Trayvon Verdict: Mayor Michael Nutter Speaks Out

Philadelphia, July 14, 2013– Mayor Michael A. Nutter issued the following statement on the jury verdict in the Trayvon Martin case that was announced last night:

Michael Nutter

Michael Nutter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We are a country governed by the rule of law, and while I respect the criminal justice system, I am deeply saddened by and strongly disagree with the verdict of “not guilty” in this case. A young black man is dead without any real explanation. George Zimmerman took an innocent life. Trayvon Martin, who at trial was made to appear threatening when all he had was a bag of Skittles and an ice tea, should not have died at Zimmerman’s hands and I believe the jury should have exacted a penalty.

“As a parent, I can’t begin to know what Trayvon’s proud and dignified parents are feeling right now, but I pray for them in this dark hour. And I urge everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.

“The question now for all Americans is what are we to do in the wake of this tragic loss of life? I believe everyone should be calm and reflective. Every day in America, African American males die on our streets in outrageously alarming numbers. Whether they die at the hands of a vigilante or another African American male, we must all commit ourselves to eliminating the conditions in our community that cause too many people to see young African American males as “threats” instead of seeing the promise within each child. If only we adults could find ways to offer a pathway of education and responsibility toward a productive life. We need to resolve to make life better in America for all our children, regardless of skin color. Let us focus our anger and resolve to work toward a more just, safer and more caring America.”


Philadelphia Police Department Patch
Philadelphia, Politics

Philadelphia Police Prepared for Post-Zimmerman Trial

by Denise James

George Zimmerman is on trial for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  The neighborhood watch captain shot the Martin as the teen walked home from a store after purchasing some candy and a beverage.  At issue is whether Zimmerman is guilty of 2nd degree murder, manslaughter or nothing at all.  Defense attorneys have argued that Zimmerman shot the teen in self-defense.

The Philadelphia Police Department has been monitoring the George Zimmerman murder trial.  Although the case is not in Philadelphia, the department is mindful of issues and events that can impact the city.  As the widely covered George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin case wraps up, the nation’s 4th largest police department is aware of the intense feelings sparked by the widely watched case.

Philadelphia police cruiser on the Ben Frankli...

Philadelphia police cruiser on the Ben Franklin Parkway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Philadelphia Police Civil Affairs/Media Relations unit has been and will continue to be in communication with various groups that could plan protests or rallies, in response to the verdict.  Officers have been directed to be conscious of the potential for trial reaction while patrolling Philadelphia neighborhoods.  Civil Affairs is the lead police unit dealing with public assemblies, demonstrations and management-labor disputes.

Public Affairs/Media Relations commander, Lt. John Stanford says the department “will be prepared to respond to any incident that arises as a result of this verdict.”  But so far “we haven’t received any indication that there will be any problematic situations.”  Despite no indication of problems, the department will mindfully monitor things around the city.

The department recognizes and respects people’s right to rally or protest.  Police commanders hope anyone who disagrees with the verdict expresses themselves in “sensible, orderly and lawful” ways.

Denise James is Director of Strategic Communications at Philadelphia Police Department and Parliamentarian of The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists

Education, Politics

Teacher turns Protestor in fight for Philly School funding

by Vincent Thompson
Anissa Weinraub (credit: Vincent Thompson)

Anissa Weinraub (credit: Vincent Thompson)

While the Pennsylvania State House, State Senate and Governor Tom Corbett work to approve a new state budget before June 30, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has already adopted a so-called “doomsday” budget based on the money it is expects to receive from the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The SDP $304 million dollar deficit for the next school year and the budget it approved eliminates art, music, sports, assistant principals, school secretaries, and other support staff.

Philadelphia’s Superintendent, Doctor William Hite, has sent out 38-hundred layoff notices to assistant principals, teachers, counselors, noontime aides and others in order to save money when schools re-open in September.  The layoffs go into effectJune 30.

One of those laid off is teacher Anissa Weinraub.  She has taught in the SDP for the past seven years and spent the 2012-13 school year at Bartram High School teaching English.

