity to compete on your level if you’re the incumbent — especially when you’re favored to win by a landslide.
But it does leave a cloud hanging over the election in many ways.
What if the GOP had put up a serious, well-developed candidate in this race? Would Nutter’s confidence level be as high, especially considering the huge pile of hypocrisy and bad faith that has shown up on his doorstep lately?
Nutter will certainly win, and probably by the predicted margin, but when he does his first phone call of thanks should be placed to Vito Canuso and Mike Meehan, the city’s GOP leadership.
By randomly plucking Brown from obscurity rather than grooming, preparing and financing a genuine alternative candidate, Canuso and Meehan have virtually assured Nutter’s re-election at a time when a little healthy competition could have at least raised the level of discourse.
I have the uneasy feeling that we’re about to get exactly what we deserve.
House votes to cut $83M for ex-offender rehabilitation
Many studies have been done in recent years about the rise of the prison population in America, the racial disparity that is all too evident in penal institutions and the high recidivism rate for those who have been incarcerated.
Some federal, state and local officials have seen the need to establish programs that successfully help ex-offenders reintegrate back into the communities — such as Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of Re-Integration Services for Ex-Offenders, R.I.S.E.
But in September, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would eliminate funding for the Second Chance Act, which provides resources to nonprofits, states and local government to assist previously incarcerated people re-enter communities. Instead of supporting legislation that would shrink national prison populations, the new measure would add $300 million to the federal Bureau of Prisons’ $6 billion budget.
Not surprising, the purpose of that funding would support the building of seven new prisons over the next four years.
Advocates of criminal justice reform say this policy would continue the trend of increasing incarceration and racial disparity already inherent in the criminal justice system.
“We must embrace the humanity of ex-offenders and stop this second class citizenship by those who say they are politicians, but really are prison profiteers in this new slave system of the Prison Industrial Complex,” said Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, co-founder and president of Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. “The collapse of the Second Chance Act funding is just a continuation of the agenda of prison expansion in an era in which ex-offenders are seen as inhuman in the eyes of a racist society. We need an act of humanity and we need to eliminate these weak politicians with our vote.”
The Second Chance Act legislation was signed into law during the Bush administration on April 9, 2008. The Second Chance Act provided federal money to non-profit organizations and federal agencies working to employ ex-offenders and provide substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing and other support services to prevent recidivism.
Originally the Second Chance Act was budgeted at $100 million in fiscal year 2010, and that was reduced to $83 million this year.
“The bill eliminates funding for the Second Chance Act programs [and] throws money at our prison overpopulation problem by increasing the Bureau of Prisons’ budget while eliminating funding for a proven solution to keep people out of prison,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Leahy has pledged to work to restore funding when the House and Senate Appropriations Committees attempt to resolve budgetary differences.
“None of this comes as a surprise to me,” said Bilal Qayyum, Executive Director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “Republicans are interested in locking people up, not reducing the prison population. But this reflects how many people across the country think. Also, there is an economic component since prisons are built in rural communities and provides jobs for those areas. Republicans aren’t gung-ho about closing prisons and they don’t want people to have a second chance.”
Recently, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with officials of the federal Re-entry Council to address ways of ensuring that those individuals returning from prison become productive, law-abiding citizens. Among the topics on the table was the $83 million in Fiscal Year 2011 funding the Department of Justice would award for Second Chance Act grants and other re-entry programs.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to tear down the unnecessary barriers to economic opportunities and independence so that formerly incarcerated individuals can serve as productive members of their communities,” Holder said in a published report. “The Department of Justice announced it is providing funding to local organizations whose critical work will reduce recidivism and victimization. At the same time, the council is ensuring these individuals and their families have the facts about federal policies and resources governing employment issues, veterans’ benefits and voting rights as they return home.”
Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs also announced that 131 grants were recently awarded with the $83 million appropriated by Congress in Fiscal Year 2011 for the Second Chance Act and other re-entry programs.
“The fact that we received more than 1,000 applications for Second Chance funding this year shows that states and communities around the country are working together on reentry issues and community safety,” Robinson said in a press release.
According to the Pennsylvania Prison Society, 90 percent of the present inmate population will be released back into the community at some point with at least 65 percent likely to recidivate — having committed new crimes and be re-sentenced to prison. But experts say that with proper support mechanisms such as jobs, drug and alcohol counseling and life skills development, those numbers can be greatly reduced.
