The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has been called everything from a national tragedy to a national disgrace; a hate crime with more and more rallies taking place everyday calling for George Zimmerman’s arrest and justice for the victim and his grieving family.
President Barack Obama has also weighed in on the issue, leaving behind the sound bite, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
But absent from most of the discussions, most of the rallies, most of the righteous anger and all of the remarks from an increasing plethora of Black leaders and media figures is the other national disgrace — the abominably high murder rate among young Black males.
“This is an epidemic that’s been going on too long,” said Mayor Michael Nutter in a recent interview. “And unfortunately, you will find African-American males at the bottom of good categories and at the top of negative categories.”
Last Thursday, Mayor Nutter spoke at a rally in Love Park regarding the Martin killing. Nutter said people are concerned over Trayvon Martin, but also need to be outraged over what’s happening on their own street corners.
“How is it possible that thousands of Black men, thousands of Black people, [are] killed every year, and no one says a word?” asked Nutter in a published report.
Community leader and anti-violence activist Bilal Qayyum, who is also working with other community leaders on the new media campaign Live and Let Live: Promoting Peace and Eradicating the Culture of Violence, also questioned the Black community’s lack of outrage over the meaningless killings that happen in its neighborhoods every single day.
“Everyone is angry about what happened to this kid Trayvon Martin in Florida, but I tell people that in Philadelphia in the last ten years we’ve had 3,760 people killed. And over 2,600 of them were Black males,” Qayyum said. “Where’s the anger about that? In Chicago, there were a bunch of shootings just a couple of weekends ago and again, mostly Black males killing other Black males. Where is the outrage over that?”
The Black genocide taking place in the African-American communities didn’t happen overnight, social experts say. And, many of the factors contributing to it weren’t spawned in the Black community. Systemic racism, government apathy, the poor quality of education in many predominantly Black public schools and the loss of living wage jobs, have all played a part in creating the ongoing bloodshed.
“This is something that affects every aspect of life in our city,” said Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW and president of Black Men at Penn. Lassiter said the level of anger isn’t the same because people are being reactive rather than proactive, which is harder.
“It’s easier to be visceral rather than do the hard work of violence prevention,” Lassiter said. “We’re silent over the Black genocide, yet Trayvon Martin’s assassination gives us an example of the level of outrage that could take place — but deafening silence when the same thing happens on the street corners of our neighborhoods. I think it’s because we’re hypocrites; we’re okay with the moral erosion happening right in front of our eyes. There’s too much talk and too much inactivity — too much silence from the Black churches and the Black community. There are too many Black Zimmermans in our communities right now. Curtis up the street can commit two murders, and no one is willing to say anything. Are we really going to be okay with that?”
To cite a recent example, on March 20 at around 3:30 p.m., an unidentified Black male pulled up in a gold colored car in the vicinity of Fifth and Pierce streets. The still unidentified male fired several shots at a 19-year-old Black male. The victim ran south on Fifth and then onto Pierce Street, according to police. The unidentified shooter pursued him, still firing, and striking two men, ages 51 and 52. The victims were hospitalized in stable condition. That same evening, just before 9 p.m., gunfire exploded again inside a playground near Fourth and Washington where at least 60 people were gathered. An unidentified gunman fired several shots into the crowd, striking a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. The boy suffered a graze wound to the ankle and the girl was struck in the thigh. Both were rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where they were treated and released.
At the publishing of this article, the number of homicides in Philadelphia this year has climbed to 92. According to figures from reports researched by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, across the nation, 85 percent of the Black victims of homicide are male, and 51 percent are between the ages of 17 and 19.
“Should we be outraged over the death of Trayvon Martin? Yes, but cases like this happen everyday,” said Minister Rodney Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. “Martin’s death symbolizes the injustices done to us on a daily basis. The hoodie he wore was part of the stereotypical profile, but Wall Street stuck up the whole nation wearing business suits. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called it justifiable homicide — that Zimmerman felt justified because our Black genocide gives a license to people like him. There has to be resentment over the wide spread murder of ourselves and our injustices to each other. I think for too long we’ve relied on someone else for our own betterment. We’re overdue to stop asking America for what’s due to us. We’ve done a great work for America and now it’s time to do a great work for ourselves. We have geniuses in every field of human endeavor, and we need to marshal those strengths. When we do better, America does better. There was a time when our children would walk ten miles to learn to read and write. Now we have children who live across the street from a Free Library and have never been inside it.”
