Racial Profiling on the Main Line

Clockwise from top left: Keith Taylor; Muneera Walker; Anita Friday; Harry Mobley Jr. with his sons Aseda, Omosesan and Akinyele Adebamgbe; Loraine Carter; Schoolly D, Crystal Blunt with her son Michael. Photography by Colin Lenton

Clockwise from top left: Keith Taylor; Muneera Walker; Anita Friday; Harry Mobley Jr. with his sons Aseda, Omosesan and Akinyele Adebamgbe; Loraine Carter; Schoolly D, Crystal Blunt with her
son Michael. Photography by Colin Lenton

This past July, Jordan and Joshua Friday confronted one of those endless summer days that teenagers are given. They journeyed by bicycle to an aunt’s house to swim, met up with a friend, and stopped to get pizza. After lunch, the trio went looking for a fourth friend in the Greens of Waynesborough, a small housing development near their Berwyn home. Jordan and Joshua, 15-year-old African-American high-school students, were unfamiliar with this subdivision. They figured they’d reach the fourth kid on his cell phone or find his house. The identical twins, long and thin, both over six feet tall, were dressed in shorts and colorful t-shirts. They wore school backpacks slung over their shoulders, and bicycle helmets strapped tight to their heads. The twins — mom is a lawyer, dad is a doctor — pedaled slowly past wide lawns and big million-dollar houses, feeling right at home. But this development stretched several blocks from the main road.

The fourth boy didn’t answer his cell phone. The Fridays weren’t quite sure where he lived. And at some point, the white friend they’d come with pedaled ahead of them. He was almost a full block away when the Fridays noticed the SUV. Read more »

Lower Merion Police Say Lower Merion Police Did Nothing Wrong in Controversial Stop

Nathaniel Williams (left). Photo | Sandy Smith

Nathaniel Williams (left). Photo | Sandy Smith

The officers who ordered 56-year-old Nathaniel Williams to his knees, then handcuffed him, in a stop connected to a reported robbery at a TD Bank branch in Haverford acted in accordance with department procedure, according to an internal review conducted by the Lower Merion Police Department.

The LMPD reviewed the incident in response to a complaint filed November 2nd by the Main Line branch of the NAACP concerning the October 26th stop. The stop also sparked a protest at the November 4th Township Commissioners meeting, where South Ardmore residents added their testimony of similar treatment by police and called for reforms in police practices and police-community relations. Read more »

These Texts from Camden Corrections Officers Are Incredibly Racist



The Courier-Post made an open records request recently, asking for the text messages that got nine corrections officers dismissed at the Camden County Jail. After some wrangling in court, the newspaper finally got the messages. Yikes.

As Jim Walsh details in a report today, the texts are incredibly racist. The n-word flows freely. One officer sent a text message saying a black Philadelphia Eagle “should be tied to a bumper and dragged.” One officer, during a conversation about New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio for some reason, said “Don’t forget his wife is a colored.” Texts called the African-American warden of the jail, David Owens, “HNIC.” That doesn’t stand for Hockey Night in Canada. Read more »

I See “The World” Differently Than Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates | Nina Subin, Penguin Random House

Coates | Nina Subin, Penguin Random House

I missed out on the hottest ticket in town when Ta-Nehisi Coates was in Philly in October for a talk at the Free Library based on his bestselling, National Book Award-nominated tome, Between the World and Me. (There is a streaming finalists reading tonight at 7; the awards will be announced tomorrow.)

Chances are, though, that if you are an avid consumer of ideas, you’re talking about him anyway, even if you missed the talk, haven’t read the book or one of its many excerpts, or missed his chat with Terry Gross on WHYY’s Fresh Air.

That’s because Coates has undeniably struck a national nerve at just the right moment. As the drumbeat of stories in which cops kill black men (and they are mostly men) with questionable use of force continues, along comes Coates to tell us this sort of thing is encoded in our nation’s DNA.

Like James Baldwin before him, Coates has cast himself as our racial Cassandra, reminding us that the debt for slavery remains unpaid and condemning society for failing to recognize this. And like Baldwin before him, Coates has decided that it’s best to reflect on his native land’s transgressions from afar — Paris, to which numerous African-Americans fed up with the United States have retreated.  Read more »

WATCH: College Protesters: “We Are #Mizzou”

A crowd of about 300 took to the middle of Broad Street Thursday evening to make a point about student debt and racial inequality.

As part of the Million Student March taking place nationwide, students from Temple, Penn, Community College of Philadelphia, and Drexel began at their own campuses and then converged at City Hall. Their demands are familiar: $15 an hour minimum wage, student debt forgiveness, and free education.

