“Seeing is believing,” states the old saying.
However, Rev. William Moore couldn’t quite believe what he saw during a tour of housing construction sites in North Philadelphia early last week not far from the Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, on N. 19th St. near Master St., where the widely respected Moore has served as pastor for the past 38 years.
What troubled Moore the most was not what he saw but what he didn’t see.
Rev. Moore saw virtually no Blacks working on those bustling construction sites that are creating rental housing for students attending Temple University.
“On the ten to fifteen sites we visited I saw two African Americans working,” Rev. Moore said during an interview last Friday afternoon. That lack of Black workers, Moore said, “is representative of hundreds of sites in North Philadelphia.”
What Moore witnessed is another body-shot from the structural unemployment historically plaguing Black residents of North Philadelphia.
Sprawling North Philly, located several blocks north of Center City, houses Philadelphia’s largest concentration of communities containing rates of unemployment ranging from 20.2 percent to 37.2 percent according to data compiled this year by the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.
North Philadelphia — its lower and upper sections — contains “higher unemployment than citywide figures” according to statistics posted by the Workforce Board.
Citywide, Philadelphia’s unemployment rate hovers between 10 and 11 percent. Unemployment rates for North Philly and citywide do not include the long-term unemployed — making Philadelphia’s real unemployment rates much higher.
The purposeful exclusion of Black workers from the tens-of-millions-of-dollars worth of (principally) private sector student housing construction in North Philly parallels the exclusion of Black subcontractors, architects, suppliers and other professionals on those projects.
“The developers of many of these projects bring workers into the community everyday by the vanloads. These workers [many of them Mexican] are paid in cash every day. Paying these workers in cash avoids the payment of city, state and federal taxes,” Rev. Moore said.
This exclusion of Blacks on North Philadelphia student housing projects comports with the exclusion Black construction workers and Black-owned construction businesses from over a billion dollars of publicly funded construction currently underway across Philadelphia.
This purposeful exclusion is an enduring shame for Philadelphia yet public and private sector leaders (whites and increasingly Blacks) shamelessly skirt their duties to attack this illegal and immoral exclusion.
“City officials are co-conspirators with this institutional racism,” one knowledgeable source said. “When was the last time a Philadelphia mayor walked one of these private or public construction sites, saw this exclusion and expressed strong outrage publicly?”
This purposeful exclusion from employment and contracting opportunities is another vivid example of the societal prejudice aggravating the poverty/unemployment ravishing communities like North Philly.
Impacts radiating from this purposeful exclusion contradict the [purposeful] misperceptions that ‘ghetto dwellers’ possess a predilection for quality-of-life-crippling joblessness and impoverishment.
The poor housing, abandoned housing and razed housing plaguing North Philly arose in large part from purposeful public/private sector policies & practices like the Rizzo Administration withholding millions of dollars in federal Community Development housing renovation funding during the 1970s plus decades of ‘redlining’ by banks and insurance companies.
“The residents of North Philadelphia have endured years of hardships created by circumstances beyond their control including the absence of governmental investment in infrastructure, housing stock and social services,” James S. White said during City Council testimony in March opposing a measure to give owners of multi-unit rental properties in North Philadelphia unprecedented control over development decisions in that area.
White held ranking City Hall posts under two Philadelphia mayors, including housing related positions, served as Temple University’s chief operating officer and currently serves on Temple’s University board of trustees.
Guiding Rev. Moore on that construction site tour were Tom Massaro, a former City of Philadelphia housing director and Philadelphia Hospital Workers Union President Henry Nicolas.
Both Massaro and Nicolas live in North Philadelphia. And both Massaro and Nicolas have vigorously complained about some of that student housing construction in North Philly violating City zoning and building codes — blatant violations currently receiving the blind-eye from City Hall.
“Debris from some of that construction is dumped on vacant lots with cement running into the sewers. Plus, the dust, containing asbestos and lime, goes into homes. There is one playground at a daycare center where this dangerous dust coats the equipment every day,” Massaro said.