A major tradeshow was highlighted during the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau annual luncheon.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that LIGHTFAIR International (LFI), the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow and conference, will return to Philadelphia on April 23–25, 2013.
LFI’s decision to return to Philadelphia follows a record-breaking 2011 performance marked by the highest attendee satisfaction scores in the show’s 22-year history. More than 23,000 registered attendees turned out for the conference.
“With customer satisfaction levels reaching historic highs in the record-breaking 2011 showing, LIGHTFAIR’s 2013 return to Philadelphia sets a new stage for continued growth,” said Jeffrey L. Portman Sr., president and chief operating officer of LFI managing partner AMC, Inc.
“It’s a natural response to preferences clearly voiced by LFI attendees and offers LFI exhibitors a staging venue unmatched in size, scale and potential.”
Nutter stressed the importance of the city’s hospitality sector as he addressed 1,200 business and hospitality leaders and elected officials who attended the PCVB luncheon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“A strong hospitality sector is critical to Philadelphia so that we can host world-class trade shows and to be a destination for businesses,” said Nutter. “We have great restaurants, hotels, shopping and cultural amenities that appeal to everyone. These assets help our city attract businesses to the city, and new residents.”
The focus on strengthening the city’s hospitality sector comes at time when there are 55,900 hospitality-related jobs in Philadelphia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The luncheon served as an occasion to highlight PCVB’s marketing efforts. The bureau has booked more than $2.8 billion convention center expansion-related business.
The PCVB is working to position Philadelphia as a top international destination.
“We’ve been studying travel patterns and are now marketing Philadelphia in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil and Russia in addition to the steadfast Western European markets where we have seen so much success within the past 10 years,” said PCVB President and CEO Jack Ferguson.
“As the international tourism arm for the city of Philadelphia, we’re letting our new customers around the globe know why Philadelphia is the city that they should choose to visit for leisure and for business. We continue to study convention trends, our competition and talk to our customers to ensure that we deliver the best customer service — the complete package, to them and their attendees.”
The PCVB recently led representatives from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation on a mission to Paris and London for a series of press announcements to promote Philadelphia as a global arts destination.
Since the bureau’s international marketing efforts began in 2000, Philadelphia has moved from the 21st to the 13th most visited American city.
During the event, PCVB unveiled its “Completely Philadelphia” video which highlights everything from Philadelphia’s university and life sciences community to its sports teams, shopping and dining destinations. The new video www.philadelphiausa.travel/phillyvideo, joins a full suite of tools that makes information about the city more accessible.
Mayor Michael Nutter has announced the weekend curfew for minors is going to remain in effect for the foreseeable future, keeping unaccompanied minors off the streets of University City and Center City as a safeguard against violent flash mobs.
Parents and guardians who spoke with the Philadelphia Tribune said they support the mayor’s efforts and that if more parents would step up and enforce their own curfews, the city wouldn’t have had to step in to curb teen violence.
“My granddaughter is 13 years old and she can’t go most places unless her mother or I go with her. There are just too many crazy young people out there,” said Amanda Leatherberry. “Is Mayor Nutter punishing all to make sure a few get the message? Well, yes. But what else is he supposed to do? My granddaughter Kendra is being raised in a strict environment, and if she does go someplace she knows how to act. Kids 13 years old and younger shouldn’t be out after a certain time alone anyway. Those who want to break curfew are going to do it — they will and then the parents have to be held accountable. I also think it’s a positive thing to extend the recreation center hours, because there are a lot of latchkey kids out there.”
On Friday, Mayor Nutter announced that the Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. temporary curfew for minors in the targeted enforcement areas of Center City and University City would remain in effect. The announcement followed the beginning of the September school semester.
Nutter said that while minors are allowed to be on city streets with a legal guardian, minors that police officers caught breaking curfew would either be sent home, brought home or transported to a police station where their parents or guardians would be contacted. As a balance to the stricter curfew enforcement, the city would continue to extend the weekend hours at selected recreation centers.
“In August, our city’s law enforcement agencies, justice system, community partners and residents responded overwhelmingly to the call to keep our city free from random violent attacks,” Nutter said. “Under the temporary curfew, there were no further incidents. As we begin a new school year, it is important for our city’s students to remain safe, study hard and to adjust to their new schedules. Therefore, I am extending the 9 p.m. curfew for minors, which will help the police to respond to disturbances and will keep Philadelphians and visitors safe.”
