The Eighth Annual Family and Children’s Festival gave families a respite during the recent heat wave.
More than 100 people came out to enjoy the street revelry that featured face painting, American and Caribbean cuisine, live entertainment, and children’s rides.
While the event took place outside Caribbean Fest restaurant off Broad Street and Rising Sun Avenue on Saturday, it was just the beginning of family events for the nonprofit partnership between the restaurant and the Peaches and Cream Foundation.
Taking center stage was the Peaches and Cream drill team. Group members are Shayla McCodell, Markeiera Woods, Siyonna Pridgen, Tiyanna Brown, Cyna McCoy, Siani Pridgen, Tjanae Dawkins and TaShanna Brown.
“We have all kinds of groups out here doing positive things,” said Woods, the group’s president. “We learn about service and we do modeling, music and dance with at Peaches and Cream. We’re about being positive.”
Among those who supported the initiative was the Philly Panthers from Mount Airy. The group regularly meets at the Finley Playground, 1000 E. Hortter St. in Mount Airy. The drill team and other athletic programs have their home base at the Germantown field next to the Morris E. Leeds Middle School, Mount Pleasant and Lowber streets.
“This was a really nice day,” said Benet Morando, whose boyfriend is a member of the Panthers. “This is about (dispelling) the negativity. I believe that whenever there is anything positive or good in the community we should support it. It’s good that so many came out to support it.”
New York-based vocalist Lindsay Roberts returned home to Philadelphia in a big way. She was the headliner for “An Evening with Lindsay Roberts” held at the Christ Church Neighborhood House Theater on Sunday. The production was directed by pianist William L. Lake, Jr. of Dorchester, Md.
Roberts began singing when she was 5-years-old and joined the choir at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown, and later at the Crestmont Baptist Church.
She went on to study voice with Jodi Kidwell at the Settlement Music School by the time she was a junior at Upper Dublin High School. She then trained in opera while studying at the University of Maryland at College Park where she earned her bachelor’s degree.
“I think what I enjoy most is being able to live out my passion,” she said. “Ever since I can remember this was my first love. My two major sources of inspiration has been Audrey McDonald who introduced me to Broadway musical theater, and my voice teacher, Carmen Galthrope. Now this came at a time when I am waiting for results of [key] auditions.”
Additionally, Roberts has worked closely with Lake. She met the accomplished pianist at the College Park campus. He is studying to receive a second master’s degree in conducting.
“I hope that he will be able to continue to conduct me as I get more into musical theatre,” said Roberts.
As for Roberts’ Sunday performance, singer and actor Alex Agard was impressed.
“I really enjoyed getting to see Lindsay showcase her versatility as a singer,” he said. “It’s rare that a performer gets the opportunity to display the full gamut of their vocal abilities. It’s always a delight to see her perform with such a remarkable gift of bringing her authentic self to every performance.”
When Roberts is not singing, one can find her teaching.
While she revealed classroom teaching is not her forte, she does share what she has learned with younger or inexperienced singers. She finds many informal settings to do this – while working with nonprofit organizations, at church or when asked to conduct a master class in voice.
Sunday’s performance is just the beginning of local audiences being able to take in her talent. Roberts will be returning to Philadelphia for a major fundraiser when the Kimmel Center partners with the Broadway Dream Foundation on Saturday, Aug. 4. The singer has been a consistent volunteer for the national nonprofit and will be among this year’s guest artists.
“We cannot wait to share the extraordinary talent and knowledge of these phenomenal Broadway professionals with our students,” said Annette Tanner, BDF’s executive director. “The chance to audition for, work with and learn from these exceptional directors is an invaluable opportunity that we are proud to be able to offer to young, emerging artists across the country.”
Northwest Philadelphia community advocates are angry that thousands in the area will be cut off from the General Assistance (GA) Cash Assistance Program on Aug. 1. They are bracing for the worst.
Marlene Pryor of Concerned Neighbors of Germantown is finding it difficult to organize an effort to help because of the recipients’ feelings of humiliation and the negative reactions of some in her community towards them.
Sacaree Rhodes of West Oak Lane, founder of the Daughters of Fine Lineage, is outraged and prepared to step up her ongoing feeding of the homeless.
Pryor said many who receive cash assistance are “very embarrassed” and are suffering in silence as their only income disappears.
“I had only a few people come to me in confidence to express how scared they are — but they don’t want anyone to know,” she said. “Some people do look down on them thinking that they don’t want to work and why should those who work support them.
“Two told me they will still have Medical Assistance and food stamps, but they still don’t know what they are going to do for cash,” she added. “I think our state-elected officials should be giving us more information about what to do about this crisis. Some of these people can’t find work now — and won’t be able to find work after it’s cut off — so they will be desperate.”
For one Germantown woman who preferred not to be identified, hearing of the elimination of cash assistance to thousands devastated her. She has a sister who is in rehabilitation and receives $260 a month.
“I will tell the truth that I can’t afford to give her any more money,” she said. “I cannot have her in my home with my family either. My husband would not have it. So I don’t know where she will go or what will happen to her. I have heard that the rehab center is already preparing to close because they rely on the income from those in there.”
“This is a disgrace,” said Rhodes, who has been feeding hungry Philadelphians on the streets alongside her husband for years.
