Distinguished author John Edgar Wideman to speak at Mighty Writers West this Friday

Posted on 11 February 2016

johnedgarwidemanHere is a chance to see John Edgar Wideman, a widely celebrated writer and winner of several literary awards, including the International PEN/Faulkner award, this Friday in West Philly. Wideman, who is also a founder of Penn’s African American Studies Department, will speak at the West Philadelphia branch of Mighty Writers (3861 Lancaster Ave.).

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Mighty Writers is a local non-profit organization that teaches children to think and write with clarity. Mighty Writers West opened its doors in 2013 and since then has been offering classes, afterschool programs, College Prep courses, and a summer camp to West Philadelphia kids and youth. All programs at Mighty Writers are free to Philadelphia students. For more information, visit:

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Big Love on Sunday: A benefit show for Ahimsa House community garden

Posted on 11 February 2016


The Ahimsa House community garden.

On Sunday, Feb. 14, a local nonviolence center, the Ahimsa House, will host Big Love, its 2nd annual benefit concert and raffle. The concert features Unidos da Filadelfia, JOHNNY POPCORN, Hardwork Movement, Silverton, Red Cedar Strings, DJs BeeTee Beats and SarahCuda. Raffle prizes include private massage, yoga, and photography sessions, Sixers tickets, as well as gift certificates to local businesses, such as Honest Tom’s and Greensgrow West. All proceeds will go to paying back the loan for the Ahimsa House community garden.

Last year, we published an article on the struggles of the Ahimsa House to save their community garden. The garden began in 2011 after the center’s founder, Meg Ferrigno, purchased the Ahimsa House at 5007 Cedar Ave. with a wrongful arrest settlement from the city. She immediately went to work turning the vacant lot next door into a garden where members from the community could grow and harvest free vegetables. Ferrigno put the garden up for sheriff’s sale along with a deposit for first bid as caretaker of the lot, but the garden was bought out from under her.

AhimsaBenefitflierFerrigno saved the lot last year with the help of donations from the community and a personal loan. Forty thousand dollars on the loan still need to be paid back. This year, the garden became part of the PHS City Harvest program, which provided the mulch and materials to build raised beds. Anyone from the community can request a plot to grow on, and part of the garden also grows food for the West Philly chapter of Food not Bombs.

More information about the campaign to save the garden can be found at

The show will be at the Rotunda on 40th and Walnut. Doors open at 6 p.m. with music starting at 6:30. Entry is on a sliding scale donation basis between $10-15. Baked goods, including vegan and gluten free options, will be available for purchase. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Alyssa Songsiridej

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New middle school at Drexel to open to 5th graders this fall

Posted on 10 February 2016

A new Science Leadership Academy middle school will open this fall to fifth graders in a temporary location on Drexel’s campus, the School District of Philadelphia announced today.


Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships (photo from

The district expects about 90 fifth graders to enroll in the fall in the temporary space at Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships (3509 Spring Garden). Building plans for the school’s permanent home are under way on the site of the old University City High School and Drew Elementary School near 38th and Filbert.

Most of the fifth grade students will come from nearby Samuel Powel Elementary, a highly rated K-4 school.

Drexel’s School of Education will also support the middle school with help in planning and executing the curriculum, similar to the arrangement Penn has with the Penn Alexander School. Drexel President John Fry helped create the Penn Alexander school and other neighborhood initiatives as an executive vice president at Penn under former president Judith Rodin.

Costs to cover the start-up and planning of the new school will be covered by a $1.8 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership. The new school will be called the Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS).

Students will remain at the Dornsife Center site for “at least two years,” according to the district. The new school will accommodate some 360 students when it is completed.

District Superintendent William Hite announced a plan last fall that included the Drexel-based middle school, the closure of other schools and the conversion of the Samuel B. Huey School to a charter.

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Want to help make The Woodlands more beautiful? Become a Grave Gardener

Posted on 10 February 2016

Victorian garden

Victorian Garden at The Woodlands Center Circle (rendering).

In an effort to take The Woodlands cemetery grounds “from eternal rest to garden best,” 20 people are sought to join a newly established garden community, The Grave Gardeners, for the upcoming growing season.