Tanya Haig, who has three children ages 14, 11 and 8, said she thinks Nutter is correct and also expressed the sentiment that the problems of teens randomly attacking pedestrians is an issue that starts in the home.
“Kids are a mimic of us, and they will test the waters — so it’s up to responsible parents to train them how to behave,” she said. “I also think it’s a good idea that for those who won’t take responsibility for their children to be held accountable and hitting them in the pocket with fines will help them get the message. Because any child 13 years old or under, on a normal day, should be doing something productive. If they have too much idle time they will get into trouble, and that’s what I think we were seeing with these flash mobs. So having the recreation centers open later is a good plan, too, because establishments like movies and skating rinks shouldn’t admit minors after certain hours. But beyond what the mayor does, parents should know where their children are. Period.”
Last month Nutter directed his staff to review the current curfew laws to see how they could deal more effectively with the issues of youth activity and youth violence in evening hours. He said his intention is to develop proposals for an updated curfew law in cooperation with City Council.
Since the city began enforcing the curfew laws, there haven’t been any violent flash mob incidents.
The weekday curfew is 10:30 p.m. for minors 13 years old and older, 9 p.m. for minors 12 years old and under, and will remain unchanged. Also, fines for parents and legal guardians of children who break curfew will also continue. After receiving a first violation notice, parents can be fined up to $500 for successive violations.
The mayor said that notices and citations would be issued when the parent comes to collect their child from the police station. If parents do not collect their child within a reasonable time, the Philadelphia Police Department will contact the Department of Human Services to initiate an investigation.
“I look forward to working with City Council to develop legislation that meets the needs of public safety while ensuring that young Philadelphians can safely engage in evening activities,” Nutter said.
Republican challenger hand-delivers letter to mayor, says she won’t ‘fade away’
Republican mayoral candidate Karen Brown threw down the gauntlet Friday morning, hand delivering a letter to Mayor Michael Nutter challenging him to take part in a series of debates before the Nov. 8 election.
“I’ve been trying to do this since the primary,” Brown said, as she waited in the second floor corridor outside the mayor’s office. “In the beginning I was told that when it gets later in the general [election season] we’ll talk about a debate. Then I was told, ‘We’ll let you know.’”
According to Brown, Nutter has avoided debating her despite repeated attempts on her part to get him to agree to at least one policy discussion. Tired of waiting, she decided to press the mayor personally rather than wait for his campaign staff to act on her suggestion.
Brown was ushered into Nutter’s office at around 9:45 a.m. When she emerged a few minutes later she said the mayor accepted the letter.
Nutter’s campaign spokesperson Sheila Simmons did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
Brown’s theory is that Nutter is hoping that if he ignores her she’ll simply disappear.
“I don’t think he wants to give me any more legs,” she said. “I think he’s thinking that the least time I can get with the press or any time in front of the camera will cause me to fade away.”
Asked if she planned on fading away, she replied with a sharp shake of her head: “Nah.”
The plan formally outlined in her letter suggested five debates at events throughout the city.
“If it’s in their neighborhood, people will come,” she said, then quoted the letter: “I have chosen two venues — Southwark School in South Philly and Boys Latin Charter School in West Philly and I welcome you to select venues in Center City, North Philly and the Northeast. Now more than ever it’s important for members of our communities to have a choice. I look forward to hearing from you and giving our voters a fair choice in November.”
She added that she’s open to pretty much any forum as long as the public gets compare the two candidates.
“I just want to get him in a place where I can discuss policy,” she said.
She characterized Nutter as “hostile” toward her saying that he has shushed her at several of his speaking engagements when she’s tried to ask questions. At one point, as she stood in the corridor outside Nutter’s office a security guard tried to move her along until a member of Nutter’s staff told him it was OK.
Brown, once a Democratic candidate for city council, has taken an interesting route to the Republican nomination and now appears to be the focus of a coalition of forces that oppose Nutter. They include the Republican establishment headed by the party’s general counsel Michael Meehan; renegade Republican and former candidate for the Republican nomination John Featherman and former Mayor John F. Street, a Democrat.
Nutter is expected to win in the predominately Democratic city.
However, his showing in the May primary was somewhat less than expected when Democratic challenger T. Milton Street garnered about 24 percent of the vote compared to Nutter’s 76 percent.