“It’s everything,” said William DiMascio, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. “While you’re in prison everything is structured; you’re told when to wake up, when to eat, when to shower. When they get released they’re basically told, ‘You’re on your own.’ They need legitimate employment; it’s essential to their self-esteem and their physical and emotional wellbeing. Since the Nutter Administration came on board there’s been a commitment to helping ex-offenders. Now they’ve had some challenges, but to their credit they have persisted. Not many people want to give you accolades for helping ex-inmates find jobs, but these people are a part of the community. We have to help them.”
DiMascio said that there are a lot of obstacles that confront ex-offenders, many of them institutionalized but there are also a lot of successful models that exist to help them and right now there is a growing recognition that ex-offenders don’t have to recidivate. Being released from prison is a big adjustment and they have to be mentally prepared for that.
“Language skills for example; many ex-offenders speak the language of the street and when you’re looking for work you have to be able to express to a prospective employer why you’re a good candidate for a job. This isn’t rocket science,” DiMascio said. He also said that improved and expanded services for ex-offenders would have a positive impact within the African-American community.
According to research conducted by the Sentencing Project, of the 2.3 million people serving time in the United States at least 60 percent are African American and other ethnic minorities. For Black males in their twenties, the figures are staggering; 1 out of 8 are in prison or jail on any given day.
“The flip side of all this is when are our young Black men going to wake up and stop behaving like fools?” asked Qayyum. “They don’t have to engage in behavior that’s going to end with a prison sentence or worse. Education has always been the key issue because education gives you the analytical skills needed to make wiser decisions. You think twice before committing a crime. Prison is not the way to go; all it does is short circuit your future. People in government who want to cut the funding for these programs know that.”
Philadelphia will host the National Urban League’s 2013 annual conference, announced League president and CEO Marc Morial and Mayor Michael Nutter, on Friday.
The event, which, it is anticipated, will draw more than 4,000 visitors, is expected to generate $8 million in economic activity for the city.
“We will roll out the big red carpet,” Nutter promised Morial, noting that Philadelphia would have to outdo New Orleans, which is hosting the conference in 2012, where Morial was once mayor.
“We’re more than up to it,” joked Nutter. “Philadelphia was the place selected for the first convention just down the street, and you see what happened.”
The conference will be held July 24 – 27 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Morial told the crowd gathered at City Hall for the announcement that Urban League officials chose Philadelphia for three reasons: the first was the work of Patricia Coulter, president and CEO of the Philadelphia chapter.
“She’s breathed new life into the Philadelphia chapter,” said Morial. “It’s soared to the front of the class. We want to showcase the work that Pat Coulter has done in this city.”
The second was Mayor Michael Nutter.
“He’s a rising star on the national scene,” said Morial.
And, finally, he added: “4,000 plus people are just dying to eat cheese steaks.”
“We are proud that Philadelphia is home to a thriving Urban League affiliate,” Coulter said, who credited her staff for making the chapter what it’s become. “And, our selection to host the 2013 Annual Conference is a very welcome validation of our accomplishments and strategic focus on economic empowerment through public policy advocacy, quality programs and employment opportunities.”
In addition to the events for registered attendees, the conference will host a number of events open to the public. They include: all the exhibits in the exhibition hall, a college fair, a career fair. In addition, the conference will include a youth summit and a business summit.
“This conference is also going to be for the people of Philadelphia,” Morial said, adding that he hoped it would attract residents from throughout the Delaware Valley.
In addition to showcasing the Urban League, the conference will give visitors, many of whom have never been here, a chance to absorb Philadelphia’s art, culture and food, said Nutter, noting that Travel & Leisure magazine recently named Philadelphia the number one city in the country for culture and National Geographic named Capogiro the best ice cream in the world.
“There is no other city in American that has the amenities that we do,” crowed Nutter.
It will also display the city’s potential.
“It will showcase Philadelphia as more than a time machine to the 18th Century,” said Dennis Maple, a local board member.
The National Urban League last held its annual conference in Philadelphia 13 years ago.
At least it wasn’t ‘The Black man did it!’
Last week’s mini-manhunt for suspects who shot a Bucks County policeman ended surprisingly with authorities arresting Chalfont cop Jon Cousin on charges of lying.
Cousin claimed an assailant shot him during Cousin’s early AM investigation of a suspiciously parked car with that assailant’s bullet lodging in Cousin’s bullet proof vest.