Each Grave Gardener will adopt a grave in the Center Circle of the cemetery and tend to it throughout the season. All the supplies and knowledge you need will be provided, in exchange for your work. At the end of the season, you’ll get a chance to show off your plot to the rest of The Woodlands community at a Garden Fête.

The season will start with three workshops, where The Grave Gardeners will learn how to design a Victorian-style garden and how to keep it beautiful throughout the growing season. The workshops are led by local experts.

The first workshop, “Gardens (and Houses) in Graveyards,” presented by architectural historian and vice president of The Woodlands Aaron Wunsch, will be held on February 25.

So, if you have some free time this spring and summer and are not afraid to get your hands dirty, you’re welcome to fill out an application here:

Application are accepted through Friday, Feb. 12.

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Vital Step Physical Therapy & Fitness opens on 50th and Baltimore

Posted on 09 February 2016


Delaila Aryee (left) and Lyndsay Brown (right) with former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.

A new fitness and physical therapy private practice with a focus on affordable physical therapy and rehab, fitness classes and open gym options, has recently opened at 5008 Baltimore Avenue. Vital Step Physical Therapy and Fitness co-owners Delaila Aryee and Lyndsay Brown, both Doctors of Physical Therapy, are young entrepreneurs who were featured on A Woman’s Nation in September 2015. Their dream then was to open their own, compassionate practice that would serve their community.

“We are very passionate about making an impact in our local community because we have spent many years here as clinicians, residents and graduates from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (also located in West Philly),” Aryee and Brown told A Woman’s Nation.

vitalstepyogaThanks to the women’s passion and a little help from KIVA Zip, which provided a microloan allowing to renovate the space and to purchase necessary equipment and supplies, Vital Step opened its doors in November.

At Vital Step, you can get physical therapy services for various neurological conditions, including stroke, brain/spinal injury, Parkinson’s disorder, Multiple Sclerosis and more; orthopedic conditions, including joint replacement therapy, arthritis/joint pain, lower back/neck pain, sports injuries and more. The facility also offers balance and fall prevention programs, CHF and COPD management, postpartum therapy, diabetes and high blood pressure management, and other services.


Rehabbing an ankle injury at Vital Step.

As concerns fitness and health education, Vital Step offers general and specialized fitness programs, including yoga, low impact aerobics and Zumba/dance, and nutrition education.

Vital Step Physical Therapy & Fitness is located at 5008 Baltimore Ave., on the 2nd floor of the Mercy wellness center (it is not affiliated with Mercy).

For more information, visit: You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

(Photos from Vital Step’s Facebook page).

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UPDATE: Tuesday trash/recycling to be collected this Tuesday and Wednesday

Posted on 08 February 2016

UPDATE (2/9/2016): Due to the low snow accumulations, Streets Department crews will be collecting Tuesday’s trash and recycling on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Residents whose trash collection day is Tuesday can now put their materials on the curb.

On Monday, the Streets Department announced  that it cancelled Tuesday trash and recycling pick-up ahead of an expected snowstorm that will put garbage trucks to work as snowplows.


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UPDATE: More turbine testing at Penn; expect loud noise that sounds like jet engine

Posted on 08 February 2016

UPDATE (2/8/2016): More steam turbine testing will be conducted on Monday, Feb. 8, from 7 to 11 p.m.

The University of Pennsylvania Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services will conduct steam line venting as part of the Utility Plant upgrade at University Avenue and River Fields Drive, according to an announcement by the Division of Public Safety. This venting is necessary to clean out new steam piping prior to energizing newly installed steam turbines.

Venting will occur at various intervals over a three-day period Tuesday, Feb. 2 through Thursday, Feb. 4, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Venting will consist of a series of approximately five steam releases into the air from the new steam piping, which will create a high white columnar-like cloud of vaporized water which may look like smoke as it condenses into the cool air. There will be corresponding loud sounds similar to a jet engine. Each duration of venting will be approximately 30 seconds to two minutes.