“There is one site where a developer is putting 72 units on three lots that under zoning are to have three single family homes,” Massaro said. “These developers are not even using the kids from YouthBuild (charter school) who are trained in construction and go to school blocks from these building sites.”
Rev. Moore said he saw an “egregious” example of corruption where a city trash truck removed construction debris from one site where the developer is supposed to retain private removal instead of paying-off city workers for removal.
Rev. Moore said people in North Philadelphia want to work.
Moore referenced a job fair held in North Philly three months ago, sponsored by state Rep. Curtis Thomas, where the line to get inside stretched nearly two blocks.
Thomas, during an interview with a Philadelphia Tribune reporter about that jobs fair, said, “… there’s systemic unemployment with folks having barriers cutting off access to opportunities.”
Rev. Moore said city officials must address “uncontrolled development” in North Philadelphia.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.
From its humble inception in 1952, the Bible Way Baptist Church pastoral leadership and congregation have been making great impact for the kingdom of God in the city of Philadelphia and beyond. On Sunday, March 25, Bible Way will culminate its month-long 60th anniversary celebration with special guest the Rev. Dr. William Moore, senior pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, preaching at both 7:30 and 10:30 morning services.
McKinley Gaither, the church founder, accepted the call to ministry and formed a missionary Baptist church in his West Philadelphia home; it was later officially named Bible Way Baptist Church. The church has an incredible history of inspiring its congregants to make an impact in the community.
“Bible Way is a strong church; it was a strong church when I came in,” mused the Rev. Dr. Damone B. Jones, Sr. Jones speaks very reverently about Gaither’s and Mrs. Scotia Gaither’s leadership and legacy. According to Jones, the Gaithers, “…actually built the church on the idea of everyone being discipled, that’s our DNA, and that’s what I push here today…it’s the hallmark of our church.”
Jones is the second and current senior pastor of Bible Way. He succeeded Gaither’s 42 years of service in 1993, and he’s been shepherding Bible Way ever since. Jones is one of Philadelphia’s premier young pastors; he’s a Bible scholar, he’s a strong advocate for education and family solidarity, and he’s been a committed leader in mentoring at-risk males.
Among Jones’ long list of servant leadership roles in ministry, he has been a member of the district attorney’s Youth Aid Panel, president of the police clergy program in the 19th Police District and was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2010 to the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Prison System. As a trusted community leader, Jones has assisted and accompanied four homicide fugitives in turning themselves in to the authorities. He is an active member of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
As moderator of the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association, he and his leadership team provide services “To produce healthy churches in an unhealthy time,” says Jones.
Alice Ann Anderson, one of the few living and long-standing members from the church’s early years, now resides in Florida. But she recently returned to Philadelphia to be honored for her decades of service during a gala anniversary luncheon celebration the church held at the Crown Plaza Hotel–City Line Avenue, Saturday, March 17. “I’ve been a member for 59 years, and I was director of music for 57 years,” Anderson proudly proclaimed.
“If you’re looking for a church home, pray about Bible Way, there’s no better place to be, then to be at the Bible Way Baptist Church,” boasts a beaming Audrey Christine Reed, a very active ministry leader and member for 47 years. Among her extensive ministry involvements, she currently teaches Sunday school to high school upper classmen. She says it’s sometimes a challenge, but she loves it. She quips, “I keep them in line!”
Bible Way is a diverse congregation, although its 1,000+ members are predominantly African-American. Included among its members are white collegians, young professionals, seniors, lawyers, blue-collar professionals, public school principals and teachers, homemakers, college administrators, policemen, ex-offenders and other cross-sections of Americana.
Garland Thompson, now in his early 30s, is president of the National Black MBA Association–Philadelphia Chapter. He was raised at the church, “I’ve been at Bible Way all my life, over 30 years.” He recalls Gaither as being a stern but very loving pastor, and he admires him for his dynamic preaching and teaching ministry style.
West Philadelphia native Khalil Rogers, 32, another person who grew up in Bible Way, serves as one of the four associate ministers. “Pastor Jones has been a blessing in my life...I don’t know what I’d do without (Bible Way), God bless Pastor Gaither, God bless Pastor Jones!” Rogers breaks into a sly smile as he recalls a time in his early years being disciplined by Mrs. Gaither, “If it wasn’t for Bible Way, put it this way, I’d be a statistic.”