Investigators soon discovered that physical evidence and Cousin’s claims didn’t add up. Cousin shot his bullet proof vest later falsely asserting that an assailant shot him.
It’s a good thing that Cousin and/or news media accounts didn’t color that phantom assailant as Black thus setting off a typical-&-potentially dangerous dragnet targeting Black men.
However, it’s a bad thing that mega-money music mogul Jay-Z and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter couldn’t say a ‘Black man did it’ — as in Blacks (men and women) did a fair share of the work in high-paying jobs related to Jay-Z’s “Made In America” concert on the Parkway this past weekend.
The seeming “black-out” of Black and other non-white workers in stage erection and other high-paying positions for that paid Parkway music fest didn’t go unnoticed, particularly by those who monitor the seeming perpetual exclusion of Black workers and businesses from economic opportunities across Philly especially projects receiving contributions from City Hall.
Last week, Mayor Nutter — once known as “Mixmaster Mike” for his long-ago gig DJ-ing at a night club — was a tad tight-lipped when the news media inquired about the public purse investment for that Parkway party sponsored by Budweiser, the resource-rich beer corporation.
Nutter, instead of revealing how much money City Hall kicked into the concert operations kiddy, just referenced beneficial intangibles like “goodwill” for the city and obvious tangibles like bumps for local businesses from concert goers spending in restaurants, bars and hotels.
Hum, what’s wrong with the sound of Nutter’s silence?
One of the richest men in the music business (Jay-Z’s worth an estimated $450 million) and the mayor of one of America’s largest cities didn’t and/or couldn’t use their combined clout to counter the structural discrimination that excludes Black workers and Black businesses displaced from participating in a Philly economic pie is arguably a Made-in-America shame.
Philly is a city with massive unemployment among non-whites.
And Philly leads all of America’s big cities with a 37 percent poverty rate — a poverty rate that is connected to economic disconnects from institutionalized racial discrimination.
It speaks mightily that a current music mogul and a former mixmaster didn’t amp things up to ensure that more economic opportunities flowed equitably from that Parkway music fest like water flows from the famous public fountains along the Parkway.
A jobs generating event on the Labor Day Weekend Holiday providing pitifully few high-paying jobs for non-white Philly workers is Made-in-America 4 Sure.
It seems (at least seems to some) that Mayor Nutter is more concerned that homeless people languishing along the Parkway don’t receive food-or-crumbs from outdoor feedings by religious groups than his leveraging all available opportunities (all-the-time) to ensure a few economic trickle-down crumbs feed Black workers and Black businesses living in the city he leads.
Further, this small yet salient example of traditional exclusion from economic inclusion underlines a criticism legendary entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte made in early August.
Belafonte named Jay-Z by name when blasting many contemporary high-profile artists for turning “their backs on social responsibility.”
Belafonte is a person who repeatedly put his career in money making peril to break down barriers that enabled the elevation of later generations. Belafonte could have receded into “bling” but he didn’t.
The fact that Jay-Z rose from a NYC housing project to the pinnacle of success is the stuff of the vaulted American Dream. And yes, Jay-Z places his real name on his Shawn Corey Carter Foundation that helps economically challenged folks further their education.
But framing the evaporating American Dream that does boost some hard-working blacks into entrepreneurial or elected positions are continuing realities of institutional exclusion and structural prejudice — the American Nightmare that America ignores.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently described aspects of that American Nightmare crushing Blacks during his August 28, 1963, seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.
During that speech in D.C., King reminded America that Blacks sadly still remained “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
Before reflectively dismissing King’s remarks 49 years ago as having no relevance in a contemporary America where a Black man presides from the White House consider two examples.
King, in 1963, decried Blacks finding themselves as “an exile” in their own land.
During the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina media reports referenced poor Blacks ruthlessly pummeled in flood ravaged New Orleans as “refugees” — exiles not Americans suffering in their own American city.
King, in 1963, criticized the exclusion of Blacks from the “great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
Last week when the Republican National Convention blew into Tampa Bay, Fla., along with Hurricane Isaac the GOP did what is always does: exclude Black-owned businesses from the estimated $153 million arising from that presidential convention’s “vaults of opportunity.”
The presidents of the Tampa Bay Black Chamber of Commerce and the Suncoast African American Chamber of Commerce both criticized Black business exclusion — even vending food to conventioneers — by the political party that proclaims its pro-small business.