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Old West Philly High School redevelopment project to receive $24 million loan

Posted on 08 February 2016

800px-WTP_A17_youcanlookitup_2The developers of the old West Philly High School building recently secured $24 million in funding. According to reports, the loan has been arranged by Colliers International Capital Markets and will be used for the acquisition and redevelopment of the 442,200-square-foot, four-story building at 4700 Walnut Street. The 103-year-old building was acquired by New York-based developer Andrew Bank in early 2015.

The project to gut the building and convert it into 298 loft apartments was first presented in 2012, but it took more than two years for Bank to finalize the purchase of the building.

Bank, who is the Managing Director of the real estate development company Strong Place Partners, met with community members last summer to talk about the project. During a June 2015 Garden Court Community Association meeting, Bank told the attendees that his company had obtained all necessary permits and that some work on the building was already being done, including asbestos and debris removal and construction of a loading dock on the eastern portion of the building.

Bank also said that he was waiting for a loan settlement to begin building the first 130 apartments. He added that the project may include some commercial space along Locust Street.

Construction is set to begin in 2017.

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Early morning armed robbery at 41st and Pine

Posted on 07 February 2016

More details are available on the armed robbery that took place at 41st and Pine on early Sunday morning and prompted an alert from the Division of Public Safety at Penn.

The robbery took place at around 2:30 a.m. when the victim was approached by two males with covered faces and was robbed at a gunpoint. The men took the victim’s phone and headphones and fled on foot toward 41st and Spruce.

Penn police were on the scene and patrolled the area after the robbery.

We’ll post more information when it becomes available.

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Where to celebrate Lunar (Chinese) New Year

Posted on 05 February 2016


Photo courtesy of International House Philadelphia.

This year on the Chinese calendar is the year of the Monkey. It starts on February 8, and there will be celebrations around the city this weekend and on Monday.

Families are invited to the following events:

• International House Philadelphia (3701 Chestnut St.) is hosting a celebration tonight (Friday, Feb. 5), beginning at 7 p.m. There will be traditional musical and dance performances and a sampling of delicious traditional Chinese cuisine. The program includes:

7:00 p.m. – Traditional food tasting and vendors in Galleria
7:45 p.m. – Show featuring traditional dance, song, lion dance, and more begins in Ibrahim Theater

Tickets are $12 (general public); $8 (IHP members and alumni); $5 (children 12 and under). No tickets are required for children small enough to sit on your lap.  Continue Reading

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‘Racism is a Sickness’ art installation opens tonight at the Art Church

Posted on 05 February 2016

RacismisaSickness1“Racism is a Sickness,” an art installation that uses photography and personal stories to showcase the devastating effects of racism on American society, is currently on display at the Art Church of West Philadelphia (5219 Webster St.).

The photo essay, which is presented by Germantown-based photographer and blogger Tieshka Smith, highlights the disastrous socioeconomic effects of racism on the health and well-being of people of color and on society at large. The author hopes to jump start community conversations leading to action and increased cross-collaboration between community members, academics, elected officials, businesspeople and health care practitioners.


“Racism is a Sickness” events program (click to enlarge).

The soft opening of the exhibition was held on Monday, Feb. 1, and tonight everyone is invited to the opening reception, from 7 – 10 p.m., featuring a performance by Philadelphia-based vocalist and rapper DMNQ LNDN.

The installation will be on display until Feb. 29 and will also include the following programs and events throughout the month, such as The Letters Project, “White Like Me” film screening and discussion, an evening of performance art inspired by “Racism is a Sickness,” and more (please check this page for more details).

A closing reception and a community showcase, “Let the Community Speak” will take place on February 27 at 6 p.m.

For more information, visit: or the event’s Facebook page.

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UPDATE: Three teens detained after alleged gunpoint robbery near 44th and Osage

Posted on 04 February 2016

Police detained three teens Thursday evening after an alleged gunpoint robbery near 44th and Osage. The robbery was reported at around 7:40 p.m. The victim told police that he was approached by five young males, and “felt a hard object pushed into his back,” according to a police report. The teens took the victim’s phone and fled.

Plainclothes police, who were in the area, were able to catch three of the suspects, all of them 14 years old, after a chase. No firearm was found.

