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“Theatre in the X” to bring Othello and all-Black cast to Malcolm X Park

Posted on 04 August 2015

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Theatre in the X presents all-Black cast Othello at Malcolm X Park on Aug. 8, 15 & 22. (Photo from Theatre in the X’s Facebook page).

The Winter’s Tale production in Clark Park is over, but more outdoor Shakespeare productions are coming to West Philly this summer. “Theatre in the X“, an artists’ collective that staged No Child… at Malcolm X Park in 2013, is presenting three free performances of Othello with an all-Black cast in the park starting Saturday, Aug. 8. The collective’s core is local theater artists Carlo Campbell, who plays Othello, Walter DeShields (Cassio) and LaNeshe Miller-White (Emilia). The play is directed by well-known director Ozzie Jones.

The play in this production is set in the criminal underworld. Campbell “is like the ‘muscle’ of the Duke of Venice’s crew,” according to Jones, while love interest Desdemona (played by Nastassja Baset) is envisioned as an underboss’ daughter. “In the language, it’s not so much race,” said Campbell, comparing the dynamic of this particular production to Will Smith visiting his wealthy uncle in California on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. “It’s this person who has this audacity to think that, from their station in life, they can be privy to rewards.”

Theatre in the X was created to provide free and accessible theater to the community, as well as provide local African American artists with acting and directing opportunities. The 2015 presentation is part of the City of Philadelphia’s Performances in Public Spaces program managed by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and is supported by the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change grants. Public donations are essential, too, so if you want to chip in, please visit this page.

Performances are on three upcoming Saturdays – Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. and on Aug. 15 & 22 at 6 p.m. 

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HVAC issues again: Walnut Street West library closed until further notice

Posted on 04 August 2015

ClosedSignHere’s some bad news from the Walnut Street West branch of the Free Library (40th and Walnut). Thanks to some issues with the branch’s heating and cooling system, the library will be closed “until further notice,” according to the Facebook page for the branch.

“We do not have any information at this time regarding when the branch will reopen,” the page reads. “Without the necessary repairs, our building will stay closed until such a time as the interior temperature falls into the 70-degree range.”

Details are still being worked out for picking up holds placed at the branch, and any fines caused by the closure will be waived, the post continued.

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Neighborly love: Two West Philly authors discuss their books in person this week

Posted on 03 August 2015

Here are two chances to meet and support West Philly-based authors who will be presenting their new books this week.

badkhen walking with abelAnna Badkhen, a journalist, world traveler and writer, is inviting neighbors to the Penn Book Center (34th and Sansom) on Tuesday, Aug. 4 for the launch of her new book, Walking with Abel. Named a top summer reading pick by the Los Angeles Times, Playboy and Mental Floss, the book takes readers on a journey with a family of Fulani nomads, as they embark on their annual migration across the African savanna. Badkhen spent much of 2013 living with the nomads in the Sahel region of Mali in Western Africa (read our earlier post about Badkhen and her book here).

“[Badkhen] mak[es] Fulani culture come alive as she follows the herders’ daily efforts to cope with drought, disease, and death in an often unforgiving landscape…,” reads a review by Library Journal, and Playboy calls the book a “vivid, memorable nonfiction.”  Continue Reading

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“Glen’s Village”: Must-see doc on West Philly kid, his mom and redemption

Posted on 03 August 2015

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OK, first thing … You need to carve 30 minutes out of your day and watch the mini-documentary Glen’s Village, a film about a kid who grew up around 52nd and Haverford, was dealing crack by the 9th grade and is now, thanks to the strength of his mother and himself, a student at Penn. (It’s embedded below).

The film takes you through Glen’s childhood growing up with a dad who was, as one person in the film puts it, basically a “drug kingpin.” He was later deported to Jamaica, leaving Glen’s mother to raise him alone. It wasn’t going well as he entered his teens and by ninth grade Glen was regularly skipping school and selling drugs.

