The "Two Fish.Five Loaves" ministry of the New Covenant Church of Philadelphia gives out free food to the neighborhood and beyond. Many volunteers help with the distribution of nearly 1000 free boxes of food each week. During these pandemic times, demand is growing according to Minister Sandra. (Volunteers are welcome to sign up for either packing or distribution tasks at https://nccop.church/2fish5loaves ) People arrive in cars, on foot and on the bus to pick up food, no questions asked. The food is provided by Common Market, a non-profit food distributor sourcing product from sustainable local farms and Caring for [Friends], also a non-profit organization. This past Saturday, boxes were brimming with fresh peaches and blueberries. Separate packages contained dry goods and meat. For the recipient, the different food items are considered one box. "Two fish, five loaves" references a Bible story in which two fish and five loaves were brought to Jesus; with it, he fed thousands with food left over. Minister Sandra says the ministry is following out Jesus' instruction to Peter to "Feed my sheep." "That's what we are doing every Saturday, feeding his sheep." Watch video interview here.
Calvary Church of Wyncote Associate Pastor Tom Tweedle and some church youth were on the front lawn of a home in East Mount Airy making a video. The finished video will encourage teens to get active in the church's youth group which is restarting in September. As one young woman pointed a hose in the air to create a gentle arc of rain over the pastor's head, another took a video of him talking into the camera. "Baby Come Back" the 1978 song by Player played aloud in the background. Expect to see the video on the Church's website calvarywyncote.com/youth/and perhaps, also, on TikTok. Watch video Watch video here
White staffers of the Free Library of Philadelphia, in support of their Black colleagues, staged a protest outside the Chestnut Hill home of the Library Board Chair, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Pam Dembe, as part of a campaign to oust her for insensitivity and alleged racist comments and actions. In this video, a handful of Black employees watch from a corner across the street as the protesters hold signs and shouted chants such as, "When libraries are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" Librarian Sunita Balija was one of the first to address the gathering of about 25 of her colleagues, who presumably had authorized time off from library work to attend the morning action. She excoriated the board chair, making a case for "The People vs. Pam Dembe" and running down a bullet list of factors to support the demand for her resignation. "Fact: Black staff are largely relegated to non-professional jobs including custodians, guards, and library assistants and therefore they earn seven-thousand, five-hundred, thirty-three dollars less than the median salary while White staff earn twelve-thousand more than the median salary." Watch video here.
AFSCME Labor Union (District Council 47) shop steward and Free Libary of Philadelhia staffer Perry Genovese explains the protest outside the Chestnut Hill home of the Chairperson of the Library Board.
"I'm here today for the Campaign for a Just Philly Budget calling on Judge Pam Dembe to step down..this is a call being made in solidarity with the Concerned Black Workers of the Free Library who successfully ousted" now former Executive Director Siobhan Reardon. Genovese refers to disparaging remarks made by Dembe and widely reported in the mainstream media. "She doesn't get anti-racism." Genovese says the Concerned Black Workers wanted the protest action taken to Dembe's residence because they hadn't been listened to. Genovese says the black workers were given a slap in the face when the Chair only responded to a letter from white staffers to the Board on behalf of their black colleagues, whose original letter to the Board she had ignored.
Driving along Northwestern Avenue past the top of Forbidden Drive, I noticed a shirtless, mask-less, older man wearing red boxer shorts and blue boxing gloves. Next to him was a heavy punching bag hanging from a post of the wooden Wissahickon Valley welcome structure. In our video interview, the man, who gave his name as XXXXXXX, indicated he was taking a break from six to eight sets of fifty punches each and obliged me by demonstrating his technique. He would not disclose his age, residence or occupation but asked "What's your story?" which I told him in brief. XXXXX indicated he was positioned where he was, at the busy entrance way to the valley park, so as to engage people. As he approached the car, challenging me "What are you afraid of?" but not giving me time to answer about Covid-19 concerns, I would press the button to raise the car window up but for a crack, with him standing just on the other side of the window. And so our conversation continued with me lowering the window as he backed away and raising it again as he approached, railing about fear and telling me I wasn't alive, wasn't living. Unsurprisingly, he asked what I thought about President Trump. And, uncharacteristically, I abided by the maximum "If you don’t have anything nice to say..." and said nothing. XXXXX answered my silence with "I'd take a bullet for Trump." Watch video interview here.