The race is complicated by vocal opposition from the city’s firefighter’s union and simmering tensions between the mayor and the city’s municipal unions, which have worked for his entire term without a contract.
While slain civil rights leader Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. often dreamed that his nonviolent crusade would lead to racial equality, he also envisioned the arrival of housing and economic fairness that would lead the downtrodden out of sub-human living conditions.
If alive to see the transformation of the decrepit Hawthorne Square housing project and its immediate surroundings, King himself would be proud.
That was the overriding sentiment when city and housing officials on Wednesday unveiled a plaque at 13th and Fitzwater streets, renaming the vicinity Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza. Symbolically, the renaming of the plaza brings to a close at least one of the chapters of public housing in the city; planners decided to name the new plaza after King to memorialize his famous visit here in 1965, when he addressed hundreds of Hawthorne residents and demanded fair and equal housing for them.
“We continue to feel the ripple effects of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which was a direct result” of King’s work in that arena, said Philadelphia Housing Authority Commissioner Karen Newton Cole. “So it is really important that, moving forward, we commemorate what Martin Luther King did, especially as it relates to housing.”
King visited what was then known as Hawthorne Square for a two-day visit, August 2–3, 1965, and more than an estimated 2,300 people gathered on that corner to hear him speak. In 1970, longtime politician James Tayoun — then the councilman for the district that included Hawthorne Square — petitioned PHA to change its name. Tayoun was also one of the earlier supporters of King’s visit to Philadelphia — a notion that wasn’t all too popular at the time.
“We are standing on hallowed ground,” the veteran politician said, joining the ranks of Council members Jannie Blackwell and Kenyatta Johnson — who grew up in the neighborhood — who made stirring remarks about the neighborhood’s transformation. “It’s hallowed because I remember the faces of the young men and women who died here because they couldn’t get affordable housing. It’s my pleasure to have a small part in his role here.”
PHA Administrative Receiver and Executive Director Michael P. Kelly echoed the sentiment of many when he said that Dr. King, “on this spot, held a rally that addressed economic injustice and housing for the poor. Those ideas are still valid today.”
The negative impact of the housing policy to warehouse the very poor in high-rise dwellings that lack the necessary social infrastructure cannot be overstated. Dr. William Tucker, president of the Philadelphia MLK Center for Nonviolence said King should be commended for bringing attention to the housing disparity, noting that the late leader spoke out when authorities began “substituting horizontal slums with vertical slums,” Tucker said. “Now, Philadelphia is ahead of the curve in eliminating housing projects.”
Mayor Nutter, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and a host of other city and state politicians also praised the works of King. The dedication also commemorates the 40th anniversary of his assassination.
MLK Plaza joins Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as two of the city’s most prominent renaming initiatives, and joins a nationwide trend of cities embracing King with major renaming moves. CNN reported that more than 900 cities have streets named after King, and Memphis, Tennessee — where King was slain while on the balcony of a downtown hotel — is finally dealing with its past and renaming a one-mile stretch of Linden Avenue in King’s honor.
Departing, Blackwell was reminded of King’s overriding compassion.
“Nothing is more important when we think of Dr. Martin Luther King than love,” Blackwell said. “During a time when people were deathly afraid, King stood up for them, and loved them.”
What are they giving back to the community?
It is a question often asked by African Americans of the stores that do business in predominantly African-American neighborhoods from coast to coast, and often the answer is unsatisfactory.
This is not the case, however, with Philadelphia-based urban apparel retailer Villa. With 11 of its 32 stores (with locations also in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, Reading, York, Allentown, Camden, Cleveland and Toledo) located in Philadelphia, the company has initiated a new marketing campaign — “Dream Project” — aimed at inspiring and “awakening the dreams within Philadelphia’s youth.”
Late last month at Benjamin Franklin High School, the Dream Project brought together more than 500 local high school students for a day of engagement and mentoring from more than 70 business executives representing companies such as Nike, BET, American Express, Fannie Mae and others. Mayor Michael Nutter was in attendance, as was former Def Jam president Kevin Liles. Liles has played a major role in the success of artists such as Jay Z, Ludacris , LL Cool J and Ashanti, to name a few.
Students participated in panel discussions with the various professionals. They were given exposure to potential career pathways outside of the norm, such as in sports, entertainment, banking and finance, business and marketing, E-commerce and real estate.”
“I enjoyed interacting with all the kids, and as the day progressed, I personally saw kids’ lives were being impacted positively, said Hezekiah Griggs, managing partner at New York-based H360 Capital. “I received several emails that impressed upon me the importance of what took place during the day.”
