On Thursday, November 8, 2018, Health Partners Foundation honored Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and two local community organizations that have transformed the lives of those in need at the annual Making A Difference Awards, held at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Mayor Kenney received the Making A Difference Award for expanding quality pre-K and providing vital resources to community schools which have improved educational opportunities and outcomes for Philadelphia students. Aniyah’s Mission, represented by Aniyah Ayres, received the Community Transformation Award and a $2,500 check; and One Day At A Time, represented by Malik Williams, also received the Community Transformation Award and a $2,500 check.
Today was just too good to be true. It’s Saturday morning, October 27. When I woke up, I knew my birthday was going to be a special day. But hold up. Wait a minute. I had one big problem. I didn’t know exactly how my birthday would be celebrated. There were no plans for any birthday party. I didn’t have any balloons or a birthday cake to help me celebrate my day. The strange part about it, I didn’t feel any emptiness inside. The one thing I knew, I was going to get up, throw on a good suit and start my day.
To my delight, I was given an invitation to join a bunch of folks at the PECO Building, located at 2301 Market Street in Center City. They were there to celebrate the birth and the 50th Year Anniversary of Sullivan Progress Plaza. This plaza is located in the smack of North Philadelphia. To my surprise, on my 6th birthday, back in 1968, Dr. Reverend Leon Sullivan gave birth to Progress Plaza, a shopping center that made history at 1501 North Broad Street.
As history is told, on October 27, 1968, Leon Sullivan Progress Plaza became the first-owned shopping center in the entire nation. During the birth of Progress Plaza, Donald “Ducky” Birts, a political activist and a college scholarship organizer, had moved the operation of his men’s clothing store from Camden to Philadelphia. He met Reverend Leon Sullivan and went into business with him. In 1967, Ducky Birts became the first black business man to sign a contract and operate his men’s clothing store “Ducky Dashery” in Progress Plaza.
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On Saturday, October 27, a celebratory Mass was held in the Church of the Gesu to commemorate Gesu School’s 25th anniversary as an independent Catholic school and its positive impact on the community since 1873. This special occasion recognizes the vital role that the church has played in Gesu School's history as a former parish school and its ongoing importance to the school today.
Fr. Raymond Donaldson, S.J., Gesu School Chaplain, was the Celebrant, along with Principal Celebrants Fr. George W. Bur, S.J., Gesu School Founding President, and Fr. Neil Ver’Schneider, S.J., Gesu School Vice Principal and Chaplain, along with other concelebrants from the Gesu community. The offertory included a procession with two original faculty members and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who co-direct Gesu School with the Jesuits. The Gesu Gospel Choir provided inspiring music and set a joyful tone for the celebration.
At Philadelphia Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc.’s Oct. 17 open house, 100 youth in community-based detention will help present college scholarships to young people who not long ago stood in their shoes. The open house brought current and former YAP participants and families together with juvenile justice, social services and other professionals who, for four decades, have referred thousands of individuals to the program as an alternative to youth prison, detention or other away-from-home placements.
“The YAP model is actually very simple. We match youth with paid mentor Advocates who live in the same neighborhoods as the families we serve. These very special Advocates help our YAP youth identify their individual strengths and working with them, empowering them by helping them build individual toolkits with resources they need to achieve their goals,” said Philadelphia-based YAP Regional Director Randall Sims. “At the same time, we work with family members to help them identify their strengths and the tools they need to ensure that there’s a sound foundation for them and their children for years to come. Our YAP team is always looking to build on the resources we connect our youth and families with, including behavior health, educational, workforce development, substance abuse prevention and other community tools,” he added.
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Since 2012, neighbors from Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, and West Powelton have used a community-driven neighborhood plan to make decisions about and advocate for their section of West Philadelphia. The Make Your Mark plan, developed with residents’ input to inform the agencies and institutions serving their neighborhoods, will be supported for the next five years with funding from Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC).
Community stakeholders gathered recently to celebrate their accomplishments and look ahead to the future of their area. Among them were neighbors who spoke about their experience living in West Philadelphia and working with PECCDC to empower the other residents.
August 2019 will mark 400 years since the first documented arrival of Africans who came to America by way of Point Comfort, VA.
The 400 Years Coalition will plan programs and activities in Philadelphia and its Metropolitan areas to recognize the arrival and influence Africans and their descendants had in America since 1619. The Coalition will be charged with highlighting the resilience and contributions of African Americans as well as acknowledging the painful impact that slavery and other atrocities have had on our nation.
The 400 year history of African Americans is full of tragedies that have shaped the black experience in America and should be remembered as moral catastrophes. African Americans have contributed to the economic, academic, social culture and moral well-being of this nation. The 400 Years Coalition will tell this story throughout 2019. We will be host events every week in 2019 commemorating our struggle.
As we contemplate the challenges and injustices that African Americans still face, we remember the tragic way in which African American history began and draw inspiration from the heroes and trailblazers who fought under our country’s principle that all people are created equal.
These heroes and trailblazers, along with millions of African Americans who have worked, created, invented, discovered, lived and died over the past 400 years, have molded our national character such that the United States would be unrecognizable without our presence. #400years, website: 400yearscoalition.com
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