NOTE: At the time of this interview, Philadelphia had a mandatory face mask requirement due to Covid-19 in public places where it is not possible to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from other people.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, most businesses along the Germantown Avenue business corridor (excluding some of the vacant ones ) had been securely boarded up in the wake of widespread protests and looting elsewhere in the city. The Weavers Way Coop market, which has a wide expanse of windows, was a notable exception. (The Coop's General Manager, Jon Roesser, explains its decision not to board up below.) When asked why he was boarding up the Wells Fargo Bank a workman replied "It's a job. Do you think I like doing this? It's sad."
Joe Pie of McNally's Tavern, was putting a new coat of dark green paint on the entrance door (No boarding up to do because the tavern hasn't had windows on the narrow facade for more than fifty years.) He said that businesses along the Avenue had been "cased" the day before and was very alarmed should any photos be posted on social media. Bohemian Pink owner Monika Schermer said her store was boarded up based on the advice of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and the 14th District Philadelphia Police. Schermer directed questions to the Business Association. Its Executive Director Phil Dawson could not be reached for comment.
Outside the Fresh Market at 7 pm, a market employee stood outside watching two workmen prepare to board up the doors. He relayed that the CVS, farther down the street, had been broken into. Talking on the phone, one of these workers could be heard saying he would be back at the store in the morning to take the boards off so the store could open for business. "Hopefully I'm going to be putting these boards on and off for a couple days."
Large, delicately lettered chalk messages have already appeared on some of the boards. "Love lives here" on one and "Community" on another. Hillary O'Carroll proprietress of Isabella Sparrow, captured in a photo in the below tweet, is behind the heartwarming words. She says she wanted to add non-political messages of love and home by writing on the the boards. The one shown above "Black Lives Matter - donate: NAACP.ORG & phillybailfund.org" she attributes to an employee of Caleb Meyer.
On the Tailored Home store, O'Carroll's message is simply "This is home"
Comments of John Roesser, GM of Weavers Way Cooperative Association
Driving down Gtown Ave this morning, it seems we're part of a vanishing minority of businesses who've chosen not to board up; lumber yards must be rejoicing.
For starters, please know I don't question the motives of other business owners. Whatever drove them to decide to board up, I'm sure it made sense for them. I understand PPD recommends boarding up businesses as a precaution. PPD would have no reason to recommend anything different. And they are busy and hard pressed and I'm sure not just a little tired by now.
Our principal reason for not boarding up was consideration of our staff and customers. Still in the midst of the pandemic, grocery shopping is already a stressful activity (working in a grocery store is even worse). The masks and the hand sanitizer and the social distancing and the 15 person customer cap, it's all disconcerting enough. Boarding up our windows would aggravate the stress. Our Chestnut Hill store is small. Boarding up the windows would block out the natural light and make it feel even smaller. Who wants to work in a plywood box?
In making this decision I had 100% support from the Co-op's management team and 100% support from our Chestnut Hill employees (at least the 25 or so with whom I spoke on Sunday and Monday). Last night I received 100% affirmation of the decision from our board of directors who, as you know, are democratically elected by the Co-op's 10,000 member households.
Having spent much of yesterday in Chestnut Hill chatting with customers (masked and 6 feet apart!) I received thumbs up from all of them. Many expressed dismay at the acres of plywood along the avenue. One out of four households in Chestnut Hill are member-owners of the Co-op. They patronize other businesses on the avenue too.
Yesterday's demonstrations were largely peaceful. Things could change but the folks who are out protesting the murder of George Floyd and demanding the end of institutional racism are not vandals or looters. PPD is as always hard at work tracking down the bad actors who are taking advantage of the demonstrations (and undermining the demonstrator's message) by causing mayhem. It is too early to say but we can perhaps be hopeful that the worst of the looting is over.
