Michael Coard’s Best (and Worst) of Philly

My official—admittedly biased (but totally accurate)—list

Last week, Philadelphia magazine published its 36th annual Best of Philly list. It’s a good list because its results were based on numerous professional journalists visiting hundreds of locations, interviewing hundreds of persons, and considering hundreds of categories. This ain’t that list. But this, too, is a good list. And although it is admittedly biased (which is an honest admission since all such lists are biased to some extent), it’s a meritorious list because it’s based on the activist rants—I mean the learned analyses—of a person born, raised, educated, employed, experienced, and civically engaged in Philadelphia. Here we go:

Best Tourist Site: The President’s House/Slavery Memorial at Sixth and Market Streets
Located next to the Liberty Bell Center, it’s the site of America’s first “White House.” That’s the good news. But the bad news is that it’s also where President George Washington enslaved black men, women and children. It’s a place where white Americans can literally see their ancestors’ creation of the executive branch of the United States government, where black Americans can finally see their ancestors’ courageous role in making that creation possible, and where all Americans can graphically see the best and worst of this country’s history.

Best Musical Performers: The Roots
Don’t let the hip-hop label fool you. First of all, real hip-hop, not the bastardized and diluted stuff you regularly hear and see on radio and TV, is a legitimate poetic art form founded upon innovatively rhythmic beats and ingeniously inventive rhymes. The commercialized garbage on the airwaves has no more to do with hip-hop than Kenny G has to do with jazz. The Roots personify hip-hop. They read and write music. The front man, Black Thought, is the spiritual son of Oscar Brown Jr. and Nikki Giovanni and at the very same time the spiritual son of James Brown and Aretha Franklin as well.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant: Govinda’s (1400 South Street)
Shrimp entrees. Roast duck dinners. Burger wraps. Cheesesteaks. Hoagies. Fish sandwiches. Ice cream. And much, much more. Sit down. Or take out. Either way, eat up.

Best Youngsters: Philly Youth Poetry Movement
Why do the flash mobsters get all the media love? What about the members of Philly Youth Poetry Movement, a group of students and other bright youngsters who won the 2011 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam in San Francisco at around the time that the thugs were engaged in an orgy of violence upon innocent Center City victims. By the way, big shout out to Mayor Nutter and especially to the Lomax Family Foundation for covering the California travel expenses.

Best Grassroots Political Activists: Kensington Welfare Rights Union
KWRU is a principled and uncompromising multiracial organization made up of and led by poor folks who refuse to be bullied by the corporate gangstas and the political puppets in those gangstas’ pockets. KWRU has been fighting—and winning—the good fight for two decades.

Worst Tourist Site: Philadelphia Zoo
No one can reasonably deny that zoos are prisons for innocent animals. Think about it. Lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, fish, and other creatures are locked in cages and aquariums and are serving life sentences despite having committed absolutely no crime. There are 1,300 of them doing time in America’s oldest zoo. Kidnapped from their natural habitats, they can no longer fly, run, climb, crawl, dig, hunt, and swim as nature intended. They are separated from their families for our amusement. Not good. Not right.

Worst Bureaucratic Agency: Philadelphia Parking Authority
Its website says that the PPA “serves the needs of the public …” That’s an effin’ lie! They are bureaucratic terrorists who are justifiably hated by the public, both residents and tourists alike. They are the one governmental entity that would be abolished in a heartbeat if a referendum were held by Democrats, by Republicans, by Independents, by men, by women, by the young, by the old, by the rich, by the poor, by blacks, or by whites. The PPA oughta be locked up in zoos and monkeys oughta replace it on the streets.

Worst Sports Decision: The Refusal To Immediately Renegotiate DeSean Jackson’s Contract
By the time you read this, the Eagles will probably have renegotiated DeSean’s contract. But why did they take so damn long? Did they really believe that this two-time Pro Bowler deserved to be paid less than 27 of his teammates and less than about 90 other NFL wide receivers? Did they really believe that, next to Michael Vick, there’s a more explosive game changer on the team? Pay the man. And do it yesterday.

Worst Supermarket: Trader Joe’s (2121 Market Street)
Any multimillion dollar chain that refuses to pay workers a requested mere extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked in Florida—especially since those poor migrant laborers earn about only 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket and have to fill more than 150 buckets per 10-hour day (i.e., one every four minutes) in order to reach minimum wage—is worse than Ebenezer Scrooge.

Worst Center City Elevator System: Criminal Justice Center
Why does an $87 million building with 11 publicly accessible floors, 66 courtrooms, and hundreds of defendants, complainants, witnesses, cops, lawyers, jurors, judges, employees, and spectators entering every morning have just one elevator bank that is fed like a cattle chute from three street-level entrances? Who designed that? And why isn’t he or she facing capital charges for criminal negligence and theft of taxpayer dollars?