Archive | March, 2013

Epatha Merkerson to present her film in West Philly

March 10, 2013


S. Epatha Merkerson.

Law and Order and Lincoln star S. Epatha Merkerson will be in West Philly on Tuesday, March 12, to present her first feature film, The Contradictions of Fair Hopeat International House. Ms. Merkerson is an executive producer and co-director of the film. The event is part of Scribe’s Producer’s Forum Series, which brings distinguished independent filmmakers to Philadelphia.

The documentary, narrated by Whoopi Goldbergcovers a little-known aspect of American history; it examines how newly-freed slaves throughout the South formed “benevolent societies” to respond to hunger, illness, and the fear of a pauper’s grave. The film traces the development, struggles, and contributions of one of the last remaining African-American benevolent societies, known as “The Fair Hope Benevolent Society,” in Uniontown, Alabama.

The Contradictions of Fair Hope was released in 2012 and won Best Documentary awards at several film festivals, including the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and the Festival International du Film PanAfricain in Cannes. S. Epatha Merkerson and writer Rockell Metcalf who will also participate in Tuesday’s event, believe that the film is, “an incredibly important teaching tool and a powerful call to action to return to a community of benevolence, mutual care and concern in America.”

Screening of The Contradictions of Fair Hope (2012, USA, 78 min) with Co-Directors S. Epatha Merkerson and Rockell Metcalf
Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m.
International House (3701 Chestnut St)
Tickets: $10, $8 students/seniors, $5 for Scribe and IHP members
For more information and tickets click here.

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Tabby cat, “Emily,” missing from 50th and Hazel (Update: Found!)

March 9, 2013


Emily has been missing since Tuesday, March 5. She was last seen in her home near 50th and Hazel. She was not wearing a collar. Please call (614) 499-6506 with information. There is a reward for her return.

UPDATE (3/10): Emily was found.

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Adopt-a-Dog: Tyga

March 9, 2013

tyga1Tyga is a 1-2-year-old female pit bull terrier mix. She adores humans and looks forward to being the love of your life. Tyga is currently nervous around other dogs, but is learning how to play appropriately, with the help of her human friends. Unfortunately, Tyga must go to a home with no cats. She is microchipped, up to date on her shots and will be spayed when you take her home.

This is just one of the many wonderful dogs in urgent need of adoption, foster care, or rescue at Philadelphia’s animal control shelter, ACCT.

You can stop down and meet them, and after filling out an application with shelter staff, interact with them 365 days a year at the shelter: 111 W. Hunting Park Avenue in Philadelphia. Please check for hours. To check the status of an animal, call 267-385-3800, or email

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Wilson, UC High among 23 schools to close this year, Robeson spared

March 8, 2013

By now you might have heard that the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted last night to close 23 schools around the city, including the neighborhood school Alexander Wilson Elementary and University City High School.

Schools closed also included the 100-year-old Germantown High School. Students from Germantown will be sent to Martin Luther King Jr. High School, a longtime rival.

Planning for the school closings will begin immediately and impacted students will start at their new school next fall. Opponents say the mass closures, which amount to about 12 percent of the city’s public schools, will destroy neighborhoods.

Here are some tweets from last night’s meeting.

Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education:

High school teacher Chris Angelini:

Councilwoman Blondelle Reynolds Brown from the meeting gallery:

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham includes a photo of student protesters.

But in a meeting beset by rancor (there were 19 arrests, including the national president of the American Federation of Teachers) there was at least one scrap of good news for some students in West Philly. The Paul Robeson High School for Human Services (4125 Ludlow) was one of four schools saved from closure last night. Students there were supposed to be transferred to Sayre High School (5800 Walnut St.), a lower performing school. Robeson showed marked improvement in recent years. In a report released a few days ago, the school ranked among the top 10 high schools in the city with a graduation rate of 90 percent for freshmen who began in 2008. Sayre has a graduation rate of 53 percent.

Philadelphia has seen a drop in public school students – from about 200,000 in 2000 to about 150,000 this year – due largely to the increase in the number of privately run charter schools. District officials have maintained that the closures are necessary to save money. Superintendent William Hite, who recommended the closures to the SRC, was active on Twitter after last night’s meeting as well:

The closures impact about 16,000 students and 1,000 teachers overall.

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Neighborhood Foods brings back CSA, adds new pick-up location

March 7, 2013

produce-shareNeighborhood Foods, a West Philly urban farm, is bringing its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) back to Four Worlds Bakery for pick-up and adding one new pick-up point at 37th and Lancaster this year. Here’s a reminder of how CSA works: Customers pay the farmer at the beginning of the season and receive a box of local produce every week.

This year, Neighborhood Foods is working directly with Lancaster farmers to supplement what they grow in the city and are also incorporating Philly-produced jam, honey, bread, and locally roasted coffee, all of which are available through the CSA.

Neighborhood Foods consists of a group of activists, farmers, and entrepreneurs of all ages whose main goal is to unify communities through urban farming and civic action. They offer educational programs for people of all ages, bring neighbors together through events, and make fresh local produce accessible in low-income neighborhoods. All of the income from the CSA goes to support these programs.

The Neighborhood Foods CSA runs from May 24 through October 25. To sign up, please visit or email:

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School closing vote scheduled for tonight

March 7, 2013

The School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote tonight on the School District of Philadelphia’s downsizing plan that would close 27 schools across the city, including West Philly’s Alexander Wilson Elementary (46th and Woodland), Shaw Middle School (5400 Warrington Avenue) and University City High School (3601 Filbert St.).

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and you can watch it at Comcast Channel 52, Verizon Fios Channel 20 or watch it livestreaming online.

District officials say the closures will “right-size” the public school footprint in the city by closing half-full and underperforming schools. Opponents of the plan say the closing of neighborhood schools (and increase in the number of privately run charter schools) will ruin neighborhoods.

Click here to see testimony from the SRC’s February meeting that addressed the pending closures. The Philadelphia Public School Notebook also has its extensive coverage of the school closure story collected here.

Mike Lyons

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