I have to say, again not questioning the motives - or the politics - of other business owners, the sight of all those boarded up buildings along the avenue is unnerving. And it can't be good for business. I do hope the other businesses along the avenue will consider taking the boards down sooner rather than later.
It will take one hooligan, armed with a brick and a strong arm, to make us look like fools. Maybe we are fools. "
We received a voicemail on our landline from Pennsylvania State Representative for the 200th district Chris Rabb (pronounced like "dab") with an invitation to try out, this past Friday, Philadelphia’s new ES&S voting machines at the Wadsworth Branch Public Library. Your correspondent planned to first attend a yoga class at the nearby Lovett Branch Public Library, then head over to Wadsworth to get acquainted with the new machines which have been in the news. See Philadelphia's New Voting Machine Contract in Jeopoardy... Coincidentally, PhD renaissance man, yogi and fair election activist Josh Mittledorf was substitute teaching. After class, I asked Mitteldorf to explain his concerns about the new machines. He pointed out the ES&S company’s sordid history and claimed that the software it uses could possibly skew results; even election officials purchasing the machines do not have access to the software to verify its integrity because, in legal terms, the software is considered a trade secret.
I headed off to Wadsworth where a representative from the Philadelphia City Commissioners' office walked me through how to use the new machine and referred me to Rep Rabb for any additional questions. The voting process is initiated when a voter inserts a physical ballot into the machine. On a large display screen, the voter then touch taps the candidates they want and, when done, the printed ballot with the voter’s choices shows up behind a window panel for the the voter to approve before submitting their vote. Predictably, on the demonstration machine, your correspondent voted for Democrat Party candidate Nick Foles for President and Green Party Candidate Julius ("Dr. J" Erving) for U.S. Senate. Then it was time to buttonhole Rabb.
Interview with Rabb
BR (your correspondent, Brian Rudnick): Are these machines secure?
CR (his Pa State Rep Chris Rabb): No.
BR: How do we know the election is not being stolen?
CR: We don’t.
BR: We don’t? Well that’s not good.
CR: I agree. Just like any system, Any system is imperfect.
BR: Any system- even a paper ballot system…
CR: Well paper ballots can be stolen…
BR: Why don’t we have access to the software in the systems?
CR: I don’t know.
BR: You’re our representative, can you ask?
CR: The City Commissioners’ office is here so you can ask directly.
Of the approximately 15 people your correspondent approached Friday morning to gauge their reaction to the Democratic presidential primary debates on TV Wednesday and Thursday nights, only three had watched one or both of the debates. Some of the remainder thought that there were just too many candidates at this time to make tuning in worthwhile. Responses of other non-viewers were “I don’t watch TV,” “I was asleep at nine”, “I get my news from social media” and “I watched 30 seconds of Joe Biden and had enough.” Here are what the three had to say
BR: What were your impressions of the first Democratic Party presidential debates?
Biden and Sanders were predictableGeorge McDowell: One- too many candidates for an effective debate. I think a couple people started to make a name for themselves but ultimately it was just too little time to get any serious sort of issues really drawn out. BR: Anyone impress you , depress you? GM: Kamala Harris, I thought, was effective last night. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were somewhat predictable. A couple had some good answers and stood out somewhat but it still was very hard for them to really get across their messages during the time that was allowed.
Too many but I like Harris, Buttigieg, and intrigued by Yang
Tema Esberg: I'm overwhelmed with the number of people who are battling for attention. It’s hard to focus on anyone and learn anything meaningful about any of them other than how they perform in that moment when they're vying for the moment to get their pre-scripted lines out. That's my general observation. BR: Anyone you definitely would not vote for or would consider at this point? TE: I think it's too early. I did start liking some people more than others but recognizing that I liked them for their performance in that moment. I was surprised that I liked Buttigieg’s performance so much. I like Kamala Harris. I was disappointed in Biden and I was intrigued by Yang …So I shouldn’t say “shit show” on your video?