According to Patrick Walsh, vice president of marketing at Villa, the company will continue to gain more visibility but not just as a retailer. Next Wednesday, Villa will host a screening of CNN’s Black in America 4. The event will be held at Shoemaker Mastery Charter in West Philadelphia. Four hundred students from the Mastery charters will screen the show and then have a chance to pepper Emmy Award-winning producer Jason Samuels, an African American, about his career path. Samuels is the producer of the show.
Joining Samuels on the panel will be Navarrow Wright. Wright is one of the featured success stories in Black in America. He is the chief technology officer at Interactive One, the nation’s largest digital media company serving African Americans.
“It’s imperative — and it’s our obligation as African Americans, that we do all that we can to expose the future leaders to all different sorts of opportunities,” Wright said recently.
And on Jan. 1, at the Liacouras Center, Villa will host a high school basketball tournament, bringing together nationally ranked teams from the New York and Philadelphia areas with the proceeds being funneled back into the Dream Project.
All of these ventures are under the directorship of Patrick Walsh, vice president of marketing at Villa. Before he embarked on the project, Walsh spent time going throughout the city and talking directly with students, wanting to find out exactly what their aspirations were for the future.
“Everyone who has seen the struggles of the last 12 months knows it has been hard on the youth,” Walsh says. “Flash mobs, bullying, problems on public transportation. We’ve seen a lot of negative stories in terms of our youth.
“I wanted to interact with the kids and see what they were doing, and you know what?” Walsh continued, “I walked away with the understanding that the bulk of our kids are not doing these things. A lot of the kids looked just like me and others who are being successful. But they wonder who is going to help them get to their destiny.”
Walsh knows that as the director of marketing for a growing company, his job is to drive business to Villa. But he grew up in the hard scrabble neighborhoods of Queens and Harlem watching African Americans struggle to get ahead.
“We are going to do more,” Walsh said. “The Dream Project is just a launch pad. It is a launch pad for sharing success stories in the community. There are so many stories of successful minorities in non-traditional businesses. We have connections to phenomenal people. It’s our obligation to get the message out so that our kids can aspire to be just like them.”
Give a “cut-above” credit to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey for quietly traveling to barber shops in numerous neighborhoods around the city to talk with customers, engaging in conservations about community perceptions of police.
The Commissioner taking his time to listen — getting earfuls from folks sharing their complaints and kudos — is smart policing. This is the type of initiative needed to move the phrase “community partnership” from a politically popular cliché to an effective crime fighting practice.
Commissioner Ramsey and Mayor Nutter both know about and care about doing something about the biggest crime related problem confronting Philadelphia: the outrageous levels of murders.
The victims of those murders are disproportionately young Black males as are the perpetrators.
As Philadelphia Tribune City Editor Daryl Gale perceptively noted in a commentary last week, “young Philadelphians are so hopeless and filled with shortsighted desperation that they’ve engaged in what could well be the first case of self-inflicted genocide in human history.”
The 324 murders recorded in Philadelphia last year produced the unenviable distinction of ranking Philly as #1 in murder rates among America’s ten largest cities…more than New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.
And before the smoke of New Year’s Eve fireworks dissipated the smoke of gunfire besmirched the dawning of 2012 with another spate of homicides around Philly.
Mayor Nutter, during his inauguration speech last week for his second term, described this murderous behavior among some (and certainly not all) young Black men as “a local and national epidemic not sufficiently talked about, much less tackled.”
Mayor Nutter went beyond the standard “we’re going to put more police on our streets — 120 new officers on foot patrol by summer this year” by promising to “continue to build partnerships with the community through community policing and Philly Rising.” Let’s hope that 2012 is truly the year for new commitment and new thinking in City Hall about engagement with “community” in crafting and implementing crime reduction strategies.
One of the biggest failings in Philadelphia regarding crime reduction is the failure of City Hall to effectively work with community groups that daily work in the trenches with those impacted by crime and those apart of destructive criminal behavior.
As one community activist noted during an interview last week, “There’s been a disconnect between police and community initiatives. The City has to work in partnership with communities. There are groups out there working on violence reduction that never get credit.”
While politicians and police officials talk about partnerships with communities you rarely see community groups included in press conferences where City Hall pats itself on the back by announcing reductions in murder rates and/or decreases in crime generally.