The chairman of the deacons is Jerome Bell, a man who possesses a very spirited, friendly and charismatic personality. “We have a great leader in our pastor…he has a vision, he has a commitment to grow the congregants up in the nurture and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Bell’s been a member for about 12 years.
Robin Jackson, assistant principal at West Philadelphia High School, is the older sister of Pastor Jones. Remarking about her brother’s success, she offered, “I’m proud of him, I’m proud to be in the mix, I’m proud of the church!”
Jones’ wife Melissa oversees the Counseling Ministry. She says, “It’s very important for a church to have a counseling ministry,” to help members unpack some of the emotional, personal and spiritual challenges they need help overcoming.” She likens the church to a hospital, a safe haven for wounded people to come for their healing.
Aleah is the oldest child in the Jones clan, followed by her siblings Damone, Jr., Alyssa and Dominic. Aleah shared this about her father: “It’s just amazing how much influence his has, not only at Bible Way, but in the community also…It brings me closer to God to see how great my parents are, and to see that they are really working hard to strive for the kingdom.” What Aleah admires most about her parents’ ministry is the aspect of, “bringing people to Christ,” and witnessing the transformation of people and their lives becoming better.
Bible Way is actively involved in missions work locally and abroad, including clothing donations, weekly serving food to the needy and seniors, providing monetary relief for local fire victims and disaster victims in Haiti, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships for college-bound students, arranging safe surrender of wanted criminals, giving special awards and recognition to community leaders and politicians, conducting an active prison ministry and implementing numerous other impactful ministry outreach initiatives.
Bible Way Baptist Church is located at 1323 N. 52nd St. Bible study is held on Wednesdays at 7 p.m./prayer meeting at 8 p.m. Sunday services are at 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with Sunday school classes at 9:30 a.m.
On Sunday August 12 at 6 p.m., area clergy leaders will band together to host a “Voter ID Rally” at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th Street & Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
According to Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law, Act 18 of 2012 (starting with the upcoming November 2012 General Election), state law now requires voters to show an acceptable photo ID to vote at the polls. All IDs must contain a name, a photo and an expiration date that is current, unless otherwise noted. And there are restrictions on what’s considered acceptable identification.
“A number of clergy from the Philadelphia community have decided to come together, because we are very upset with the efforts in Harrisburg to suppress the votes, particularly in the African American and Hispanic communities,” said the Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church. The rally is designed to educate the voters on what proper identification they will need to vote in the upcoming November election.
“This rally is so important that we’re asking for all people, here in this great city, to come to Bright Hope Baptist Church on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. … this election is too crucial, our people have fought too much, bled too much, died too much, during the early part of the 20th century, we cannot allow their hard work and sacrifice to be in vain, simply because we’re not educated and registered to vote.”
The Rev. Dr. William Moore, senior pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church said: “We want to push for a large [voter] turnout, not a low turnout. We want people to participate in this election in November, in this political process, as they’ve never done before. … We want this [year’s voter turnout] to make a statement in the political process.”
Including Johnson and Moore, the other key Voter ID clergy coordinators for Sunday’s Voter ID Rally include:
·The Rev. Charles Quann, Bethlehem Baptist Church
·The Rev. James Baker, President of AME Minister’s Alliance of Philadelphia, Harrisburg & Vicinity
·Bishop Audrey Brunson, Sanctuary of the Open Door
·The Rev. Wayne M. Weathers, Miller Memorial Baptist Church
·The Rev. J. Daniel Jones, President of Baptist Ministers Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity
Some prominent Pennsylvanian Republicans disagree with the thought that the Voter ID Law is a form of voter suppression. They earnestly believe that it’s a way to protect and ensure the integrity of the voting process and individual voter rights.
Responding to the groundswell of foul-cries from Pennsylvanians, the media, and the legal communities regarding the new Voter ID law, Carol Aichele, secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, issued a recent statewide letter to Pennsylvanians to quell tensions and to educate voters on requirements to vote in the upcoming November election. Aichele wrote: “My goal, as secretary of the Commonwealth, is to make sure that every eligible voter has an opportunity to vote and that every vote counts. Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law requires voters to show a photo ID … This gives one person one vote.”