Biden's the right man for the job
Jay Whitehead: First day it appeared that the candidates were just trying to show what they had. They really didn't seem important to me. Nobody really said anything significant. Last night it got pretty in-depth. I think Joe Biden, regardless of how Kamala kind of pinned his ears back a little bit, I think he's the man for the job. I'm impressed with Kamala. But Joe -I want to see Joe Biden become president. I think he's got the fortitude and I think he's straight up and down American no matter how you shake it – no crooks, no books. Just straight up and down. BR Would you like to see Biden on a ticket with Kamala? JW:I’d like to see Kamala on a ticket with Biden.
Christian Romig has plastered “Hillary for Prison 2020”, “Police Lives Matter” and similar bumper stickers on the back of his compact SUV. But most prominent are the banners for “States Rights” and “Jesus Saves”. On the window portion in large letters are “Homeles [sic] Outreach” and “Soul Patrol.” In this photo, Romig was taking a breather in the Wissahickon at the top of Forbidden Drive on a nice spring day. He grew up in Chestnut Hill and now lives in Erdenheim The push broom and coolers strapped atop his vehicle are part of his own personal ministry of providing socks, blankets, novena candles and such to the homeless in center city and sweeping their living areas. A terrible struggle with Lyme disease concluded his long term employ at the Woodwards’ Cresheim estate some years ago, he says. Overcoming despair, Romig has been acting on his longstanding concern for those in need by going on “soul patrol” for the homeless. “What Jesus has done for me, I want to show to others.”
Using a handloom built by former school parent and woodworking teacher, John Fiorella, Philadelphia Waldorf middle-schoolers set up yarn on three spindles for people to crank out their own soft jump ropes. Admissions Coordinator Maggie Davis says the students decided to donate all monetary proceeds on Sunday April 7, 2019 at the Clover Market in Chestnut Hill, to UNICEF after reading Alan Gratz's book, "Refugee," about the plight of refugee families from three different countries in three different time periods. Watch video of Waldorf students using a hand loom to weave jump ropes to benefit UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.
"These are some of the folks that have been haunting my dreams. These are the folks that I've been thinking about, watching on TV...and so much of the imagery... I feel a need to process it in some kind of way that helps me cathartically to just deal with everything that's going on. It's also a way of exercising my free speech. This painting is called "Data Envy." This is Jared Kushner [senior advisor to his father-in-law, President Trump] looking curiously or longingly at Mark Zuckerberg , Facebook founder. He's interested in data, how to use that data machine that is Facebook to potentially win over the whole country. There's moments that I can picture in my mind that results in what we are living through now." Germantown painter Colleen Quinn's other dark portraits depict former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Quinn was exhibiting at the Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival. Watch video of artist describing her painting of presidential advisor Jared Kushner longing for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his data.
Your correspondent observed and spoke with Chestnut Hill Local Editor Pete Mazzaccaro on a busy Monday morning as he was busy finalizing stories with his associate editor, staff writer and interns, churning out the obituaries that are usually handled by the vacationing articles editor, deciding on lead stories and knocking out headlines, then laying these out with photos for the front page. The weekly, a publication of the Chestnut Hill delivers news and features to some 5000 residents of Northwest Philadelphia and neighboring Montgomery County through with its printed edition and to thousands more regular readers of its online edition, https://www.chestnuthilllocal.com
Len Lear edits the "Local Life", second section of the Chestnut Hill Local. Your correspondent observed Local Associate Editor Sue Ann Rybak who sometimes contributes articles to Local Life express her admiration for the articles he writes. "They are so...." "Compelling" Lear suggests and Rybak is happy to have the word put in her mouth. While the subjects of some stories bring attention to themselves to promote a book concert or a public performance, many others who perhaps have won an award or are doing great humanitarian work do not bring attention to themselves but are brought to Lear's attention by neighbors, friends or family members who suggest a profile on the subject might make an interesting story.