But much of the protest’s focus was on race, especially in light of the recent unrest at the University of Missouri and Yale University. Read more »

Chestnut Hill History Teacher Wears Noose to Halloween Parade, Sparks Outrage

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy history teacher Jay Pearcy in worst Colonel Mustard costume ever.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy history teacher Jay Pearcy probably should have opted for the candlestick.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy is a prestigious pre-K through 12th grade school on Willow Grove Avenue in Philadelphia, the kind of place that will set you back over $130,000 for four years of high school. It has earned a reputation as a progressive, diverse learning environment, but one faculty member has stirred outrage with a Halloween costume that some would say goes against those ideals. Read more »

Nutter on My Brother’s Keeper: Progress, but More Work to Do


From left: Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor Christine Piven, Mayor Michael Nutter, assistant to President Obama Broderick Johnson and Superintendent Dr. William Hite. Photo | Fabiola Cineas

Philadelphia is standing up for young men and boys of color.

Statistics have long identified the plight of black men across the country — on average, one in three black men will have some level of contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. In Philadelphia, 75 percent of homicide victims and about 80 percent of the known perpetrators arrested for violent crime are young black men.

These figures were at the crux of Mayor Nutter’s announcements yesterday about the city’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of young men and boys of color. At City Hall he was joined by Broderick Johnson, Assistant to President Obama and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force; Christine Piven, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor and My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia’s Project Director; Superintendent Dr. William Hite; Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; and Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel.

“One shooting, or one homicide is one too many,” said Mayor Nutter, “we have work to do.”

Nutter’s words came on the day after his successor, Jim Kenney, was officially selected. Yet Nutter made it clear that his support for initiatives around helping young men and boys of color wouldn’t dwindle even after his term. Read more »

Former SEPTA Deputy Police Chief Sues Secretary of State John Kerry, Others

Former SEPTA Deputy Police Chief David Scott (top center), pictured with City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, City Councilman David Oh, and SEPTA police officers in a 2012 SEPTA photo.

Former SEPTA Deputy Police Chief David Scott (top center), pictured with City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, City Councilman David Oh, and SEPTA police officers in a 2012 SEPTA photo.

David Scott was a SEPTA transit police officer for over 30 years and served as deputy SEPTA police chief for over 18 years. After retiring a few years ago, he consulted with the United States government on anti-terrorism, and now he is suing Secretary of State John Kerry and others, claiming he is the victim of racial discrimination. Read more »

South Ardmore Residents Speak Out Against Police Treatment

Nathaniel Williams (left); Zion Baptist Church (right). Photos | Sandy Smith

Nathaniel Williams at the Lower Merion Township Commissioners meeting (left); the prayer vigil at Zion Baptist Church before the meeting (right). Photos | Sandy Smith

Correction: A quote in the original publication of this story was incorrectly attributed to Commissioner Joshua Grimes. It was actually said by Commissioner Brian Gordon. 

The snow shovels may still be in storage in Ardmore, but they’ll be coming back out soon, and when they do, the residents of South Ardmore would rather not use them while keeping one eye cocked for the Lower Merion Township Police.

They made this point and more loud and clear to the Township Commissioners at their regular meeting last night at the Township Building.

The triggering event that brought some 60 to 80 African American township residents and their white neighbors to the meeting was a recent incident in which township police manhandled 58-year-old Nathaniel Williams as he was waiting for a bus across the street from the Ardmore branch of TD Bank. The bank had been robbed, and police were responding to a call stating that a “black male in a hoodie wearing glasses” had done the deed.

Williams was all three. But, after he had been forced to his knees and handcuffed, it quickly became clear that he was not the robber. Nonetheless, several officers continued to hold him until a bank employee came across the street to confirm that he was not the robber.  Read more »

Cheryl Ann Wadlington’s Fight to Save Black Girls

Students from Evoluer House summer 2015 Youth Workforce Development and Personal Development programs leaving class at Peirce College.

Students from Evoluer House summer 2015 Youth Workforce Development and Personal Development programs leaving class at Peirce College. Inset: Cheryl Ann Wadlington.

When video surfaced of a South Carolina school security officer yanking a high-school student from her desk because she had allegedly disobeyed orders to put her cellphone away, observers howled. Although the white officer, Ben Fields, was fired, many blamed the girl — an African American teenager — for not complying with her teacher. The incident was one of thousands that have played out across the country in which reported misconduct by Black girls at school prompted a seemingly disproportionate — and often violent — response by school and local authorities.

“Girls of color face much harsher school discipline than their white peers but are excluded from current efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline,” according to “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected,” a report by Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and the African American Policy Forum. The report, based on a new review of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York, cites several examples of excessive disciplinary actions against young Black girls, including the controversial 2014 case of a 12-year-old in Georgia who faced expulsion and criminal charges for writing the word “hi” on a locker room wall. A white female classmate who was also involved faced a much less severe punishment. Read more »

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