“Many people don’t know that at most shelters to retain your bed you must have an income,” she said. “That means in order to stay at Women Against Abuse’s shelter or have a steady bed at one of the other shelters you have to give up your check. They save some of it for you and give you something for spending money, but the rest pays for the shelter. Many of these shelters will now close and there will be people on the streets.”
Rhodes is also afraid many will resort to crime when they have no source of sustenance. She pointed to the ex-offenders who are already capable of criminal activity. They often receive cash assistance for a period of about 90 days to a year, according to Rhodes.
“They don’t get much, about $260 a month or a little more if you are in certain shelters,” she said. “At least it gives them a bit of dignity in that they can afford to pay rent on a room, buy a little food and feel they are a regular citizen. With nothing and no possibility of ever getting anything or ever getting a job, what will they do? It’s like having your fine china on a high shelf and then pulling out the nails under the shelf so everything breaks into pieces. That’s how many individuals and families are feeling now.”
Julius St. John of West Oak Lane doesn’t want to be just another statistic.
St. John wants to prove he can be among the minority of African-American males who start and finish college on time. The recent George Washington High School graduate believes he will attain this goal through Community College of Philadelphia’s Center for Male Engagement.
St. John was among the 50 African-American, incoming students at CCP’s fall class who attended the opening orientation session for the CME initiative.
“I think that educating African-American males about the college culture is important,” St. John said. “The information I got so far is helping me to understand how to be a better student. It’s important for me to have a place to get referrals and to ask questions. I am looking forward to one day owning my own business, so coming here will help me stay on that goal.”
The facilitators of the program are Daryl Bright, Derek Perkins, Richard Newell, Kevin Covington and Jules Thomas. They are all young, African-American, male college graduates. Some of the things they discussed in the opening session were classroom decorum, the importance of punctuality and being present for class, time management, a college work ethic and resources for those needing help.
The young men avidly shouted “I belong here!” as the facilitators urged them to stand up and chant. They did this enthusiastically before watching the “Bring Your ‘A’ Game,” a video moderated by Mario Van Peebles. In the video they were taught about the importance of education and the ways African-American males can use the educational system to avoid trouble with the law, or prison, and becoming chronically unemployed. Among those speaking in the film were Ice Cube and Spike Lee.
The CCP initiative recently won the prestigious 2012 Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award which recognized four programs that were innovative in creating student success programs. The other recipients were the “Course Signals” program at Purdue University in Indiana, the “CCC2NAU” at Coconino Community College in Arizona and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s “Project Graduate.”
“Each year these awards recognize the most successful, state-of-the-art retention programs in use today,” said Tim Culver, Noel-Levitz’s vice president. “This year’s honorees have made great strides in student retention, and we are pleased to recognize them in their efforts. The winners demonstrated measurable institutional outcomes, [and] originality and creativity, as well as excellent use of resources and adaptability for use at other institutions.”
CCP freshman Lindell Low of West Philadelphia believes the program will assist him get the foundation he needs to transfer to a four-year college.
“They have already given me a sense of direction and can serve as role models for me,” he said.
Teaching students about the dangers of bullying is continuing in Northwest Philadelphia during the summer months.
First, the Northwest CommUnity Coalition on Youth (NCCY) is hosting its first Basketball Challenge “Hoops Against Bullying” at the Imhotep Institute Charter High School, 6201 N. 21 St. from July 19 to 21. These games are free and open to the public.
The challenge will feature students from ages 8 to 17. They represent many local leagues and even those from out of town.
Thursday will be the kick-off event. Game times on Friday are10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be games on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The youth will use the game of basketball competitively and respectfully, using skill and expertise rather than intimidation or harassment to win,” said Troy Allen, the chairperson of NCCY “Hoops Against Bullying.” In addition, there will be college tours and a mini basketball clinic offered by NCCY.
The mission of “Hoops Against Bullying” is four-fold. It involves respect, sportsmanship, team work, and leadership. Organizers stress that these are the key characteristics to building character and confidence—the qualities that counteract bullying behaviors.
“As we all know the element of bullying has permeated our schools and many other places where young people are gathered,” said Isabella Fitzgerald, NCCY chairperson. “We hope that through this effort we can show that even though playing to win, respecting others and good sportsmanship is paramount.
“By providing tools and resources we can help strengthen the most powerful entity in our communities, our children. By providing tools and resources we can help strengthen the most powerful resource in the children’s lives, their parents,” Fitzgerald said.
Over in Germantown youngsters are also engaging in the “Pick up the Pen” effort to offset violence and bullying this summer. The sessions will take place at the Happy Hollow Playground. It is hosted by the Black Writers Museum and being sponsored by the Make a Way Foundation and the Mitchell and Ness Nostalgia Company.
“When someone is bullying they are taking advantage because they are either bigger or have something over the other person,” said Bernard Hopkins, the program’s ambassador. “Instead of picking up their fists or [a weapon] we want them to pick up the pen and express themselves that way.”
The program will run throughout the summer with a culminating ceremony in late August, according to Supreme Dow, executive director of the Black Writers Museum. For more information about the program call (267)297-3078 or visit blackwritersmuseum.clear.net.
NCCY is a nonprofit organization formed in 2004. It is sponsored by Safe Corridors, the No Bullying Zone Hotline, School/Merchants Truancy Institute, and Address Safety. For more information visit www.nccy.org.