Community based violence reduction efforts already confront uphill battles on the front lines from those they are trying to impact who feel these efforts have little influence among the power-brokers in City Hall and Center City corporate suites that hold real sway over matters involving employment, education and criminal justice policies.
City Hall brushing aside these efforts — deliberately or inadvertently — reinforces the perception of powerlessness of those efforts in the minds of people those efforts are trying to reach. Community groups are getting ready to launch a new violence reduction initiative captioned “Live and Let Live” — phrasing that tactically addresses a prime trigger for much of the conflicts leading to fatal violence: arguments over perceptions of someone not “respecting” someone.
The Mayor, City Council, corporate and civic leaders need to back these kinds of community initiatives, not just with making the easy endorsements but with resources inclusive of providing money.
Mayor Nutter deserves credit for declaring during his inauguration speech his willingness to “extend a hand” to persons ready to “put guns down.” Nutter said, “We must show them that if you put the gun down we’ll work with you to put a book in your hands, to put some work and a job in your hands, to put a paycheck in your hands.”
To transform the mayor’s sincere rhetoric into reality City Hall has to stop shooting itself in the foot with counter-productive practices like the Police Department’s Stop-&-Frisk campaign and the sweet-heart Project Labor Agreement Nutter announced late last year for trade unions with a history of racial discrimination.
Stop-&-Frisk is infused with racial profiling mainly targeting Black and Latino males. This dragnet policing alienates people who the police need for cooperation in identifying criminals. Commissioner Ramsey bemoaned the lack of community cooperation in solving murders and the impact that has on lower rates of solving murders yet some of that lack of cooperation comes from adverse reactions to offensive policing.
As law professor Sherrilyn Ifill noted in a short essay posted recently on The Root there are “unintended consequences” from the Stop-&-Frisks in New York City that like Philadelphia overwhelmingly targets non-whites. “Fostering a relationship of hostility with the city’s Black and Latino male population is not only wrong; it’s also not smart policing,” Ifill wrote noting disincentives like discouraging providing police with crime solving tips.
Last June the Nutter Administration entered a legal settlement to reform Stop-&-Frisk yet months later the mayor committed city-funded construction jobs exclusively to discriminatory building trade unions, the types of jobs needed for that “hand-up” referenced in his inauguration speech.
The time is ripe for real engagement with communities.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
National and local news media lavished accolade-filled coverage on Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter last summer when Nutter harshly lashed irreverent trouble-making teens and their irresponsible parents during a Sunday morning church service address.
Nutter’s remarks, a mixture of accurate and disingenuous, fit a favored news media narrative: aberrant behavior among Blacks arises principally from personal deficiencies not perverse reactions to structural inequities ingrained in American society.
Given the command of news media coverage narratives, irrespective of narratives so often contradicting fact, it’s no surprise that the news media blithely by-passed serious analysis of an action by Nutter weeks ago inflaming the inequities undergirding the matrix of behaviors the mayor castigated during his pulpit outburst.
The persistent failures within too much of the white news media — mainstream and alternative — to provide probative coverage of racial realities in America is not a new phenomenon.
These failures are American as apple pie and old as the news media’s beginnings in America according to detailed findings contained in the insightful new book “News For All The People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media” (Verso 2011).
Mayor Nutter’s announcement of exclusive employment deals (Project Labor Agreements) with local building trades unions — infamous for racism — condemns qualified minority construction workers and contractors to years more of exclusion from publicly financed projects with consequent damage to the already tattered economic fabric in non-white communities across Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter promises that his supervision of PLAs will ensure inclusive opportunities for non-whites and city residents.
But the mayor’s promises will require more than a few miracles to make real based on the lack of inclusion by the building trades unions and major contractors under previous PLAs.
“The majority of the population of a large American city has just been sold-out once again,” stated National Black Chamber of Commerce head Harry Alford in a commentary carried in the Black Press including The Philadelphia Tribune condemning the PLAs announced by Mayor Nutter.
Alford, citing facts ignored by news media coverage, noted that past PLAs in Philadelphia and everywhere else have been a “total disaster in terms of diversity” for Blacks, Hispanics, other non-whites and women.
The awareness-expanding “News For All,” book examining both the development of the news media in America and the role of race in news content, is co-authored by Juan Gonzalez, who began his award-winning journalism career at the Philadelphia Daily News in the late 1970s.
