Letter: On being gay, Catholic and living next to the school that hosted Mike Pence

February 7, 2020

Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor piece was submitted by Patrick Brown, a resident of Farragut Terrace, following Vice President Mike Pence’s visit of St. Francis de Sales School on Wednesday.

Neighbors rallying outside of St. Francis de Sales School on Wednesday (Photo by West Philly Local).

I was chatting with a neighbor a couple of months after moving to my house on Farragut Terrace. OK, to be honest, I was griping about the inconveniences of living so close to a school. She, in response, agreed, lamenting that at times she also felt like St. Francis de Sales School treats our block like its own personal back alley. That was six years ago, and though the regular frustrations have yet to dwindle entirely, I do accept that I chose to live next door to a school. But on Wednesday, the grievances once again came to the fore. As the current administration’s campaign bus idled for two hours just a few yards from my front door, I began feeling worthless.

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Letter to the Editor: “We Need to Up Our Recycling Game”

May 20, 2016

recyclePhiladelphia needs to up their recycling game. The amount of recycling we do considering the population of our city is underwhelming. Compared to a city with a much greater population, like Los Angeles, our recycling statistic is pathetic. They have a population of about 10 million people, but are able to divert about 76 percent of their waste from landfills. Philadelphia has a smaller population of about 1.5 million, but is only able to divert about 70 percent of its waste from landfills. The more populated a city is, the more trash and waste are generated, so it should be more difficult to have a high recycling rate, however, Los Angeles manages to exceed us. We need to find a way to convince more Philadelphians to recycle more.

A big issue is the city’s lack of knowledge concerning key recycling information. They need to know what and where recyclable materials go to and how recycling can impact their lives. They need to know the harmful effects of landfills, and be persuaded to divert their waste from these piles of trash that are buried underground. They need to know that recycling programs cost less than sending waste to landfills or incinerators. By convincing them that landfills poison our drinking water, and that curbside recycling has economic benefits, Philadelphia residents would have the necessary knowledge and would be foolish not to want to recycle!  Continue Reading

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“Don’t I look like a nice lady? Well I’m not.”: Jessica is sick of your off-the-leash dog at The Woodlands

September 30, 2015


Jessica at ease at The Woodlands. She doesn’t like your dog as much as you do. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

The tension between those who walk their dogs off-leash at The Woodlands and those who wish they wouldn’t is kind of the west-of-the-Schuylkill version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Biggie and Tupac. That may be overstating it slightly, but it’s kind of a big deal to many who frequent the cemetery/park.

Jessica, a West Philly yoga instructor and blogger, has had it. In “An Open Letter to People Who Let Their Dogs Off-Leash at Woodlands Cemetery,” she draws a line in the dirt. “I was once a vicious 13-year old girl,” she writes. “And given the right situation, she can return.”

Jessica originally posted this on her site, but has graciously allowed us to repost it here:  Continue Reading

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Helping The Woodlands get even better

April 11, 2014

WoodlandssurveyDo you visit The Woodlands whether it is for jogging, dog walking, nature or leisurely walks or other activities? Now you can be part of the Woodlands planning and have an impact on the future of this beautiful historical site.

The people involved with preservation and development of the Woodlands cemetery and mansion would like to hear from you. They have prepared a community survey asking about your use of The Woodlands as well as about your favorite places there. The information gathered will help make improvements to the site “that align with how our community enjoys the space.”

To fill out the survey, click here.

This summer, on June 5, The Woodlands is hosting the 3rd Annual Benefit, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, music and more. The benefit guests will get a chance to kick off the fully-funded $1 million project to preserve the Cryptoporticus (a covered gallery) and North Terrace, and peek into the basement servant’s quarters. For more information, visit The Woodlands website.

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Letter to the Editor: Support Meatless Monday in Philly schools

March 21, 2014

Back in November, West Philly Local reported on the Meatless Monday resolution that City Council passed urging residents to avoid eating meat just one day a week (Editor: you can read it here). The end of the article mentioned the next goal: get the Philadelphia School District to implement Meatless Monday.

I’d like to voice my support for Meatless Monday in Philly schools, now that the campaign is in full swing. I want the healthiest food possible available to children in our city, and adding more plant-based foods to the menu will help make that happen. While it would be great to serve organic, fresh, non-GMO fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, I recognize that the District doesn’t have the means to do so. However, taking meat off the menu one day a week is an easily achievable step the District can take towards healthier meals.

I encourage everyone to visit to learn more about the campaign and to sign the petition urging the School District of Philadelphia to join many others that already participate in Meatless Monday.

Krystina Krysiak
West Philadelphia, PA

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Being white in (West) Philly: One woman’s take

March 13, 2013

[Editor’s Note: This month’s Philadelphia Magazine story, “Being White in Philly,” has been widely criticized in the city. West Philadelphia native Jocelyn Degroot-Lutzner, 22, grew up on 49th Street. She has her own thoughts about growing up in a multiracial community. This was originally posted on her company’s website She gave us permission to re-post it here.]