Police were unable to recover the cell phone, which was tracked to the area of 42nd and Haverford and then disabled, according to the report.


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Apartments for low-income artists coming to 4050 Haverford Avenue

Posted on 04 February 2016


A new apartment building will break ground at 4050 Haverford Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The project, called 4050 Apartments, will provide affordable housing for low-income artists, a group that is an essential part of the Lower Lancaster identity.

The 24,350-square-feet building replaces a large vacant lot in a highly visible area, just off of the intersection of 40th Street, Lancaster Avenue, and Haverford Avenue. The project will consist of a new three-story building with 20 living units and a shared exhibition and workshop space for artists. The apartments will have one- two- and three-bedroom layouts.

A community room on the ground floor will be open to all residents and will offer arts and educational programming open to the public.

The $7.2 million project is being carried out by the PEC Community Development Corporation, which has been building affordable housing in Philadelphia’s Promise Zone area for more than 20 years.

Community members are invited to the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Please check the event’s Facebook page for updates.

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Trash pick-up delayed this week due to high collection volumes after snow (updated)

Posted on 03 February 2016


UPDATE: Here’s some more information from the Streets Department about the delay:

“With double the amount of trash on Monday due to the holiday and blizzard, crews are almost a day behind in most neighborhoods. Also many residents didn’t have materials curb side for collection after the storm, [so] this also has collections running behind.”

The Philadelphia Street Department has confirmed that they are struggling to pick up trash on time this week due to high collection volumes after last week’s record-breaking snow. The department had to cancel last Monday’s collections because garbage trucks were used for snow removal and asked residents to hold on to their trash until this week.

It seems though that the delay is about 24-30 hours, so if your trash hasn’t been picked up, don’t worry, your garbage truck will likely arrive soon.


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Congressional Candidates Forum this Thursday at USciences

Posted on 03 February 2016

The public is invited this Thursday (Feb. 4), at 7:30 p.m., to an open forum where democratic candidates for U.S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, will speak and answer your questions. The forum is organized by the 27th Ward Democrats.

The following candidates will participate in the event:

Chaka Fattah, Incumbent
Dwight Evans, Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing the 203rd District
Brian Gordon, Township Commissioner, Lower Merion
Daniel Muroff, Democratic Ward Leader, 9th Ward
Brian Sims, Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 182nd District

State Senator Vincent Hughes, 7th District, will also take part in the event.

The discussion is expected to be lively, so everyone is encouraged to attend.

Rosenberger Hall is located in Clark Park (43rd St. near Woodland).

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Well-known West Philly couple take stage as Willy and Linda Loman for ‘Death of a Salesman’

Posted on 02 February 2016


From left to right: Gay Carducci as Linda Loman, Paul Kuhn as Willy Loman, Aaron Kirkpatrick as Biff Loman and Chase Byrd as Happy Loman. (Photo by JR Blackwell)

There might not be two people in all of Philadelphia better suited to play Willy and Linda Loman than Paul Kuhn and Gay Carducci.

Theatergoers will have the rare opportunity to see Kuhn and Carducci, co-founders of the Curio Theatre Company, on stage as two pivotal characters in the Arthur Miller classic “Death of a Salesman,” which opens Feb. 12 as part of Curio’s 11th season.

Kuhn and Carducci, longtime partners off stage as well, bring a rare authenticity to their on-stage relationship, said Director Dan Hodge.

“They have a depth of relationship and shared humor that you can only really find in people who have lived together through the high times and the lean times,” said Hodge.  Continue Reading

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Check out The Hacktory’s new location this Saturday

Posted on 01 February 2016

hacktorylancasterAs soon as the news broke last summer that the University City Science Center-based Department of Making and Doing (DM + D) was closing in the fall, four local organizations which shared DM + D’s collaborative space began looking for new homes. One of them, a popular technology education program, The Hacktory, has just announced that they found a new space at 3645-3647 Lancaster Avenue, right around corner from their previous location at 3711 Market Street.

Program executive director Georgia Guthrie writes that The Hacktory team is very excited about the move. “We will be joining the vibrant businesses along Lancaster Ave (as you can see we’re right next door to the Green Line Coffee shop) and look forward to contributing to the great arts and cultural activities taking place there,” Guthrie’s blog post reads.