But at University City High School he turns it around. As one of the school’s star students, Glen testified before the School Reform Commission as it considered closing the school. UC High’s closure is an important part of the film, as is his work at Sayre High School, where he teaches part time to fulfill his scholarship obligations.  Continue Reading

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Two people assaulted, robbed at bus stops on Sunday morning in separate incidents (updated)

Posted on 02 August 2015

UPDATE (8/3/2015): A man and a woman were robbed with the use of weapons and physically assaulted on Sunday morning at bus stops in the area.

A 46-year-old woman sustained cuts to her arm and was robbed at around 9:10 a.m. at 48th and Larchwood, according to police. The woman was waiting for a SEPTA bus when she felt a pull on her purse across her shoulder. When she turned around she saw an unknown female with a yellow box cutter in her hands. She swung at the woman and cut her under her left arm, according to a police report. While pulling on the purse she made her way into the passenger side of a black sedan, which police believe was a rental car. The victim also got into the vehicle continuing struggling over her purse. The vehicle pulled away, and the victim was dragged several feet before she was pushed out, according to police. The car fled northbound on S. 51st Street toward Spruce and was lost.

The first suspect is described as a black female, 25-35 years old, 5’5″, 170-180 lbs, wearing a blue or green shirt, jeans and a purple/white scarf. The scarf was recovered on the scene. The vehicle, a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, an Enterprise rental car, was operated by a heavily built black male, 35-40 years old, according to a police report. Both suspects were still at large as of Monday, Aug. 3, 10 a.m.  Continue Reading

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Community Science Carnival this Saturday

Posted on 31 July 2015

Families are invited this Saturday (Aug. 1) to participate in hands-on activities and have fun at the 3rd annual Community Science Carnival organized by White Rock Baptist Church and the Ernest E. Just Biomedical Society at the University of Pennsylvania. The event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Doors open at 11 a.m., and guests are asked to arrive by 11:30 for registration and lunch.

This is a free event to expose 2nd-6th graders to hands on scientific activities led by graduate and post-doctoral scientists. For parents, there will also be hands-on experiment workshops and poster sessions with scientists.

The location is 5240 Chestnut Street, at the White Rock Baptist Church Gym. See the flier below for more information.

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Uptick in robberies reported by police, residents

Posted on 31 July 2015

crimeResidents and police are reporting an uptick in robberies in recent weeks, which often happens during the summer months. We have included a few reports below of the most recent incidents. Be careful out there.

The following message was posted in the West Philly Local forum on July 27:

“Hey community,
I have been a West Philly resident for ten years without any problems. This past month I was attacked twice by teenagers between 49th and 50th and Locust and Walnut. Please use much caution when walking around at night. Police have reported that this has been an every-night occurrence.”

Police have confirmed that there was a higher number of robberies, including gunpoint robberies, committed by teenagers in the area this month. Police say they have already detained some of the suspects and are working on identifying the others. Here are some of the latest robbery reports:  Continue Reading

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No trolley service to/from Center City July 31 – Aug. 17 (updated)

Posted on 30 July 2015

The annual Center City Trolley Tunnel maintenance and construction project (SEPTA Trolley Tunnel Blitz) is scheduled for July 31 – Aug. 17, 2015, which means there will be no trolley service in the tunnel during this period. Trolley Routes 10, 11, 13, 34 and 36 will not operate in the tunnel from 10 p.m. on Friday, July 31 through 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 17 while SEPTA crews complete a variety of power, track and station improvement projects.

During the 16-day tunnel closure, passengers can use the Market-Frankford Line from 40th Street station to travel to and from Center City. All trolleys will be diverted to 40th and Market Streets where passengers can switch to subway service at no additional cost.

During the Blitz, SEPTA crews will replace almost 7,500 feet (more than one mile) of track on the westbound side of the tunnel between 22nd Street Station and the 40th Street Portal.

