Representatives from numerous organizations and elected officials gathered at Hibachi’s Grill and Supreme Buffet in the Penrose Plaza Shopping Center, to attend the networking event hosted by the Southwest Partners Community Relations and engagement committee chaired by Tara Smith on Friday.
The organization, now in its first year of existence, consists of 30 organizations from the Southwest area of the city who sought to unite in an effort to address the concerns and issues affecting their members and its residents.
“The Southwest Community Relations and Engagement Committee organize community events such as our Resource Day and we plan block clean-ups in coordination with local block captains,” Smith said.
Smith said the networking event was an opportunity for members of Southwest Partners to network among themselves as well as to reach out to new networks.
“We wanted people in the Southwest area to meet each other at some point,” Smith said.
And meet they did. Along with block captains and concerned residents, the event was also attended by Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Bennie Ruth, deputy director of Philly Rising and a host of others.
As those at the event dined they also exchanged business cards, and enjoyed a chance to meet and greet throughout the evening. There was also a time set aside for individuals to introduce themselves publicly and announce any projects or activities in which they were engaged.
It was more than a year ago when community organizer and founding member of Southwest Community Partners, Marsha Wall, president of the Southwest Community Advisory Group and said the network event was organized and largely planned by Smith.
“It was an awesome event and was well attended,” Wall said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for businesses, community organizations, just general folks coming out chatting and chewing.”
Southwest Philadelphia has been said by some to be an area in which its residents were unable to come together to form united fronts on key concerns and issues and have had some of the lowest voter turnout numbers in the city.
With Southwest Partners and other groups in the area, including the Community Hub, a newly formed coalition of nonprofit organizations operating at Myers Recreation Center Annex which now serve as the groups headquarters, including Empowered Communities Development Corporation, things are beginning to change.
According to Commissioner Stephanie Singer who spoke during the event, groups like Southwest Partners have significantly improved the voter turnout in the area and she thanked the group for their hard work and dedication to serving the communities they represent.
“We operate on the principle that there is strength in numbers and right now we have over 30 community groups that are organized and uniting behind Southwest Partners,” Wall said.
The organization has various committees each addressing specific areas such as voter turnout, blight, community engagement and education.
“We encourage people to join us [Southwest Partners], it takes a village to empower each other and provide services,” Smith said.
Bethlehem Baptist Church joined in national celebrations to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by hosting an award ceremony in remembrance of former South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.
During the evening ceremony, guests enjoyed music, dance and had an opportunity to hear the preaching of the Rev. Marshall Mitchell, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown.
The Rev. Tamieka N. Moore presented Robert W. Bogle, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Tribune, with the Keeper of The Dream Award for his service in the community during the ceremony.
“If you want to know what’s happening, find Mr. Bob Bogle; if you want to make things happen, find Mr. Bogle,” said Moore who went on to enumerate Bogle’s activities in various professional, civic and social organizations.
“The world is watching with appreciative eyes as you continue to hold summit in the open court,” said Moore as she introduced Bogle.
Bogle humbly accepted the award.
“To be honored with the ‘Keeping of the Dream Award’ and, in fact, to be associated with Dr. King in any way is an honor in itself,” said Bogle.
Bogle said that he had not prepared a statement but was moved by the service.
“Let me say this, I feel privileged and I am extremely grateful to receive this honor,” said Bogle.
During his acceptance address, Bogle stated that he attends Bethlehem Baptist as often as he can because of his admiration and respect for its pastor, the Rev. Charles W. Quann.
Another award recipient was Dr. Ronald W. Smith, a founding member of the Blue Bell Rotary and is founder and president of two engineering companies.
Quann presented the Justice of the Peace award to Smith stating that he and his wife truly demonstrated what it meant to be people of God.
“I’m an engineer and outside my profession, my interests have been serving others,” said Smith during his acceptance speech.
Smith credited the Rotary for keeping him engaged both locally and internationally, giving him new vision for his life and his family.
