Tommy Oliver and Mike Africa Jr. for 40 Years a Prisoner
With their critically acclaimed HBO documentary, this dynamic duo led the way in a year when the city is finally — finally — confronting its fraught dealings with MOVE, from the 1978 shoot-out that sent Africa’s parents to jail to the infamous 1985 bombing of its compound. Oliver’s filmmaking gave Africa Jr. the opportunity to exonerate his family and reframe not just how we view that family, but how we see Black activism in Philadelphia.
Donald “Guy” Generals
In the year of the Great Pandemic, a dozen area heads of school decided to decamp, retire, or become the ambassador to Germany. (Higher ed is complicated!) Yet Generals, president of the Community College of Philadelphia since 2014, shone for his public service and community engagement, including CCP’s “Enough Is Enough” initiative to help students work through the trauma sparked by George Floyd’s murder. “I don’t think you should be a one-beat drummer if you’re a college president,” the jazz drummer and education-access activist says.
This arts org, named for former longtime Philadelphia Youth Orchestra music director Joseph Primavera, provides mentorship, instruction, instruments and more to promising young, local classical musicians who otherwise lack means. “If you told me years ago that I would be traveling to Vancouver, Canada, and being a guest performer at a TED Talk conference, I wouldn’t believe you,” says violinist Akili Farrow, who in 2018 toured with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA.
Brad Ingelsby and Mare of Easttown
The appeal of Mare of Easttown (the wild success of which landed Berwyn-native showrunner Inglesby a three-year HBO deal) transcends Kate Winslet and Jean Smart talking in our peculiar patois. While Mare was yet another detective series centered on a dead teenage girl, it was the only one the whole world was glued to this summer. We loved it for more than the accent work, but it’s also hard to overstate how validating it was to hear Winslet’s Mare utter, of the wet cast on her wrist, “Et arready etches like crazy en et smells like shet.”
Cyrano de Bergerac has nothin’ on this Chester County newspaper delivery guy, who averted a Christmas Day disaster at the Ovations at Elk View 55-plus community by sniffing out and reporting a big gas leak while making his rounds. After evacuating residents, PECO found a broken gas line and high levels of natural gas throughout the community center’s basement. A Christmas miracle!
Marc Lamont Hill
Cable news is best consumed as a form of punishment. One exception: Black News Tonight from Temple professor and Uncle Bobbie’s bookshop owner Marc Lamont Hill, which is premised on the idea that white media is institutionally incapable of covering the issues that matter to Black America. Hill’s skillful interviewing and intellectual chops make for compelling, insightful TV on the burgeoning Black News Channel. Given the medium, that’s no small feat.
Perla Lara, Editor-in-Chief of Impacto
Lara is producing the best community journalism around right now, with a keen eye into the Latinx community. While we’ve come to expect diverse media from the likes of WURD, the Tribune and Al Día, this media leader offers a timely and promising alternative. Notably, she’s working with staff from the Caribbean, South America, and the Greater Philadelphia area to cover Latinx issues more holistically.
The Street Art Uprising Against Minor Figures Oat Milk
The latest installment in Philly’s ongoing fuck-around-and-find-out chronicles pitted London oat milk purveyor Minor Figures against the city’s legion of street-art lovers. When posters promoting the plant-based coffee lightener went up over existing works, the backlash — on social media and IRL — was swift. As the company clumsily backpedaled, Philly street-art legend Kid Hazo weighed in with posters of his own: “Major Failures Clown M*lk.”
This West Philly dad taught himself to sew to better bond with his daughter Ava — and now makes father/daughter outfits for them both. Ava handles questions from curious onlookers, referring them to Gardner’s Instagram and Daddy Dressed Me blog, where he documents his work. He does her hair and nails, too, as Today gleefully reported earlier this year.
Comcast software engineer Hai Thai spends his spare time fixing up old laptops and donating them to those in need (including nuns!) through a program called TechCycle. The Upper Darby High and Temple grad welcomes donations, tech help, and suggestions for deserving recipients.
Four Seasons Total Landscaping
Their time in the sun may have only lasted five minutes. But the memory of Donald Trump promising an election-theft press conference at the Four Seasons only to end up instead with henchman and Madame Tussauds figure Rudy Giuliani standing next to a porn shop and a crematorium in Northeast Philly will last a lifetime. 7339 State Road, Philadelphia, PA 19136
The Convention Center Vote-Count Partyers
Dancing mailboxes, a Philly Elmo drum line, a days-long pop-up block party in the street drowning out the cultish pro-Trump protesters at the Convention Center — and all of it covered not just across the country, but around the globe. What more needs to be said? Good things happen in Philadelphia.
No less an authority than Vogue shouted out the Elkins Park/Temple ceramicist/activist in December. Lugo, who calls himself the “ghetto potter,” creates fine-art ceramics, notably a Kamala Harris teapot and urns honoring AOC and Kobe Bryant. His work sits in galleries and museums (includingvw PMA) and goes for big bucks to private collectors.
Time was, people complained about sidewalk dining here, claiming that our pavements were just too narrow. They weren’t wrong, but now that streeteries are everywhere, we simply demand that they stay. Any concession to concerns as mundane as parking would signal a total failure of civic imagination.
Terrill Haigler, a.k.a. Ya Fav Trashman
Of all the pandemic’s heroes, none is more uniquely Philly than Haigler, who rose to Instagram prominence during last summer’s trash slowdown by delivering trash tips and updates and has since parlayed that fame into his own block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood city-cleanup operation.
Jubilation over the Philly phenom winning season 20 of The Voice was tempered by the show’s confounding inability to convert winners into stars. But Anthony — a 19-year-old with the smooth tenor of someone decades older, the boyish good looks of the Jackson 5, and the style of vintage Al Green — had even jaded Voice coach Blake Shelton predicting he’ll reverse that trend.
The Los Angeles Times story in January detailing the racist/sexist culture promoted by some New York-based CBS executives aired a lot of dirty laundry about Philly’s CBS affiliate, much of which involved those execs’ despicable opinions of lead evening news anchor Ukee Washington. That Washington rose above the fray, summoning the love and support of the region, comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve adored him all along.