The more things change…
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
The Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board has announced the appointment of 10 new board members.
Mayor Michael Nutter appointed the new members between September and December.
“It is an ongoing goal and priority of our administration to improve opportunities for Philadelphia’s workers,” said Nutter.
“A growing, educated workforce is the engine of our city; the more we invest in our talent pool, the more likely it is that businesses will grow, thrive and expand in the city. I would like to thank the new board members for accepting this call to public service.”
The Philadelphia WIB provides the city with strategic and policy guidance to guarantee that opportunities exist for Philadelphians to become productive members of the workforce. The board also helps ensure that Philadelphia’s businesses will have the human resources necessary to flourish in an evolving economy. The board is business-led, with a majority of the 32 board members representing the private sector.
The following are the new PWIB board members: Anthony S. Bartolomeo, president and CEO, Pennoni Associates, Inc.; Ryan Boyer, business manager, Laborers District Council Philadelphia and Vicinity; Joseph Frick, vice chairman and managing partner, Diversified Search; Rev. Terrance Griffin, first vice president, Black Clergy of Philadelphia; Don Kuba, special assistant to the secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Workforce Development Partnership; Debra Malinics, president/owner, DMA Advertising; Joseph M. Parente, principal, KPMG LLP; Ajay Raju, partner, Reed Smith LLP; Dr. Judith Renyi, executive director, Mayor’s Commission on Literacy and Myrna Toro, president, Synterra, Ltd.
PWIB is currently merging with the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation to form Philadelphia Works, Inc., a new workforce organization that will serve both employers and employees. The merger is expected to be complete in June 2012.
“The Philadelphia WIB has an important role to play in the months and years ahead, and I am excited that our newcomers will add energy and a fresh perspective as we shape our city’s workforce policies and strategies,” said WIB Chairman David Donald, CEO of PeopleShare.
“The merger of the WIB and the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation into Philadelphia Works, Inc. is a seminal moment in our city’s workforce development history.”
The city’s nationally acclaimed foreclosure prevention program is adding a new layer of assistance for troubled homeowners, who can now get a “budget buddy” to help them avoid falling into further financial pitfalls.
“We are just launching this part of the program,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Annette Rizzo.
It is intended to help distressed homeowners develop a budget and stick to it as they emerge from foreclosure. According to Rizzo, city officials are recruiting volunteers who will work one-on-one with homeowners to develop a spending plan and then work with them long-term to make sure they adhere to their plans.
“We’re calling on a new base of volunteers, those in the financial world, those in the accounting world to help,” she said.
So far, Rizzo said, two volunteers have been recruited to launch the program.
Rizzo made the announcement Wednesday at city hall during a ceremony to recognize PNC bank for its sponsorship of a related program, the Tools for Financial Growth program, which provides financial counseling workshops for homeowners in the foreclosure prevention program. PNC kicked in $150,000 to help fund the program during its first year.
The newly launched program is an extension of the Tools for Financial Growth program, which homeowner Patrick Coleman said helped him and his wife stay on track as they worked to modify the terms of their mortgage.
“It helped me in a lot of ways,” Coleman said, one of 195 people who participated since it started earlier this year. “It reminded us to slow down on going out to certain affairs, going out to dinner at these fancy restaurants … we had to learn to pay our bills.”
In addition to instilling a sense of discipline, the program taught him some basic financial principles.
“On our credit cards, we pay that monthly fee,” he said. “Then if we have a little extra in the middle of the month we send some more money to try and build our credit up.”
He credit score remains low, Coleman said, noting that he’s working on improving the score.
“This program really helped me out a whole lot,” he said.
Philadelphia has garnered quite a bit of attention for its foreclosure prevention program, pioneered by Rizzo. It forces mortgage holders and homeowners to sit down and renegotiate the terms of the mortgage.
Noting that since the start of the recession in 2008 the stream of foreclosures has not slowed, Rizzo said she is now also trying to make sure people who saved their homes once can stay in them.
“It’s not just about determining the ability of a homeowner to enter into a really good deal with the lender/servicer but rather sustaining that deal,” Rizzo said. “To me success is no coming back.”
Since its inception in 2008, the foreclosure prevention program has kept 5,000 homeowners in their homes.
“The City of Philadelphia has long recognized that keeping people in their homes has to be one of our major goals,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “When a property goes vacant it has an impact on the rest of the community.”