As a Rotarian, Smith was said to have served as host parents and facilitated exchanges of close to 500 exchange students; he also participated in efforts which helped to deliver more than 1,000 wheel chairs to Bosnia/Serbia in 2011.
The Inter-Faith Award was given to Laura Wall, director of Coalition Against Hunger. She previously served as executive director of the Interfaith Housing Alliance.
“It’s an honor to accept this award, Martin Luther King is my hero,” said Wall. “Religious leaders and people of faith have always been on the forefront of social change in this country. Jews and Muslims; Catholics and Protestants, marching together in Selma, putting their lives on the line to bring about the beloved country.”
Wall used her acceptance address to issue a call to action stating that there has been a 64 percent increase of Pennsylvanians who utilize food banks to help feed their families.
The problem could be addressed, said Wall, if the root cause — poverty — was itself confronted.
Wall challenged religious leaders and people of faith to unite in the fight against poverty and cited King’s Poor People Campaign as an example.
Members of the group, Positive Women’s Network, is hosting a forum on the reproductive justice and the rights of women Jan. 25 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, 3637 Chestnut St., second floor.
Free parking and childcare will be available.
Generations of Americans of all races fought during the Civil Rights struggles and have made great gains in social justice, integration and ratification of laws and policies making it difficult to discriminate.
Members of the Positive Women’s Network say that it is time to do the same for women and reproductive rights.
“Reproductive rights are human rights and not just women’s rights,” said Waheedah Shabazz-El of the Positive Women’s Network.
Shabazz-El says that the rights of reproduction, as a human right is inalienable and should not be limited because of one’s economic status, ethnicity or whether or not they are transgendered.
“It’s going to be a 3 ½ hour event where we will have an expert panel, conversations on various topics on reproductive rights and then we are going to have people share with us their birthing experiences,” said Waheedah Shabazz – El.
Shabazz – El says that there will also be two break out sessions to help people who might want more information or dialogue on the issues discussed.
The break out groups are smaller, intimate groups in which issues such as late term abortions, reproductive rights, or specific concerns of those who are HIV positive can be discussed in a smaller setting.
“Although the call was for women, this is actually a community event because you can’t really talk about any of this, birthing rights, pregnancy - this is really about parenting so it is open to the community,” she said.
“We are framing our advocacy around human rights as opposed to women’s rights because human rights are both inherent and inalienable.”
There will also be a panelist representing the lesbian and gay community and how reproductive rights and parenting affects them.
“When we speak of terms of reproductive justice, there is a whole history there,”
said Naima Black of the Philadelphia Collaborative for Reproduction Justice and Support (PCRJS) which is co-sponsoring the forum.
The movement for reproductive justice, in fact, the very name itself, originated from women of color.
“The feminist movement was white and white- led and women of color were left very much at the margins and felt that their issues were not being identified,” Black said.
Issues such as sterilization, abortion, coerced use of various types of birth control are some of the issues some women of color have had to fight against.
“Yet these women were not being addressed in the feminist movement and although women of color were involved they were still feeling marginalized,” Black said.
Teresa Sullivan is the regional coordinator of the Positive Women’s Network Philadelphia chapter and sits on the board of the group’s national chapter.
“We started in 2008 when 28 women came together and decided that we needed a movement by HIV Positive women to address policies that affected our lives,” Sullivan said.
The meeting was held in Oakland, Calif. and Philadelphia was the first chapter and was started by Shabazz-El.
“We fight to change policies and criminalization of people who are HIV positive, economic justice, jobs and security,” Sullivan said.
One fight is against misinformation. Sullivan and Shabazz-El said many people aren’t aware that HIV positive women can have children and become successful parents. The disease not a deterrent to procreation.
Studies show that many new year’s resolutions made on Jan. 1 will be abandoned by February. For those needing help staying on the path, Tanya T. Morris is hosting her second annual Go for the Goal event on Saturday, at the Cloister’s III, 3900 Haverford Ave. It will start at 4 p.m.