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A roaring opening night of The Winter’s Tale at Clark Park (updated)

Posted on 30 July 2015

UPDATE (5:05 p.m.): Due to the rain, Thursday’s performance will be held indoors – at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater (33rd and Chestnut). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note that no picnics are allowed inside.

A new production by Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP) company, The Winter’s Tale, kicked off on Wednesday in the park’s Bowl (43rd and Chester). A huge crowd gathered for the opening night (see photos below) and enjoyed the great summer night atmosphere, superb acting of both adults and children cast in the show, and a few surprises (including the bear scene on the Bohemian seaside pictured below). A couple of food trucks and carts were also on hand for one of the summer’s best neighbor-watching opportunities.

If you missed the opening, there are four more shows remaining – through Sunday, Aug. 2. More information about this year’s production is available here. Shows start at 7 p.m.

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Woman wanted in connection with hit-and-run that killed 4-year-old in Kingsessing turns herself in (updated)

Posted on 29 July 2015

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Shanika Mason in police custody on Wednesday. Screen shot from CBS3 video.

Police say a woman surrendered this morning in connection with the hit-and-run collision in April that killed a 4-year-old boy.

The black Ford Edge that police believe struck Abdul Wilson near the corner of 57th and Florence was recovered the following day, April 15, in a parking lot under Love Park in Center City, according to reports. Since then, the owner of the vehicle has apparently been negotiating with police through an attorney to turn herself in, which she did this morning.

CBS Philly is reporting that the woman is 27-year-old Shanika Mason of Sharon Hill. According to police, Mason works as a dietary aide in Haverford. Police could not confirm if charges have been filed. We will keep you posted.

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Shakespeare back at Clark Park July 29-Aug 2 with The Winter’s Tale (updated)

Posted on 29 July 2015

UPDATE (7/29/15): The Winter’s Tale shows kick off tonight at Clark Park at 7 p.m., and according to a new announcement from Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP), they will be raffling gift cards from local businesses:

Also, don’t forget to bring your blanket or chairs, some picnic food (and drinks!) and a little bit of cash (if you can) for a donation. Donations help this awesome event return each summer.

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Free outdoor Shakespeare in Clark Park shows draw big crowds to the “Bowl” near 43rd and Chester (archived photo/West Philly Local).

Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer with five nights of The Winter’s Tale, a tragicomedy of family and forgiveness. The annual popular outdoor theatre event that draws huge crowds of both locals and guests, returns on Wednesday, July 29 to Clark Park’s “Bowl” near 43rd and Chester.

Those who attended last year’s Henry IV shows must remember the epic battle scenes performed by a crowd of some 100 volunteers from various Philly neighborhoods (it’s truly hard to forget!). This year, a chorus of over 30 Philadelphia-area schoolchildren will perform along the company’s professional actors. Chorus members were selected after spring auditions.

The young performers are an integral part of the show; along with the audience they’re witnessing the triumph and failure of the adults. According to Director Kittson O’Neill, “The Chorus of Children not only helps perform The Winter’s Tale, it also allows the audience a way into this foreign world… It’s a tale of generations and how consequences are often felt most strongly by the next generation.”  Continue Reading

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Excessive heat warning in effect starting at noon

Posted on 29 July 2015

Due to dangerous weather conditions in the region forecasted for today with the temperatures in the mid-90’s and high humidity, Philadelphia Health Commissioner James Buehler has issued an excessive heat warning for Philadelphia beginning at noon. The ‘Heatline’ (215-765-9040) will be in operation from noon through midnight.

Just like on July 19, when the summer’s first heat warning was issued, the City will activate summer heat programs, including enhanced daytime outreach for the homeless. The authorities also encourage the public to check on older friends, relatives, and neighbors.

