These people are helping to make Philly a great place to live, work and play.
As a journalist, I’ve met a lot of people – some famous, some homeless – uncovered many issues, and been apart of numerous historic moments that have set the tone for the paradigm shift many prophets and forecasters spoke of long ago. The stories I’ve encountered in Philadelphia and the actors who star in them are drastically different in age, experience, race, locale… you name it.
However, the binding thread through the inter-generational timeline is one that lifts the spirits and reveals what’s good about mankind: service to others. Some have questioned my editorial decisions to sometimes cover rallies over red carpets, but in my opinion, there’s more to be gained from community than there is from celebrity.
Throughout various communities in Philadelphia are people who everyday are doing something to make the lives of people around them better. Here are 10 of those great individuals and their story of service.
A Mighty Good Man
Mr. Tim Whitaker, Founder, Mighty Writers, is the former editor of The Philadelphia Weekly, once known as the Welcomat. Though the smiling children are the face of Mighty Writers – and Mr. Whitaker wants it that way – his passion for “telling a good story” is what’s driving the expansion of the nonprofit. I’ve been to a Christmas party and held a programming at their South Philadelphia location, volunteered at their South Street location and participated in celebrating the opening of their West Philly location. Each time I saw the same thing: children who want to be in the program and an Executive Director who’s genuinely excited to see them.
On the Brink of Being Politically-Incorrect
Mr. Greg Brinkley is old enough to say whatever he wants, and he assures me he can back it up. The former correctional officer was also the chair of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Action Network, so his fear of confrontation is non-existent. You can find his name near most big local stories involving a civil rights violation. For example, Mr. Brinkley, who’s been saying some less than flattering things about Philly’s District Attorney, bailed out Tomayo McDuffy, who, in the court of public opinion, is seen as wrongfully accused by a mentally ill blind woman.
Remember Darrin Manning? He was the 16 year-old African-American teenager who was stopped-and-frisked by a Philadelphia Police Officer and within twenty-four hours required emergency surgery on his testicles. Mr. Manning, an honor roll student with no criminal record, claimed a white female officer squeezed his testicles during a pat down and then he heard something pop. As expected, this story hit the wire big time and the black community was outraged. And while Darrin’s injury was always the focus of the media, Ms. Andrea Lawful-Trainer, the first female elected to Techbook Online’s Board of Leaders and Doers, reached out to his mother, Ms. Ikea Cooney, and became her listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
He Influenced Policy With Intent
Mr. Anton Moore is quickly become one of the biggest names in Philadelphia’s activism scene. Moore, the founder of Unity in the Community, in September became outraged to learn that BB guns were being sold to minors in his community. Within days, Mr. Moore organized the community – including two lawmakers – and protested the store that was caught selling them. The fight didn’t stop there, however, as Mr. Moore went on to organize a town hall meeting in which gross negligence by government was uncovered, testified before the Police Advisory Commission who went on to find that Philadelphia Police Officers had fatally shot two people from 2007-2013 who were in the possession of a toy gun, and testified before City Council’s public safety committee which led to passing of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s bill that would increase penalties for store owners caught selling illegal BB guns.
She Broke The Color Line in Journalism
By far, one of my greatest achievements as a journalist was meeting Ms. Trudy Haynes, the first African-American television reporter to work in the Philadelphia market, and teaching her how to take a selfie. In her mid 80’s now, Ms. Haynes choose to stay in Philly after retiring from KYW-TV, though, in hindsight, she wishes she would’ve pushed herself to go national. Despite not achieving fame in fifty states, her work in Philly is legendary and it hasn’t stopped. Ms. Haynes now hosts her own public affairs show, which is taped at PhillyCam in Center City Philadelphia, and is participating in the launch of a new television network.
This Millennial Has Enough Energy For All Us
I’ve never met anyone like Rashaun “DJ Reezey®” Williams, a popular twenty-year old disc jockey, social entrepreneur and all-around good guy. He’s got real dreams of changing the world by inspiring young people and he won’t let anyone tell him it’s not possible. After dropping out of college at Temple University, Mr. Williams, who was named a BMe Leader in 2013, became the youngest content producer in the world published by Niuzly.com – a London news startup – and the youngest author on www.GoodMenProject.com, one of the world largest website for men. In addition, Mr. Williams was requested in the nation’s capital to advise philanthropic and nonprofit leaders on the rollout of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative – not bad for someone who’s not legally allowed in a nightclub.
The Ultimate Warrior
Ari Merretazon was drafted into the Vietnam War at the age of 19. When he finally came home, he had another war to fight: racism. Angered by the lack of respect he received as a soldier, Mr. Merretazon planned a robbery, his way of getting back at “the man.” The movie Dead Presidents is based on his story that appeared in BLOODS: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History. As the story goes, he was arrested. But what many don’t know is that while prison, Mr. Merretazon performed numerous acts of service on behalf of veterans, which eventually led to him being recognized by President Jimmy Carter. In 2014, Mr. Merretazon hasn’t slowed down his activism much, as he currently leading the fight to obtain better services for Veterans in Philadelphia.
We Tell The Stories of Others
It was a big day for me when I received a 2014 Lucien Blackwell Guiding Light in the Community Award in City Hall with my fellow BMe Leader Solomon Jones, a columnist at The Philadelphia Daily News and the host of the morning show on 900am WURD. We were both selected for our dedication to providing relevant information and perspective to the City. Both Solomon and I have personal connections to Mr. Blackwell, the deceased husband of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. When I was in middle school, my jazz band performed for Mr. Blackwell days before he passed away. Knowing how the public perceived Mr. Blackwell and how long Mr. Jones has been a voice to the black community in Philadelphia, this is a moment that ranks high on my list of favorites.
He’s The Angriest Black Man You’ll Ever Meet
One day as we walked to his car, I asked attorney Michael Coard a question that I know other white people ask him often: why do you always play the race card? Mr. Coard responded: “because America deals from the race deck.”
Mr. Coard is an activist well-known for his Afro-centric causes, like when he successfully lobbied to get The President’s House, a slavery memorial, erected at 6th & Market streets. It looks as if Mr. Coard may be going down that road again, as remains of a slavery burial ground has been found under a playground in Queen Village. Mr. Terry Buckalew, the historian pictured here with Mr. Coard, is the man who unearthed the black-only cemetery and together they are looking at the best way to preserve and highlight the history of that site.
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A Freedom Fighter
Mr. Nicholas was in Memphis the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. He claims he was in town planning the next demonstration, according to DailyKos.com, who called him “one of Philadelphia’s most outspoken leaders on the quality of education in the city.”
Last month when the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted unilaterally to cancel their contract with the teacher’s union, a massive rally followed in front of the School District of Philadelphia and Mr. Nicholas was present, threatening to shut the city down if the right thing wasn’t done.
My library is full of great people, both in Philadelphia and across the country, who are changing the world for the better and encouraging others to do the same. People like this aren’t hard to find, it all depends where you look and what you’re looking for.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™