During a recent protest,  Ms. Weinraub  spoke with ThompsonMediaman Communication’s Vincent Thompson about her layoff and what SDP schools will look like when school reopens on September 9, 2013 (audio linked above).

Superintendent Hite says if additional money comes in from the city and state during this summer, some of the layoffs will not happen.  Without the new funding, all of the layoffs take effect June 30.

The SDP is seeking $60 million in City of Philadelphia funds, $120 million from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania , and $130 million in labor concessions.

Children, Education, Philadelphia

African American Heritage takes center stage in Historic Philly

by Cari Feiler Bender
Credit: George Widman for HPI

Credit: George Widman for HPI

Jump into the summer season with Historic Philadelphia, Inc. (HPI) with free, fun activities for the whole family that run through Labor Day.  It’s all part of the immersive living history programs that (HPI) produces each year. Highlights for 2013 include a daily flag-raising with Betsy Ross, the award-winning Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches where guests hear our nation’s history right where it happened, interactions with History Makers such as the Military Muster and Declaration Reading, and continuing tours and showings of the Liberty 360 3D Show.

“Historic Philadelphia, Inc. is delighted to continue to offer a host of engaging free programs that we know visitors of all ages will love, while also providing high-quality immersive historical experiences,” said Amy Needle, President and CEO of Historic Philadelphia, Inc.

HPI is a non-profit organization overseeing four entities under one umbrella.  Once Upon A Nation features immersive walking tours, History Makers, and Storytelling Benches throughout the Historic District and at Valley Forge.  Franklin Square is a family-friendly play place with Philadelphia-themed Mini Golf, the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, and SquareBurger, and The Pavilion in Franklin Square, hosting birthday parties and special events.  The Liberty 360 3D Show, an inspiring journey led by Benjamin Franklin, is a year-round indoor attraction shown in the PECO Theater.  The Betsy Ross House takes visitors into the life and stories of America’s most famous flagmaker, with interactive and changing exhibitions.   In the 2012 season, HPI’s four attractions saw a total of over 1.2 million visitors.

  • Declare allegiance to the stars and stripes as children and military help Betsy Ross raise the Colonial flag over the Betsy Ross House to start the day, then meet Betsy herself inside her upholstery shop.
  • Watch history come to life with free stories of Philadelphia’s past at the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches in Historic Philadelphia and Valley Forge. Stories with African American interest include:
  • Play Ball!Octavius Catto and the Pythians, an African American baseball team in post-Civil War Philadelphia
  • General Tubman – Harriet Tubman’s freedom journey
  • James Forten – as a boy he heard the first reading of the Declaration of Independence, and he spent his life working to win equality for Africans and women
  • Isaac Hopper – a young man helps an enslaved sailor escape to freedom and begins his life work as a leading conductor on the Underground Railroad
  • Henry “Box” Brown – the epic tale of the enslaved man who mailed himself to freedom, from Richmond to Philadelphia
  • Join General Washington’s Army and march in the fun and lighthearted Military Muster for kids at Signers’ Garden.
  • Get chills watching the Founding Fathers debate the Declaration of Independence inside Independence Hall after a delicious dinner with Colonial
    Credit: M. Kennedy for HPI

    Credit: M. Kennedy for HPI

    townspeople on the unique and immersive Independence After Hours tour.

  • Sing, toast, and drink on a Colonial pub crawl with the Tippler’s Tour.
  • Voyage on a 3D journey through the iconic symbols of America with Liberty 360 3D Show in the PECO Theater.
  • Putt through the LOVE statue and up the “Rocky Steps” at Philly Mini Golf at Franklin Square.
  • Ride the bald eagle on the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel and amaze your taste buds with a Cake Shake from SquareBurger in Franklin Square.
  • Examine both sides of the Revolution through the eyes of the two ladies that lived it. Brand new for 2013 is the Flags to Riches: The Story of Rebecca Franks and Betsy Ross exhibit, which tells the story of two women who were a part of the fabric of the Revolution
  • Stand where thousands gathered on July 8th, 1776 to hear the Declaration of Independence read by Once Upon A Nation’s History Makers behind Independence Hall.