“Every year around Christmas time we start talking about resolutions, what we are going to do; a goal without a plan is just a wish,” said Morris, author of the book Drop Your Baggage: The Just Get Over it Makeover. “We put together this event to really have a lot of fun and all around setting goals.”
She noted this will not simply be a forum in which people are lectured to on the topic of goal setting and achievement, it will be a party with a purpose where attendants will have an opportunity to dance and enjoy other jovial festivities.
“This year we have a live artist in addition to DJ Stretch who is going to be our DJ,” she said. “This year we have Angel [Hunter, a fitness trainer].
We did it last year for the first time and I was really surprised at the turnover.”
In fact, Morris even contemplated not holding the event this year but was motivated by repeated inquiries about when it would be held again.
Whether the goal is financial fitness or physical fitness, Morris, a professional life coach, says she has just what you need.
“We have Angel Hunter who is an extraordinary fitness trainer, so we have a great event planned this week so if they are talking about losing weight or just eating better, they can get tips and advise from Angel Hunter to help reach those goals,” Morris said.
Although fun, there will be work involved.
“One thing that I do is that I actually give out a goal sheet. This year I ask people to identify three personal goals in one particular area,” Morris said.
So whether your goal is creating a budget, saving, or personal achievement, the goal sheets will help you identify those goals and to and then to began working on those things.
“It’s important to write and to track these things in order to hold ourselves accountable,” she said.
Morris will distribute journals so her guests can keep to mark down their goals and keep a record of any progress.
Then there’s the 52 week money challenge in which financial goals will be created and those who participate in the challenge will receive regular e-mails to assess the progress and help support members.
“Many of us have already broken our new year’s resolutions but it’s never too late to start again,” Morris said.
Commemorating the birthday, and also the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become a firmly rooted tradition in Philadelphia.
Citizens from across the state gathered early at Girard College to attend the 19th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday.
During the event some 150 organizations, service providers and agencies hosted information tables where visitors could receive information and materials on such diverse topics as employment, re-entry services and health care.
“Many of the projects that are here today serve as a springboard for ongoing engagement — and that is really the critical thing,” said Todd Bernstein, president of the organization Global Citizen.
According to materials released by the group, more than 125,000 people of all ages and from all walks of life took part in the annual King Day of Service activities and some 1,700 projects were organized throughout greater Philadelphia. This sets a new national record.
“Dr. King was really a champion of action 365 days a year, and so the goal is how you harness the resources of human and government capital throughout the year,” said Bernstein.
“Todd Bernstein and I cooked up the idea that it should be an organizing program to make the King holiday a day on and not a day off,” said former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford
Wofford said he believed King would have wanted the holiday to be a day of service and action.
“Martin Luther King would have much more have preferred to have the day of real service and not a holiday for shopping, watching fireworks go up in the air or watching football games,” said Woffard.
At the Center City Sheraton Hotel on Monday afternoon, several notable members of the community received the Drum Major Award during the 32nd Awards and Benefit Luncheon, hosted by the Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence.
“Today’s event is quite important to the city and the nation,” said Mayor Nutter, who used his address as an opportunity to demand a better funding system for the city’s schools.
“If you want our children to be first-class citizens, then they cannot have a second-class education system,” said Nutter.
Kathy Sledge, best known as member of the singing group Sister Sledge, and Andrea Jones-Sojola of the musical “Porgy and Bess” both graced the audience with musical selections.
Keynote speaker for the luncheon was John E. Wetzel, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
“Let’s be honest, every single one of us who are here in this room, especially every one of us up here on the stage, got here because those who came before us knocked some walls down,” said Wetzel.
He said he was there because he cared about the community, and he spoke on the need to invest in people and not prisons; transforming prisons from warehouses to places where people are helped to get better.
“I don’t think a day of service is enough service; let this be a year of service, because we’ve got work to do,” he said.
During the awards segment, Charisse Lillie, Dr. Joshua Feldstein, Jill M. Michal, Dean Weitzman and the late activist and former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela received Drum Major Awards.