On Aug. 6, Gov. Tom Corbett told The Tribune at the Governor’s Mansion: “in this day and age, when everywhere we go, we’re asked for photo ID, why [is] everybody so upset about that? I think everybody wants to ensure, that: A, they have the right to vote, and this [voter ID law] isn’t stopping anyone from the right to vote; and B, that they vote one time, and where they’re supposed to vote. That’s all we’re asking for.”
According to Aichele, the following is a list of acceptable photo IDs issued by the U.S. Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
·Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT photo ID card (valid for voting 12 months past expiration date)
·U.S. military ID (active duty and retired military IDs may designate an expiration date that is indefinite). Military dependents’ IDs must contain a current expiration date.
·Employee photo identification issued by federal, Pennsylvania, or a Pennsylvania County, or municipal government
·Photo identification issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning
·Photo identification issued by a Pennsylvania care facility
In the case of a voter who has a RELIGIOUS OBJECTION to being photographed, acceptable IDs include the following:
·Valid without-photo Pennsylvania driver’s license
·PennDOT without-photo identification card
What if a voter does not have an acceptable form of ID?
·A person who is registered to vote, but does not have an acceptable form of ID, may obtain a FREE PHOTO ID for voting purposes at a PennDOT Driver’s License Center.
Pennsylvanians can view or download a free copy of voter identification requirements and related information by logging online to:
For more information about the voter ID rally, contact the Rev. Kevin Johnson at 215-232-6004 or the Rev. William Moore, 215-787-2780.
As plans to establish a special services district — much like the one in University City — move forward near Temple University in North Philadelphia, one long-time community activist is pressing to make sure residents share in its oversight.
“I’d like to see some neighborhood people involved in that special service district,” said the Rev. William Moore, pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church. “Not just people that put up big money.”
Under a proposal now in front of city Council, the city would create a special services district in the neighborhoods surrounding Temple, providing residents extra security and cleanup services.
It would be funded through an added property tax assessment, a percentage of the value of the property, assessed only on student rental properties.
Plans for the district include an area that extends roughly on the west side of Broad Street from 19th Street in the west to York Street on the north and Girard Avenue on the south. East of Broad Street it would run to 10th Street, north of Susquehanna Avenue to Lehigh. Within that area, the Yorktown section, already governed by a special controls district, Temple University’s campus and the properties on North Broad Street would be exempted.
Councilman Darrell Clarke, who introduced the legislation last month, said a growing conflict between residents and students made the new district necessary.
“We’ve had significant issues with the amount of student housing that’s been built up in that area without any planning or structure whatsoever,” he said. “It’s popping up in the middle of residential blocks. There have been a number of incidents between residents and students. It’s just been an ongoing problem for several years.”
Similar conflicts, mostly over noise, garbage and parking, led to more stringent rental rules in Yorktown. Student housing there is now limited to owner-occupied homes. That rule has been challenged in court. The city won the first round, but the case is under appeal. A similar, expanded measure, including the area that is now part of Clarke’s proposed special services district, is also being considered by Council.
Moore supports the special services district — as long as it helps strengthen the community.
“It ought to be a cooperative venture,” he said.
Clarke acknowledged Moore’s concerns, noting that the details of the board makeup have not yet been fleshed out.
“There is some concern by the residents, who are concerned that they will have minimal or no input,” he said. “Then on the other side, you have property owners whose position is that we are paying for the extra support, so we should have significant members of the board.”
He promised that the board would be made up of a diverse group of people, adding, “We’ll work that out.”
Long a community activist in North Philadelphia, Moore has seen the neighborhood undergo radical changes over the last 30-plus years. What was once a prosperous middle-class neighborhood started to slip into decay in the mid-1970s as drug dealers invaded its streets and the homeowners who could afford to leave did so. At one point there were 20,000 vacant lots in the area, he said.