Pick up a copy of the Historic Philadelphia Gazette to start the day for the latest listings of happenings.  Copies are available at the Historic Philadelphia Center or Independence Visitor Center.

Entertainment, Philadelphia

This weekend in Philly: Closing events of the 36th Annual PHILAFILM festival

88495876_7e1c32a14c_bPhilaFilm is the region’s longest-running, international, independent film and video competition. This weekend marks the closing festivities of the 36th Edition of the festival. Be sure to grab some popcorn and check out these events….if you attend, let them know you learned about the event at PABJ PRISM.

Independent Filmmakers Workshop, African American Museum, 701 Arch Street, 12:00pm-1:00pm.
  • Panelists include
  • ROLLO ROBERTSON, Producer/Founder of Rollo Productions, & screenwriter of “Brotherhood of Silver”; which airs locally on WNCN on Thursday nights at 9:00pm.
  • JESSICA ROBERTSON, a Philly actress, Executive Producer, Director and niece of Producer Victor festivities (“St. Elsewhere”, “McGuyver”, “Family Matters”, “Arrested Development”, & TNT’sMen of a Certain Age“).
  • SAYYED MUHAMMAD, of Temple University’s School of Communications joins the panel, bringing his tips on script development.
  • ROBERT X. GOLPHIN will serve as Moderator. He was featured in Denzel Washington’s film, “The Great Debaters“, & received his MFA in screenwriting from Spaulding University, Class of 2013.
  • This workshop focuses on production conceptualization, design and execution. Admission is free, seating on a first-come, first-served basis. ROZ FULTON, Philadelphia casting agent, will hold an “OPEN CASTING CALL”, at the workshop’s conclusion.
Films screening on Saturday, June 29th, are finalists in their respective categories.
  • Screenings begin 1:05pm, at the African American Museum, and include
  • “Your Roommate”, Feature
  •  “Degrees of Delusion”, Short Subject
  •  “African Independence”, Documentary
  •  “The Downside of High School: Philly Teen Filmmaker”, Experimental
  • Saturday, June 29, 2013 at the HILTON HOTEL, City Avenue & Stout Rd (Belmont Ave.).
  • Reception: 7:00pm – 8:00pm; Awards Presentations, 8:00pm – 11:00pm
  • General Admission: $55.00; half-price for Seniors and Students w/ID, Donations are tax-deductible.
  • Attire: Black Tie, Optional.
Breaking News

Reporter’s Notebook: From the scene of Philly’s Deadly Building Collapse

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2013, just before 11:00am, a building collapsed in the heart of Central Philadelphia. Six people died, Thirteen were injured, and a shockwave was felt across the hearts of every city resident. Vincent Thompson, PABJ Member was dispatched to the scene as a Freelancer for Radio Pennsylvania, and shares his memories & photos. Compiled by Manuel McDonnell Smith.

Source: Vincent Thompson

Source: Vincent Thompson

Upon first arriving to the scene, I remember the eerie stillness of the area. Right at 22nd & Market Streets, there was heavy construction work going on, cranes, firefighters sifting through rubble, rescue vans, city sanitation vehicles. I remember seeing the Police Departments’ crime scene unit because it was an active crime scene. I watched media from all over the country who had gathered at the scene, FOX News, two crews from CNN, even Ron Claiborne from ABC. This wasn’t just a local story, it became a national story pretty quickly.

Source: PlanPhilly|Eyes on the Street

Source: PlanPhilly|Eyes on the Street

I could see how this had become a national news story quickly. First of all, it began as a slow news day. This was a very visual story. Cameras can easily get pictures, there’s human drama with all of the rescues…..

Source: Vincent Thompson

Source: Vincent Thompson

I’ve shopped at the Salvation Army Thrift Store many times….it was shocking to see the store literally ripped in half, with the just the first quarter of the store standing and the entire back just obliterated. At the back, you could see one untouched rack of clothes left standing, with clothes still on the hangers….