“Why have stereotypes been so persistent in American news, given the nation’s founding commitment to freedom of the press and its many struggles over slavery, territorial expansion and civil rights?” Gonzalez and his co-author Joseph Torres ask in the book’s introduction.
“For more than 250 years the nation’s news media, no matter how politically liberal, conservative or radical, no matter what class they purported to represent, remained the press of its white population.”
Gonzalez, a columnist for the New York Daily News and co-host of the nationally/internationally syndicated TV and radio show “Democracy Now,” was in Philadelphia last week to talk about his latest book.
In full disclosure, Gonzalez is a professional colleague and personal friend of mine from our days at Philly’s Daily News. The first journalism award we won at the Daily News was for a 1979 investigative series on housing gentrification in Philadelphia.
Gonzalez and I were founding members of that paper’s Third World Caucus which pushed for more inclusive coverage, hiring and promotion practices at that paper.
Caucus efforts contributed to the Daily News hiring its first Black executive editor in 1985, Jay Harris…an event noted in “News For All.”
Harris hired a Wall Street Journal reporter named Michael Days who eventually became the first Black to lead that paper…one of the few Blacks to ever head a major urban daily newspaper.
Gonzalez, during his remarks last week, presented little known history about the U.S. news media like how the U.S. Postal Service during most of its first one hundred years of operation distributed more newspapers than personal letters.
“The federal government played a pivotal role in the distribution of information because the Founders felt that information was critical to the development of democracy,” Gonzalez said during a talk at Temple University’s Center City campus that followed a reception held in his honor by Al Dia, the Delaware Valley’s largest Hispanic-owned newspaper.
“News For All” also examines some of the news media’s dirtiest laundry — the media’s active roles in lynching Blacks, exterminating Native Americans and brutally harassing Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
“News” recounts the little known Wilmington, N.C. uprising of 1898 where a racist mob, egged on by an influential newspaper editor, overthrew that city’s elected government suffering no reprisals from state or federal officials.
A prime target of those racist rioters was the South’s most successful Black-owned newspaper — forcing that paper’s editor to flee to Philadelphia.
Another of the many interesting stories in the book is that of Pedro Gonzalez, a Latino broadcaster in Los Angeles whose opposition to the racist deportation of Mexicans in the early 1930s led to a false rape conviction and deportation.
“Here is a hero who stood up to oppose mass deportation and was struck down — and no one knows about him,” Gonzalez said.
“A lot of minority journalists were targeted and jailed for fighting for a free press…”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
City and transit officials broke ground on Paseo Verde this week, a $48 million mixed use “green” development in North Philadelphia.
The project, at the corner of 9th and Berks streets, adjacent to the campus of Temple University, is being hailed as a green development because of its proximity to SEPTA’s regional rail station.
The station, which is SEPTA’s fourth largest, serves 8,000 people a day.
“Paseo Verde represents another step toward Philadelphia becoming America’s greenest city. Once again, Philadelphia and its partners are demonstrating that affordable can be sustainable,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who, along with state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, Council President Darrell Clarke, Joe Casey, general manager of the Southeastern Transportation Authority and a host of others plunged ceremonial shovels in the dirt to officially kick-off the project.
Clarke and Nutter, who once served on Council together, put their past competitiveness behind them for the event.
“I used to sit across from the mayor in City Council, and it could get a little competitive. We always wanted to see who could get more shovels,” joked Clarke. “Now, we share shovels.”
To highlight the eco-friendly nature of the project, the mayor, Clarke and Casey arrived by regional rail.
“We all came by train and we were on time,” Casey quipped, noting that several other dignitaries were late. “They probably drove.”
Clarke too, praised the ease with which officials arrived.
“I don’t do public transportation,” the council president said. “But, it was wonderful.”
Construction is expected wrap up in about 18 months.
The project includes 120 residential units, both market price and affordable housing. Officials said 17 units will be handicapped accessible.
In addition, Paseo Verde boasts 30,000 square feet of commercial and community space.
The fact that SEPTA is just steps away is not the only eco-friendly aspect of the project. The buildings will have blue roofs that store run-off water temporarily, green roofs that are planted with grass and trees, permeable paving, water gardens, solar panels and use recycled and renewable materials.
At the center of the project, the feature which gave the development its name, will be a series of green walkways connecting the development to Temple and a park on the west side of the tracks.
The city provided about $5.5 million to fund the project, with the remainder coming from private investors.