“When I came, Master Street was a model block,” he said. “Then, there was a time when this was a wilderness situation. Banks would not even loan money to buy or fix up property in North Central Philadelphia. All of a sudden we’re being rediscovered.”
That rediscovery has yielded mixed results.
“You can’t argue that [redevelopment] enhances the neighborhood,” he acknowledged. “It’s better than vacant lots.”
But, students don’t put the down same roots, he noted — and don’t have the same concern for the neighborhood.
“On Friday night it’s like a disco,” Moore said, worrying that redevelopment geared only toward students would, ultimately, fail to stabilize the entire community.
“North Philadelphia is becoming the inner-city bedroom community for Temple students,” Moore said, continuing that he’d like to see a more diverse neighborhood. “I’m not anti-development. I’m for responsible and balanced development.”
Ultimately, whether or not the district is created depends on the owners of student rentals.
The city will hold two hearings on the matter, which Clarke said he expected to happen before the end of the year. Then, owners of student rentals will vote on the proposal, which will fail only if a majority opposes the plan. According to Clarke, if 51 percent of student rental owners oppose the assessment it would be defeated. Otherwise, it will be implemented, probably by early spring, Clarke said.
Moore said he would keep urging that community residents be given a role.
“They ought not to just be rolled over because they don’t have any money,” he said.
According to noted historian, lecturer and author Cornel West and syndicated talk show host Tavis Smiley, neither mainstream political party — nor their chosen representatives in the general election — are doing enough to talk about poverty, the destruction it causes in urban communities and the impact it has on families.
Smiley, West and a myriad of community action groups — including the Philadelphia Student Union — took turns discussing poverty and how to best eradicate it during the Philadelphia stop of the “Poverty 2.0 Tour,” which has already taken the pair through Ohio and Virginia, with Florida being the last leg of the tour. The Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, on 19th Street near Masters in North Philadelphia, hosted the third tour stop.
This is the second year in which Smiley and West embarked on such a tour, which visits key battleground states and hosts town hall-styled meetings with local residents.
Tenth Memorial Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Dr. William B. Moore and state house hopeful Jordan Harris also offered remarks.
“The sprint between Labor Day and Election Day is when the attention of the nation is focused intently on the presidential race,” Smiley said, noting that last year, he and West visited nine states and 15 cities. “We know the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the truth of the matter is, neither has said enough, as of yet, about the issue of poverty.
“The moderators need to put poverty front and center in the upcoming debates,” he added.
Although Smiley took both candidates to task for not mentioning the uncomfortable topic, he noted Obama ran on a platform of eliminating poverty, and so far, has failed to deliver.
“Obama is infinitely better in this election than Mitt Romney,” Smiley said. “But, Barack Obama, when he ran for president as a senator four years ago, he ran on a platform saying he was going to fight to eradicate poverty in America. He hasn’t quite gotten around to that yet. He said he was going to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour; he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.
“Before you perceive this as hating on the president, we’re talking about accountability,” he added. “We want to get poverty on the agenda, and sometimes, you have to fight with your friends to push this issue out there.”
Smiley also said the media needs to ask the questions, if the candidates are unwilling to voluntarily bring the topic up.
“So one, we have get the candidates to address the issue. If the candidates won’t address the issue, then the media will have to address the issue, because the media is covering the horse race,” said Smiley, who noted that here, in the richest country in the world, more than 50 million people go to bed hungry, and of that number, 9 million are children. “The second way is for the media to talk about it, which will make the candidates talk about it.
“So [the candidates] can force the media to cover about it, and the media can force the candidates to talk about it,” Smiley continued. “You do that by demanding the four American journalists moderating the debate to put this on the agenda.”
West agreed, noting that not enough is being done to fight poverty — and there’s not enough people willing to fight, Civil Rights-era style, for their fellow man.
“We expect that the forthcoming census data will reveal that poverty in America is not an abstraction, and too many Americans are living hand to mouth. Basic needs such as living-wage jobs, food, clothing, medicine and shelter cannot be ignored by the major parties,” West said. “We live in a society of warped priorities; we live in a system that is failing poor people and working people, and is not working for poor people and working people.”