Source: Vincent Thompson

Source: Vincent Thompson

I recall the emotion of the firefighters who had been there all day, involved in search & rescue. About 15 minutes after the Mayor wrapped his press conference and left the scene, I noticed firefighters rushing back onto the pile. One started yelling “we’ve found one alive!” On a sad night, that was a bit of good news…..

Source: Vincent Thompson

Source: Vincent Thompson

I think this story will take on urgency because it was a national story, and because it is a criminal investigation. The nation will be watching to see how Philadelphia handles this…..

Source: PlanPhilly|Eyes on the Street

Source: PlanPhilly|Eyes on the Street

You have to consider a city like Philadelphia where it’s impossible to inspect every building before it’s demolished. There’s going to be an inevitable spinout from this. Six months after the One Meridian Plaza fire, the city passed a massive building code. I think the same could happen from the city this time regarding demolitions.


“Being Other In Philly” Continues The Discussion

Denise Clay is a past PABJ President and a columnist at the Philadelphia Public Record & Philadelphia Sunday Sun

For many of those gathered at Tuesday night’s “Being Other in Philly” discussion, there may have been a feeling of déjà vu.

That’s because despite having a few more voices thrown into the conversation, the ending was still the same: those hoping for more diversity among local publications are going to have to be content with the phrase “We’re trying…”

Event Photo posted to PABJ's Facebook Account. Credit: Heike Rass

Event Photo posted to PABJ’s Facebook Account. Credit: Heike Rass

After a greeting from PABJ president Johann Calhoun, Sara Lomax-Reese, president and general manager of 900WURD AM had the task of leading Irv Randolph, managing editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, Lisa Hostine, executive editor of The Jewish Exponent, Jen Colella, editor of the Philadelphia Gay News, and Steven Yung, a reporter for the Metro Chinese Weekly.

Because the discussion, which was sponsored by PABJ and Global Citizen, centered on what it means to be the “other” in a city where it doesn’t really apply because it’s majority-minority, the panelists were asked if they considered the audiences they write for as “the other”.

Hostine said yes.

“We’re a voice for Philadelphia’s Jewish community,” she said. “Our focus is formed by being the “other”. There are issues that we need to discuss and engage in that make our status as “the other” a position of strength.”

But Randolph, whose newspaper represents the city’s mostly Black population, has a hard time seeing his readership as “the other”.

“We make up most of the city’s population,” he said. “We were founded to give a voice to our community.”

The panel was also asked to make the business case for diversity. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, cuts to the staffs of the nation’s newsrooms are impacting diversity efforts dramatically.

But when we’re talking diversity, there is more than one kind of diversity to consider, members of the panel said. For example, at a paper like the Philadelphia Gay News, diversity is not just about race.

“We don’t currently have anyone on our staff that has connections to the transgendered community,” Colella said. “That has caused us to miss things that are going on in that community.”

And for a newspaper like the Metro Chinese Weekly, diversity may not be as easy to obtain due to the nature of the paper’s readership.

“Our paper is written in Chinese for the Chinese community,” Yung said. “In order to work for us, you have to know Chinese.”

Seated in the audience was Tom McGrath, editor of Philadelphia Magazine. He was there to provide a kind of update on what the newsroom at his publication looks like since his last meeting with PABJ.

There has been a slight change, McGrath said. The magazine had an opening for a research editor and they’ve filled it…with a 23-year-old African American man with stellar credentials, he said.

“I’ve never met a sharper 23-year-old in my life,” he said “By next year, he’ll probably have my job.”

McGrath also said that he’s been putting job openings for the magazine in a wider variety of places so that he can achieve the kind of diversity that city magazines seem to have problems with, describing the scene at a recent conference he attended.

“If you think we’re white, we looked like a Benetton ad compared to some of them,” he said. “The moderator started off by saying ‘this looks like the Republican Party!”

