SEPTA on Temple-Cecil B. Moore Station Flap: “We Made a Mistake”

Here's why a big Temple ad campaign disappeared from the Cecil B. Moore subway station.


Workers install the signage in August. Screenshot | Temple/YouTube

The Cecil B. Moore stop on the Broad Street Line has been the subject of some embarrassment for SEPTA officials over the past couple weeks.

The balled up remnants of the ads. Photo | Margo Reed, The Temple News

The balled up remnants of the ads sit outside the station. Photo | Margo Reed, The Temple News

Cherry-colored decals coating the station — both at street level and underground —were mysteriously removed two weekends ago following outcry from civil rights activists. According to SEPTA officials, the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters took issue with the ads. They felt that they were over-the-top and — without signage on the street level indicating the actual name of the station — overshadowed the station’s namesake, a 1960s Philadelphia Civil Rights icon.

“I could have cried,” said Karen Asper Jordan, head of the Freedom Fighters. “People with money [feel] entitled that they can do anything. When I met Cecil, I was 16 years old. I look up to this man, the way he made me feel — the way he made people feel. Talking about the problems we had in Philadelphia.”

As soon as she saw the ads, she placed calls to SEPTA and Temple’s President’s office expressing her outrage. SEPTA officials say they immediately realized it was a mistake.

“​We made a mistake and we overdid it,” SEPTA Assistant General Manager Fran Kelly said, noting that the Cecil B. Moore subway stop is the only station in the entire system named after an individual.

Kelly met with the Freedom Fighters and arrived at the conclusion that the ads needed to come down.

So how did such a large advertising campaign get approval? Intersection, a mass transit advertising contractor that SEPTA hired, handled the deal from start to finish, Kelly said.

I’ll be honest with you, I wish my group and I were part of seeing that. One foot got in front of the other here, and they really sold an unbelievable package to Temple,” Kelly said. Temple was not thrilled about the decision, especially after it made this neat video showing the subway stop being “electrified:”

Temple was not invited to the meeting between SEPTA and the Freedom Fighters, Temple Update reports. When reached for comment, the university provided this statement:

[…]Despite SEPTA’s decision, we believe the appearance of the station was significantly improved and that the upgraded condition and profile of the station honored its namesake, the late Cecil B. Moore. No existing signage was obstructed or otherwise altered. ​Temple University is very proud of its association with Moore, a Temple law school graduate and respected civil rights leader, who was prominently featured as the cover story in Temple’s Winter 2013 magazine.

Kelly added that if he had seen the plans, the ads would not have been as obtrusive. He has worked closely with the Freedom Fighters over the past two years to install a mosaic in the station which memorialized Moore.

“​We bruised our relationship with Temple,” Kelly, a Temple alum, said. “But we’re hitting the reset button with Temple. They’re an important customer and important to this city.”

This is not the first time Moore faced seemingly inadvertent erasure on Temple’s campus. Google Maps drew criticism last year after the Cecil B. Moore community was labeled ‘TempleTown.”

Kelly said Temple will be fully reimbursed. Moving forward, Jordan said the Freedom Fighters will be meeting with SEPTA again.

“We’re going to go back to the table,” Jordan said. “We’re waiting for them to set up a meeting to see how we can really honor Moore’s legacy.”

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