“This is now a place of choice,” Clarke said.
Kitchen commended the developer, Asociacion Puertorriqauenos en Marcha (APM), for its work in North Philadelphia, and for linking the project to transit.
“Nobody wanted to invest,” she said. “But, once urban transit started to take hold, the district came alive.”
Casey said that SEPTA plans to plough $1 million into the nearby Temple station upgrading platforms, adding bike racks and other upgrades.
“APM has been working for over 40 years on building better futures for our community,” said Nilda Ruiz, president of APM. “Paseo Verde is the culmination of that effort. This project will benefit our residents for generations to come.
Philadelphia has had 187 murders so far in 2012, and law enforcement officials, along with lawmakers and city residents, are concerned about the recent spike in homicides.
In January, as a further incentive for the community to tell police where the city’s most wanted fugitives are hiding, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of these dangerous criminals.
“We will be doubling the funding of our witness assistance program to protect witnesses from that hateful ‘don’t snitch’ mentality. Also, as of today there is a standing reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects wanted for murder, wanted for any homicide in the city. To every criminal out there, I just put a $20,000 bounty on your head. We’re coming for you, we will find you, and people will give up that information,” Nutter said.
So far, although no one has been able to claim a $20,000 reward, that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to, according to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who said it’s a little early to gauge results yet.
“The $20,000 is for the arrest and conviction of a suspect — and right now we do have some people who are eligible, but it’s still a little early at this point,” Ramsey said. “There are several cases that are still going through the process of the justice system, and that takes some time.”
Is a $20,000 “bounty” enough of an incentive for witnesses and tipsters to override the so-called “no snitching” culture and come forward with information regarding the locations of the city’s most wanted? Some city leaders think so.
“I think $20,000 is more than sufficient, provided of course that people know the police will protect them — witness protection is always a paramount issue,” said Chad Lassiter, MSW, President of Black Men at Penn. “I think we also need to keep the information about the reward money in the minds of city residents through ads and flyers and public information — almost like a campaign. I think if people know the money is there and protection is there, they’re going to keep cooperating with police.”
Bilal Qayyum, longtime community activist and executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, also raised the issue of protecting tipsters and witnesses. Qayyum said there are probably homicide cases where people know who the killer is, and know where they are, but are still afraid of retaliation — even though the suspect probably doesn’t have enough influence to have someone killed even if they’re on the other side of the city.
“The reality is that most of these cats are just thugs who have no real organization behind them — they can’t reach beyond their own neighborhoods. They might have some crazy family members or friends but that’s it. But the perception is that they can. Look at that young girl, Chante Wright who was in witness protection. They couldn’t get her until she left the program and came back to Philly,” Qayyum said. “So is $20,000 enough to really make witnesses or tipsters give up the information? I used to think so, but maybe its not.”
The following local fugitives are wanted for murder. Getting them off the streets will make communities that much safer, and could make someone’s bank account a little fatter. Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts should contact the Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334 / 3335 or dial 911.
The night of June 24 was a busy one for Philadelphia police, who had to respond to several shootings and stabbings that weekend. Among them was George Fox, 44, who was working the bar at T-Barr’s Place, in the 2200 block of South 8th Street. Fox was stabbed multiple times during an attempted robbery. Through reviewing surveillance cameras as part of the investigation, police have identified a suspect in Fox’s killing. Authorities are searching for 31-year-old Omar Wright. According to investigators, surveillance recordings show Wright entering the bar wearing a hoodie and demanding money from Fox. He allegedly stabbed the victim, stole cash from the register and fled the scene.
On Sunday, January 1, at approximately 1:25 a.m., police officers from the 15th District responded to a radio call of gunshots and a male shot on the highway. Upon arrival, officers located an unknown male suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and back. The victim was identified as Gerard Market, 48, from the 4100 block of Orchard Street. Market was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where physicians pronounced him dead at 1:55 a.m. Based on their investigation, homicide detectives issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Johnson, 30, on January 4. Johnson is from the 1300 block of 66th Avenue.
On the night of Thursday, February 9, at 1:29 a.m., police officers from the 39th District were called to the vicinity of Marion and Hansberry Street in response to a report of gunfire. When responding officers arrived at the location, they found 23-year old David McClenic suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation revealed that McClenic was involved in a physical altercation with several males and connected Anthony Baker, 26, with the fatal shooting. Baker’s last known address was on the 6300 block of Algard Street.