But while it was good news that the magazine was putting feelers out for more diverse talent and that there was at least one new hire, that wasn’t enough for many in the audience.

For example, there was only one African American staffer at Philadelphia Magazine, when the original “Being White In Philly” discussions took place in March. That staffer, Adrienne Simpson, has since left for a job at NFL Films.

That this wasn’t really progress made some a bit annoyed.

“He still won’t tell us if he’s committed to hiring minorities,” said Vincent Thompson, who questioned McGrath on this point.

While there are no additional discussions on this topic scheduled, there are plans to keep an eye on the diversity situation at Philadelphia Magazine.

Tuesday night’s forum was a production of PABJ’s Media Monitoring Committee. The Media Monitoring Committee, which monitors diversity and coverage among the city’s news outlets, will hold its next meeting on Tuesday at 7 at the Philadelphia Tribune building, 520 S. 16th St. All are welcomed.

Children, Education, Uncategorized

Why reform needs to begin outside the classroom

English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten ame...

English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Denise Clay is a past President of The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists,and posts regularly at her blog The Mad (Political) Scientist

One of the things I’ve found myself saying to people of late is that while the First Amendment guarantees your freedom of speech, it doesn’t give you a license to say whatever wackadoodle thing that pops into your head.

It also doesn’t give you permission to talk as loudly as possible about things that are really no one’s business but yours for hours at a time despite the entreaties of others that you Shut. The. Hell. Up.

But while I’ve said that to people, I’ve never written about it until now. In fact, if it weren’t for something that happened to me yesterday, I probably never would have written about it.

However, I feel compelled to do it now….

When I’m not sharing my thoughts on all things political  I find myself in a classroom in an alternative high school here in Philadelphia teaching Media Arts.

The kids I teach are kids aged 16-22 who have either dropped out or have been asked to leave most of the other schools they’ve tried to attend. For some, the impetus to leave came from the discovery that they were about to have a kid of their own. Others had to leave due to one of the hazards that come with a career in what I call Street Corner Pharmacy: a date with the Criminal Justice System.

Others just left because they felt that a regular school was too constricting because in order to do well you’re required to come in every day and it’s a population of kids that with very few exceptions is African American.

They’re a challenging group because they’re largely raising themselves. And when you’re raising yourself, you kind of feel like no one can tell you anything. Most of them have parents who weren’t too much older than they are now when they were born. Many of them are on their third or fourth foster home. Others have been on the streets since they were old enough to walk.

Because of that, the phrase I hear most commonly is “I’m grown! You can’t tell me nothing!” I also get a lot of lectures from them about how I have to be respectful to them despite the fact that they often come into my class and talk nonstop while I’m trying to present a lesson.

But despite their best efforts to run me out of the building, something that several of them have admitted to me since, they’ve found that the only person more stubborn than they are in some cases is, well, Ms. Clay. Occasionally, I’ll hear a student tell a classmate “Don’t mess with Ms. Clay! She’s not trying to hear it!”

(That makes me smile by the way…)

Anyway, among the things I try and get across to them is that you can tell what’s going on in a particular society by the looking at the art it produces. I also try to get across to them that how they’re perceived by the larger society is directly connected to the face they put forth to the world through the prism of media.

I often tell them that the reason why folks clutch their purses a little tighter when they get on the bus, or would rather not sit next to them when they get on the subway is because they present themselves in a light that is far less than complimentary.

So as a means of self-exploration, I gave my kids the choice of two assignments for their final project in my Media Arts class: they could either do a documentary on anything they were interested in taking a long-form look at or do a photo essay of 6 to 8 pictures that took a look at a day in their lives. I was hoping through this essay that they would take a look at their everyday lives and maybe see what was good, bad, or needed changing.

So, I figured that because it was a high school Media Arts assignment common sense would prevail.

That hope was smashed against the wall when one of my students wanted to include a picture of someone having sex “doggy style” as part of her final project. After I got a look at the picture, I said “NO! You cannot include this!”