           Photos courtesy of The Hacktory.

The Grand Opening Party for the new space, which includes two adjacent storefronts, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 1 – 9 p.m. There will be fun activities for all ages and demos of The Hacktory’s tools. The evening portion of the party will include activities and beverages for adults who want to continue to celebrate. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

The Hacktory has been offering tech education programming for both adults and youth, including classes and workshops, an after-school program and summer camp. They also want to offer memberships at the new location in order to provide direct access to their tools and space. Those who are interested in becoming a member are asked to fill out a membership interest form on this page.

For more information about The Hacktory, visit

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Public school breakfast, lunch menu for February 2016

Posted on 01 February 2016

Click on the images below to view breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus to be served in Philadelphia public schools in February 2016. Click here if your school uses the Satellite menu.

February 2016 K-8 breakfast, lunch and dinner menu


February 2016 9-12 breakfast, lunch and dinner menu


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“A Great Fit for Shakespeare in Clark Park”: West Philadelphian appointed to key role in popular outdoor theater company

Posted on 29 January 2016


                      Kittson O’Neill

As Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP) is preparing for its 11th summer season, the company has announced that a West Philadelphian was appointed to a key role.

Kittson O’Neill, an actress and director who made her SCP debut last summer when she directed the 10th Anniversary production of The Winter’s Tale, has been named as the Artistic Director. She succeeds Marla Burkholder, who co-founded the company in 2005.

O’Neill has appeared on Philadelphia stages often and currently can be seen in Or, at Hedgerow Theatre. When directing The Winter’s Tale, she brought together professional actors, more than 20 local children, and an unforgettable bear puppet. The show drew almost 5,000 audience members to Clark Park.

“Kittson’s commitment to both a strong and progressive artistic vision and a high level of authentic community engagement makes her a great fit for Shakespeare in Clark Park,” says John Frisbee, SCP’s Board President.

We asked Kittson about her background, her relationship to West Philadelphia and her plans regarding Shakespeare in Clark Park, including community engagement. Her answers are below.

Q.: Where are you from and where in West Philadelphia do you live?

I was born in Connecticut and grew up there and in Western Australia (My Mum is Australian). I now live in Mantua in West Philadelphia. My son attended St. Mary’s Nursery School and, as a result, our family has a number of great friends who live all over West Philly.

Q.: What interests you in Shakespeare in Clark Park? Should people expect any changes?

There are so many things I love about Shakespeare in Clark Park!


In 2015 O’Neill directed SCP’s The Winter’s Tale, which featured children and a giant bear puppet (Photo West Philly Local).

Shakespeare’s plays are epic in scope: they have bears and battles and shipwrecks! It can be challenging to fully realize those elements inside a traditional modern theater, but out in the park you can embrace the huge and have an eight foot bear, or a hundred person army, or giant waves. I am excited to keep pushing our productions to use the size and freedom of the park setting: to be even more spectacular! But even more than the size of the park, I love the audience that it naturally attracts. The show is free. Seating is unrestricted and as a result we often attract watchers who hadn’t even planned to see the show. Who didn’t even know the show was happening. Every night, there is at least one audience member for whom it is the first Shakespeare they have ever seen. That’s an amazing gift to us as theater makers. And a responsibility we take seriously. We want that unexpected audience member to leave our show loving Shakespeare and hungry to see more.

shake4There won’t be any serious changes to what we do. “If it ain’t broke…” However, show is getting REALLY popular and dealing with the crowd we attract is becoming an exciting challenge, so you can expect some experiments with seating and staging as well as some new approaches to the fine art of ushering!

Q.: Community members, both adults and children, participated in the last two SCP performances. Will this trend continue?

Most definitely! I believe strongly in Radical Community Engagement, so over the next few years I will be working to weave the fabric of our community into the productions in a variety of ways. SCP attracts some of the finest theater talent in the city of Philadelphia. Putting the community on stage with those actors and inside the work of our designers and directors is an electrifying and galvanizing experience and one you won’t get any where else in our fair city. So stay tuned for a lot more on that front.

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