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: “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 »

A Black Face in a White Space: My Four Years at Penn

Illustration by Matt Clough

My first day of class at the University of Pennsylvania was an introduction unlike anything I could have predicted. It was my fourth day living on the East Coast — I was born in the Midwest and grew up in the South — and the third time I got lost around campus. Penn felt like a huge kingdom filled with the kinds of mini-castles you’d find in Harry Potter books. The historic towers had real ivy that climbed the walls. Campus lawns and gardens were elaborate displays of exotic horticulture. It was everything I imagined it would look like, but better.

There were a few yard workers tending to the lawn as the sun began to rise. They looked at me strangely as I skipped across Locust Walk all by myself. One of the men asked if I was lost, and I told him I was headed to class. 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 »

OPINION: White People, Only You Can Stop the Next Charlottesville

White nationalist protesters and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Photo by Steve Helber/AP

The moment I came out of the womb, I already had two strikes against me: being black and gay in a nation that continues to systemically oppress both aspects of my identity. I am expected to function as a productive citizen while experiencing a daily onslaught of discrimination and microaggressions — and added to this personal and social distress is the burden of having always to defend my community: When one black person deviates, we are all held accountable. Read more »

OPINION: Now Isn’t the Time for Marginalized People to Compromise

Protest outside ICandy nightclub on September 29, 2016. Photo by Ernest Owens.

This week has shown marginalized communities that our adversaries are still alive and well. On Wednesday, President Trump announced plans to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. As most of the LGBTQ community looked at this as another of his assaults on our rights, one member of the community seemed startled.

Caitlyn Jenner, the famed transgender advocate who often bragged about having the ear of the Trump administration on LGBTQ issues, publicly tweeted Trump her newfound dismay: Read more »

The Inquirer and Daily News Don’t Know How to Talk About Racism

iStockphoto | ymgerman

As a black man in Philadelphia, telling me that racists exist in the city is like reminding me that oxygen is in the atmosphere. I don’t need disturbing graphic images to trigger me — I observe it when noticing a white woman clutch her purse as I walk by her in Rittenhouse Square, complying with an embarrassing stop-and-frisk near a SEPTA station, or being asked by security guards for a receipt upon leaving Liberty Place plaza downtown. Read more »

OPINION: Pa. Democrats, Quit Blaming Stop-and-Go Stores and Fault Yourselves

Image: Google Maps.

Welcome to Prohibition Philadelphia, 2017: the town where Democrats apparently still believe — almost 90 years after American gangster and black-market-liquor entrepreneur Al Capone did a stint at Eastern State — that booze and speakeasies are to blame for our city’s ills.

Last week, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, along with a cadre of roughly 30 community members armed with folding chairs, decided to take a “stand” against stop-and-go stores — mini-convenience stores, delis, and gas stations that also sell alcohol — in a campaign she’s calling “Fit 30.” Read more »

OPINION: Why I’m Giving Up on “Allies”

Photo by iStock / prill

During this tumultuous political climate, no quote resonates with me more than this one from the late Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”

Progressive values are at a crossroads, and those who are committed to preserving them must take a stand more visibly and ferociously. As tensions rise within our communities, now is not the time for the most privileged in society to tune out because they can afford to avoid conflict. Nor is it the time to act like Switzerland — neutral stances on issues that affect people of color, women, LGBTQ, the poor, and other marginalized groups either leave support for us in limbo or worse.

Many people champion allyship as an effective way to take that stand. In short, an “ally” is someone with privilege helping someone being marginalized with a problem. This approach might sound noble in theory, but in practice it has only added to oppression. Read more »

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