In a heat wave, the majority of the victims are older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions, so health officials urge the public to visit older friends, relatives and neighbors to ensure that air conditioners or fans are working, and homes are adequately ventilated. Other groups at risk in the extreme heat include people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, small children, those who work in a high heat environment and persons engaged in strenuous physical activity.  Continue Reading

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Big fences, small zines and hands-on learning: West Philly in the news

Posted on 28 July 2015

Here’s a round up of some of the latest news coming out of the area.

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St. Francis de Sales School (Photo from greatphillyschools.org).

Cool things are happening at St. Francis de Sales, the local Catholic school. The school recently received a $13,000 grant from the nonprofit faith-based Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia to help fund its Science and Arts Innovative Learning on the River (SAILOR) program. The program provides real-world, hands-on engineering experience to participating students who visit the Delaware river, build boats and learn how to operate them. The program has inspired many St. Francis de Sales students to pursue an education in engineering, according to The Philadelphia Tribune. By the way, the school’s highly-acclaimed after-school music program, Play On Philly!, has also been featured in the news many times.

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Photo from Phillysoapbox.org.

Have you checked out The Soapbox yet? Philadelphia City Paper has recently published a nice feature on the West Philly-based independent publishing center. Co-founders Mary Tasillo and Charlene Kwon opened the space at 741 S. 51st St in 2011 to be used as a community studio for book arts and zine-making. Now, in addition to the studio, which is free to use for their members, The Soapbox also hosts a variety of workshops and houses a vast collection of zines (about 1,500!), over 500 of which have been cataloged. In other independent publishing news, the annual Philly Zine Fest will take place at The Rotunda (40th and Walnut) on Aug. 30Continue Reading

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A leaking barrel appears: Hazardous waste dumping on S. 51st Street

Posted on 28 July 2015

This leaking barrel of oil has been dumped at 51st and Warrington Streets, according to neighbor reports. There are two community gardens within a block.

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Twitter photos by Kate Garchinsky.

Another barrel (not leaking), along with construction waste, has been reported half a block east.

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Philly311 has been notified and issued a request to the servicing department:

We’ll keep you posted on further developments. “Drive by” trash dumping often occurs in some areas of the city, and the Streets Department is responsible for the cleanup of illegal dumping found on city streets. If you want to report illegal dumping on your block, here is an online form. You can also call 311 (215-686-8686 for cell phones). If you’re a Twitter user you can tweet to Philly311 (@philly311). Please include the address where illegal dumping was found. Information on proper disposal of bulk items and construction debris can be found here.

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Block captains wanted to bring a piece of their street to 40th St. storefront

Posted on 27 July 2015

The  windows along 40th Street that will house "Windowwishes."

The windows along 40th Street that will house “Windowwishes.” Photo from the ThemThatDo website.

Local photographer and artist Lori Waselchuk is looking for some block captains to help her create a window installation for vacant storefront windows along 40th Street.

Entitled “Windowishes,” the street exhibit will include everything from video and archival photographs to neighborhood objects and crafts and will coincide with the Center for Emerging and Visual Artists’ Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST) on Oct. 17 and 18. The installation will be in those seven storefront windows on the west side of 40th Street between Chestnut and Ludlow.

Waselchuk, who has shared block captain’s stories in the multimedia project ThemThatDo, said that the planning for the exhibition will begin in August. So if you are a block captain or know one who is interested in showing the community the vitality, history and distinctiveness of your block, go to the project website here and sign up.

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Police charge handyman in murder of Jasmine Wright (updated)

Posted on 24 July 2015

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Jasmine Wright

Police have charged a 56-year-old handyman in the murder of West Philly resident and Drexel University graduate Jasmine Wright.

Police allege that James Harris, who police say has an extensive arrest record, sexually assaulted and strangled Wright, 27, in her apartment near 50th and Locust. Her body was found on July 15, about 24 hours after the murder.

Harris worked in the building but was fired about a week earlier, according to reports. Police say he still had a set of keys to the building and that his fingerprints and DNA were found on the scene.