Her response: “Don’t judge me Ms. Clay! This is what I like to do!”

I wasn’t judging. I just didn’t want to see it.

And I really didn’t want to hear the conversation that came next….a conversation that included such things as how much “dick” someone was going to get over the Thanksgiving holiday, a story from one of my kids about how her lesbian lover “sucked her ass” and made her reach orgasm, the various sex toys lesbians use, how a kid’s naked mother came busting into the room where she and her boyfriend were having sex and said that if things didn’t quiet down that she was going to join the party, and, this is my personal favorite, how having braces can be an impediment to having good oral sex.

And this was just in the first three minutes of this conversation and despite my constant interruptions of  “Could you please stop this?!” followed closely by “Could y’all shut up and leave my room please?!”

After they left, I relished the quiet.

I also wanted to go home and take a shower because I felt so sexually violated.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude or anything. But I couldn’t help but think that these kids were having this conversation in front of a teacher.

A teacher.

Someone who is technically an adult.

Now I’ve had Klansmen say some pretty vile things to me, but this conversation yesterday just made me want to cover my ears like a little kid and go “lalalalala”.

And why in the world would you think that it’s proper to share the disadvantage posed by braces when performing fellatio in your high school Media Arts class?

Springer giving a speech at Emory University i...

Springer giving a speech at Emory University in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess it’s because we have largely become a TMI society. Thanks to folks like Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, the Bad Girls Club, and Shaunie O’Neal‘s “League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs”, otherwise known as the “Basketball Wives“, the perception is that we can and should share every aspect of our lives.

I mean hey, that’s why the camera phone was invented, right? I know that my goal in life is to wind up on World Star Hip-Hop…

(Actually, it isn’t. But folks Sarcasm Meters are still a little off post-election…)

In any case, when I walked into class this morning, still reeling from getting taught some serious sex ed. from a bunch of kids yesterday, I said the following to my students:

“I’m letting you know right now, if anyone even mouths the word “pussy” and “cat” doesn’t immediately follow it, you’re getting suspended!”

Like I said earlier in this piece, one of the problems that these kids have is the fact that they’re largely raising themselves and when you’re raising yourself, you see yourself as the adult, something that can cause a problem or two.

The Bad Girls Club (season 6)

The Bad Girls Club (season 6) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It also means that the adults that are supposed to be your role models are more like the Bad Girls. Or the League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs. Or the Drug Man on the corner. Or that much older man (or in some cases woman) who has introduced you to a sexual world that there’s no way you can understand or successfully negotiate at your age…even if you think you’re grown.

But it’s not always as bleak as yesterday felt. I do have my victories.

For example, there’s one kid in my class that’s either walking into my class late and being really disruptive (meaning that he wasn’t able to connect with the weed man that morning) or is totally mellowed out (meaning that said weed has been acquired.) One day, an obvious Day Without Weed, he did the whole manic thing.

I told him, forcefully, to sit down. His response was “My Mom don’t talk to me like that!”

My response: “Well maybe if she did, you wouldn’t be doing this mess!”

I haven’t had much of a problem in this regard since. I guess it’s because every kid is looking for someone to set a boundary. My colleagues are much better than I at that, but I’m getting there.

However, I’m feeling really burned out.

So I’m going to make as much of a difference as I can until that happens because as I said, many of these kids have kids….and I’d like for them to have the chance their parents didn’t necessarily get.


To address a $304 million dollar shortfall, the School District of Philadelphia has proposed some radical changes. They include closing more than 25 school buildings, approving no new charter schools, major concessions from the teachers’ union, and additional funding from the state and local governments.

In short, the issues with Education in Philadelphia will affect everyone, sooner rather than later. As the debate over what to change, when it should be changed, and how it should change continues to rage from City Hall to neighborhood corners, PABJ Member Manuel McDonnell Smith found one neighborhood activist who has been reforming education, at minimal cost, for the past 25 years.

Her advice? Keep the priorities of the children first. Karen Falcon explains her not-so-radical philosophy in this special PRISM Video Feature.