As a 09’ graduate of Central High School, “Temple’s biggest district feeder,” I can only hope that my shock towards Robert Huber’s recent article for Philadelphia Magazine reciprocated similar feelings from my fellow Central grads (most of whom are probably neighbors of his son). As I sat reading the article on my lunch break at my New York City internship for an online magazine, I couldn’t help but lose my appetite as I felt my face grow red. His sweeping generalizations, seemingly one-sided research and the description of the “dance” he does at Wawa made me clench my fists in pain.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 9.23.00 AMI am a 22-year-old, white, female, Jewish, middle class, West Philadelphia native. I grew up in an area once referred to as West Philadelphia, but may only be known to you now as its re-branded name of Cedar Park or University City. My mother has occupied the same house in West Philly for over 30 years. Both of my parents work from home in their third floor offices.

During an interview I once had with the president of Starr Restaurants for a job as a hostess, I remember telling him that I grew up in West Philadelphia. He questioned whether my parents were hippies, I responded “no.” I never questioned as to why my parents choose to raise my younger brother and I in our neighborhood. Why would I question something that was normal to me?

I attended a few different public schools as well as one private school: Wilson School for Montessori and kindergarten; Powel Elementary School for 1st-4th grade; Girard Academic Music Program for 5th grade; Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School for 6th-8th grade; Friends Select School for 9th; and Central High School for 10th-graduation.

I grew up with block parties, attended the University City Swim Club in the summer and worked at various jobs in my neighborhood. I taught swimming at the West Philly YMCA, sold movie tickets at the movie theater formerly known as The Bridge, sold overpriced fashions to Penn students at the West Philadelphia Urban Outfitters, and then sold those same Penn students drinks and Ethiopian food at Gojjo’s Ethiopian Restaurant back on Baltimore Ave.

Has race been a part of my life? Yes, without a doubt! Walking around West Philly I’ve been called every moniker for “white girl” that you could (or couldn’t) think of: Snow Bunny, White Chocolate and Britney Spears to name a few. I have also ventured downtown and been inappropriately hit on by white men older than my father. What did I learn from those experiences? Definitely not that one man is more respectful to young women than any other.

I remember leaving my first day of work at Urban Outfitters, we stood at the front door and emptied our pockets and personal bags as the managers checked us for any missing Urban Outfitters merchandise. While checking we were told whom we should be keeping an eye on for stealing. Race was never stated outright, was it inferred? Definitely. What was stated outright was that we should not forget to keep an eye on the well-to-do looking Penn students; they had a long history of being petty thieves at Urban Outfitters, even with daddy and mommy’s money in their wallets.

I grew up on 49th street and have a long relationship with University of Pennsylvania students. In 4th grade I had a “Penn Pal”, very literally. We exchanged letters and toured the university at the end of our school year. I attended a University of Pennsylvania Partnership public elementary school, not as big of a relationship with Penn as you might think. I’ve sold them movie ticket after movie ticket, drink after drink and watched them get caught stealing at my prior job.

I would say, overall, we have a somewhat tension fueled relationship and I say this even knowing a handful of friends that currently attend the university. Once I had a discussion with Angela Leonardo, a close childhood friend who will be graduating from Penn this May, she was reminiscing on her freshmen orientation,

I was in the tour group and near the end one of the kids asked if it was true that you shouldn’t ever go past 42nd street, and the tour guide was like, yeah I’m not sure…I haven’t ever been out there, I think it’s probably best not to… people have definitely been confused over the years when I tell them I grew up at 49th street. It was also impossible to get most of my friends to come over for dinner or hangouts.

My mother remembers twenty years ago when she was getting her masters from The Wharton School, the school’s car service would drop her off a block away from our house, refusing to go past 48th street. They also sent her a letter, suggesting she should not live past 46th street.

Has race been a part of my life? Again, I say yes! As an 11th grader I participated in Operation Understanding, it was a life changing experience for Philadelphian African American and Jewish 11th graders to learn “each others histories and cultures to effectively lead the communities of Philadelphia and beyond to a greater understanding of diversity and acceptance.”  We traveled to Senegal and Israel and exchanged experiences that challenged each of us to see differently. Race was discussed daily, if not hourly.

I want to quickly discuss drugs, since it seemed to be such an important factor of Huber’s article. As a white person, more often than not I was the minority in my various schools. Drugs did not become an evident part of my classmate’s lives until I attended private school as a high school freshmen. Suddenly, people where being expelled for selling drugs or doing them on school grounds. Besides my current university, the private school I attended as a 9th grader, had the largest proportion of white students compared to other race and ethnicities and the white students were the ones doing drugs.

If I had one hope for the day I choose to begin to raise a family, it is that my children are blessed to have such a well-rounded experience of their community and our world. Hopefully it can be similar to the one I feel so lucky to have grown up in. I hope they get to experience sledding on trashcan lids in Clark Park, eating chicken patties at Brown Sugar on 52nd street, samosa’s at International Food & Spices, pretending to be models at the Kingsessing Recreation Center’s free after school programs, teaching 3-year-olds to swim at the West Philly YMCA, fighting for Philadelphia public school students at the Philadelphia Student Union office on 50th and Baltimore, and making friends that are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic (etc.). I don’t want to raise my children “color-blind” – they would miss so many beautiful things.

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