Wright, who received her master’s degree at Drexel University’s School of Public Health a few weeks ago, was found beaten and strangled last Thursday afternoon in a bedroom of her third floor apartment after her father had tried to reach her by phone and finally asked the property manager to check on her.

Originally from New York City, Wright received her bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University. She had lived in West Philly for about two years while she was attending Drexel’s graduate program. Her neighbors described her as a quiet and sweet girl, who mostly kept to herself. Her friends remember her as a funny and caring woman.

Harris had 31 prior arrests, police said, including sexual assaults. He was also convicted in 1982 for the murder of his own father. He had been in custody since July 19, when he was detained on suspicion of robbery and trespassing for re-entering the building.

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Lots of live music, fun at 40th Street Summer Festival and more events this Saturday

Posted on 24 July 2015

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Mixed People band will perform this Saturday at 40th and Walnut.

The 40th Street Summer Festival which includes dazzling acts ranging from jugglers and fire dancers to puppets and percussions, kicks off at 5 p.m. this Saturday (July 25) in the green space behind the Walnut West Library near 40th and Walnut.

The festival will also feature live music from Mixed People, Red Cedar Strings (Facebook page) and Au Jus, and entertainment and activities for the whole family.

nejoehill-roadshow-philadelphiaLater on Saturday the University Lutheran Church (3637 Chestnut St.) will host the Joe Hill Roadshow, a tour commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of International Workers of the World activist and songwriter Joe Hill. Hill, who was executed in 1915, had a long-lasting influence on radical organizing in the country. The tribute concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and includes music from MagpieCharlie King, George Mann and special guest John Braxton. Tickets for this show are also available at Bindlestiff Books at 4530 Baltimore Ave.

For more upcoming events, please visit our Events Calendar.

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Registration for 2015 Block Captains Forum ends July 27

Posted on 24 July 2015

Here’s a great opportunity for local block captains to meet other captains, share their experience and better their community organizing and other skills. The annual West and Southwest Philadelphia Block Captains Forum will take place at Philadelphia Boys’ Latin Charter School (55th and Cedar) on Saturday, Aug. 15, and registration for the forum is open through July 27. Several free workshops will be held at the one-day event, including Crime and Safety, Community Organizing 101, Vacant Land Management, and more.

Block captains who are registered with the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) are encouraged to attend this event and can register for the forum by contacting The Partnership CDC/NAC Office at 215-662-1612 or at 4020 Market St. See the flier below for more information.

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Philly Student Union looks to community to raise funds for new space

Posted on 22 July 2015

The West Philly-based student leadership and public education advocacy group, Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), a highly visible and effective youth organization in the city, is launching a fundraising campaign to help cover rent for a new space.

PSU, which has been around for some 20 years, has been operating without an office for a couple of months. For many years they worked out of a small space at 42nd and Chestnut until they had to move this past spring due to rising rental costs. Previously headquartered at 50th St and Baltimore Avenue, PSU plans to stay in West Philadelphia, with the goal of settling somewhere on the 52nd Street corridor.

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PSU members at the #reclaimMLK march on January 19, 2015 (Facebook photo).

PSU is looking to raise $11,000, which will help them cover everything from rent increases to moving costs.

PSU’s mission is to give young people the tools and skills to organize and fight for better public education in the city of Philadelphia. In their new space, PSU intends to continue holding political workshops covering topics from structural racism, school funding and the school-to-prison pipeline. These workshops are open to all high school aged youth. PSU also holds youth-led media literacy programs, which are meant to educate youth on different ways to communicate their message. One of these programs is a radio production program called On Blast, which gives youth an opportunity to portray how they want to be represented in the media.

“Through organizing, media production, and leadership development, PSU gives young people the tools and skills they need to learn how to change the world around them,” said youth media organizer Beth Patel.

The fundraising campaign can be found on IndieGoGo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-philadelphia-student-union-needs-a-home

Rana Fayez

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