RESPONSE: The City Was Well Prepared for the Conrail Heroin Camp Cleanup

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

While Thom Nickels’s August 31st column, “Neighborhoods Are Bearing the Cost of the Conrail Heroin Camp Cleanup,” contains a number of inaccuracies, perhaps the most glaring, outrageous, and blatantly false is his assertion that the city did not have a plan to help those living at the Kensington drug encampment enter into addiction treatment and emergency housing in advance of the cleanup.

Maybe Mr. Nickels didn’t get the memo, but the city’s massive and intense homeless and addiction outreach efforts specifically targeting the hundreds of people who were living along the railroad tracks pre-cleanup are well documented and have been widely reported by many of his journalism colleagues. Read more »

OPINION: Let’s Make History and Abolish Columbus Day in Philly

When news broke last month that Los Angeles was joining Seattle and Denver in removing Columbus Day from its city calendar, I looked to see what my city’s plans were in regards to the holiday. Answer: Nothing.

As the city continues debating the future of the Frank Rizzo statue (because some folks are still not convinced that Rizzo was that bad of a guy), I would hope that by now most of us can agree that Christopher Columbus isn’t worthy of recognition. Read more »

OPINION: There’s Only One Solution to the Hate That Fueled Charlottesville

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A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, August 12th. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In reference to history’s most horrific events, we often utter the words “Never forget.” But perhaps as important is that phrase’s unspoken corollary: Never ignore.

Nestled in the cocoon of democratic America seven decades after the Holocaust, many of us go about our daily lives thinking that Nazi-style hatred and prejudice are largely a thing of the past. If only it were so.

Like many other forms of irrational hatred, anti-Semitism remains in full bloom in 2017. Cable news channels were recently on high alert with wall-to-wall coverage of the goings-on in Charlottesville. While ostensibly protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, demonstrators in the Virginia city chanted “the Jews will not replace us” and carried swastikas — crystal-clear confirmation that anti-Jewish bigotry has not been eradicated. Read more »

OPINION: The City Tolerates the FOP’s Lack of Respect for Black Lives

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John McNesby of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” After the recent shakeups in the city’s political scene, our politicians have been unusually reserved about confronting what has now become one of the biggest obstacles to anything progressive in Philadelphia — the Fraternal Order of the Police.

For some odd reason, it’s hard for elected officials to criticize the city’s police union: Do so in any form and you might be mistaken for denigrating their service to the community. But there is a difference between condemning the job and holding it accountable — welcoming the latter should be required of any group that receives taxpayer’s dollars. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: We Got Ourselves a National Student Poet!

Actor Alfre Woodard, left, congratulates 2017 National Student Poet Juliet Lubwama, of Downingtown, Pa., on her inaugural reading at the Library of Congress on Thursday, August 31, 2017, in Washington. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Alliance for Young Artist & Writers)

While you were packing your bag for a getaway to the beach or the mountains this weekend, 17-year-old Juliet Lubwama was in Washington, D.C., attending a private workshop with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and reading her own work at the National Book Festival. Lubwama, the daughter of Ugandan immigrants and a rising senior at Downingtown STEM Academy, is one of five young writers being honored this weekend as 2017 National Student Poets. The winners, hailing from five regions of the U.S.—Lubwama is the Northeast representative—were selected from a pool of thousands of applicants and will spend the next year serving as “literary ambassadors” in their communities. Read more »

OPINION: Neighborhoods Are Bearing the Cost of the Conrail Heroin Camp Cleanup

Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

When the city demolished the Conrail drug community in Kensington, it was as if Carrie Nation herself had returned from the grave to swing her axe in righteous indignation. Deprived of a community, the opiate addicts scattered like refugees — only they did not, like the People of the Book, find a Promised Land. They filtered into the surrounding neighborhoods alone or in small groups and set up camps at Frankford and Allegheny and on Emerald Street — aka Emerald City, an Oz opiate safe space, at least for now. Read more »

OPINION: The Rizzo Statue Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Police guard the Frank Rizzo statue earlier this month. | Photo by Caroline Bartholomew

Thanks to a group of white dudes who decided to go to Charlottesville, Virginia, kill someone, and ruin tiki torches for the rest of us, we’re having a nationwide discussion about monuments.

The discussion of whom we honor, what we honor, and where memorials should go is long overdue — because, let’s face it, memorials are designed to teach as well as commemorate.

While we’re not quite on the level of the statues of the Confederates that seem to be littering the landscapes of the American South left and right, Philadelphia has gotten involved in this discussion because it has its share of problematic monuments.

Probably the most problematic is located at the top of the stairs of the Municipal Services building in the form of a statue of former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo. Read more »

OPINION: “Stronger Together” Is Keeping Us Apart

Protesters

Protesters in Philadelphia in January | Photo: Dan McQuade

If you give a damn about social justice issues in 2017, you most certainly have heard the phrase “stronger together.” And, most likely, your first thought was “Ah, of course, we must all come together to defeat racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and more.”

The slogan of the failed Hillary Clinton campaign has now become the battle cry of progressives still trying to resist a Trump presidency. The narrative surrounding this popular message suggests that we all individually have battles to fight, but if we come together as one, we will be more effective in winning them. Read more »

OPINION: Philly Isn’t Charlottesville. It’s Worse.

Rizzo Statue Protest | Photography by Ernest Owens

“Who is more racist: The North or the South?”

That is the age-old question I’m often asked when I tell people I moved to Philly from Texas. Initially, my answer was the South, easily. Philadelphia, with its majority Democratic political base and socially progressive laws, was a clear contrast to the land of statewide bans I grew up in.

But after seven years of residing in Philly, I can’t help but reflect on my grandmother’s long-held response to that question: “What’s worse: a town that can’t seem to get any better no how, or one that doesn’t get any better by choice?”

And it’s that line of thinking that has made me realize that Philly is one of the most unapologetically racist cities around. Read more »

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