Celebrating Women’s History in a meaningful way

City Council members Blondell Reynolds Brown, Curtis Jones Jr. and Maria D. Quiñones-Sanchez took out time to honor a host of sheroes from across the city, “women of moxie” whose leadership in private, public and nonprofit sectors is helping to move the needle to a better quality of life for all who live and work here: Tina Sloan GreenClarena Tolson, Katherine Gajewski,  Yvonne RobertsIrene Hannan, Hon. Renee Cardwell Hughes, Vanessa Fields, Kathy BlackEvelyn Marcha-Hidalgo and Sophie Bryan 

Mayor Nutter signs a bill asking voters to create a  permanent Philadelphia Commission for Women.

Mayor Nutter signs a bill asking voters to create a permanent Philadelphia Commission for Women.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown makes a last-minute edit to her prepared comments during a Women's History Month program at City Hall.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown makes a last-minute edit to her prepared comments during a Women’s History Month program at City Hall.

Mayor Nutter, City Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Maria D. Quiñones-Sanchez join a host of women who testified on behalf of creating a new Commission for Women.

Mayor Nutter, City Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Maria D. Quiñones-Sanchez join a host of women who testified on behalf of creating a new Commission for Women, including PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau and Commissioner Shalimar Thomas.

The Women’s History Month program also featured an important part two: the enactment of legislation that will move the city a step closer to reintroducing a Commission for Women. Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed Bill No. 140230, allowing voters in the Mayor 19 primary election to decide whether to update the city’s charter and make such a commission a permanent feature of municipal government. PCHR testified in favor of this action in February.

Philadelphia Revenue Commissioner Clarena Tolson, PCHR Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney and City Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown share a moment of celebration and sisterhood.

Philadelphia Revenue Commissioner Clarena Tolson, PCHR Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney and City Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown share a moment of celebration and sisterhood.

With issues ranging from pay equity to human trafficking to cyclical poverty, there is cause and need for a set of thinkers and doers to focus on real solutions, Reynolds Brown reminded the audience. Nutter said he signed the legislation in honor of his grandmother, his mother, his sister, his wife and, “for the future, my daughter Olivia.”

And once the question goes on the ballot, Nutter said, “The answer should be ‘Yes.'”

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PCHR reacts to court ruling on anti-Muslim ads on SEPTA buses

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations reacted with disappointment in the ruling against SEPTA in its quest to bar an anti-Muslim organization from placing objectionable ads on its buses.

“We appreciated SEPTA’s efforts to uphold their anti-disparagement policy,” said Rue Landau, PCHR executive director. “We also respect the judge’s decision to uphold the First Amendment in this case, and recognize the tension this case elicited.

The New Hampshire-based American Freedom Defense Initiative has systematically been running a campaign of provocative ads disparaging Muslims and Islam throughout the United States, using transit systems. Yesterday’s ruling in U.S. District Court will add Philadelphia to a list that includes places such as Seattle and New York.

“As the city agency that protects the civil rights of all of Philadelphia’s residents and visitors, it is our job to ensure that no one feels this city is hostile toward them because of their religion, race, national origin, sexual orientation, ability, gender or gender identity. Ads like these make our job harder. They clearly violate our values, even if the judge ruled they don’t violate the law.”

An ecumenical group of leaders led by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia is planning measures to counter the messages coming out of New Hampshire, and PCHR will be helpful in those efforts, said Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert, who serves on the commission and teaches at Temple University.

Greater Philadelphia is home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Americans who practice Islam, with Philadelphia’s Muslim population ranking fourth among the top 10 U.S. cities. But as an organization established to promote peace, PCHR will intensify its efforts to soften any possible blow by this campaign, commissioners said.

“This is the city where American democracy was born, and there were many arguments about how it would be shaped and what it would say,” said Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner. “Sometimes, speech meant to hurt other people is still considered in the boundaries. But Allah commands us to love our neighbors, and to be faithful. That calling is true for all of us, whether you’re Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, whatever.

“This is Philadelphia. And we won’t let outsiders divide us by using hateful tactics.”

PCHR joins mourning of Officer Robert Wilson III

PHILADELPHIA — In the aftermath of the slaying of Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations offered the following statement:

Amid the confusion and distrust raised by recent cases of questionable officer-involved shootings and abuses both here and across the nation, a hero was slain while working to uphold the values and virtues we most want to attribute to our police.

Officer Robert Wilson III had the presence of mind to not only attempt to thwart a robbery, but to also try to protect innocent bystanders from being shot by stray bullets by drawing the shooters’ attention to him. It was valor that led him to stand up to criminals, for which he laid down his life. A community lost a sense of security last Thursday, but two small boys lost their father, and a city in need of a strong role models also was robbed.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations stands in mourning, as do countless other people in this city and across this Commonwealth, with Officer Wilson’s families and loved ones, including those at the 22nd Police District, who already suffered a similar loss less than three years ago with the slaying of Officer Moses Walker. Responsible and respectful police officers such as these always have been and always will be our partners in preserving and advancing peaceful relations among residents and visitors alike in Philadelphia. We salute the integrity and strength the fallen brought to the job, and the example they leave for their equally committed friends and colleagues. Their sacrifice cannot be in vain.

Officer Robert Wilson III. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Officer Robert Wilson III. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department.

 

Members of the Philadelphia Police Department have established a trust fund for the family of Robert Wilson III, who was killed in the line of duty on March 5, 2015.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so in person at the following PFFCU branches:

901 Arch Street
7604 City Avenue
8500 Henry Avenue
Leo Mall, Byberry and Bustleton Avenue
7500 Castor Avenue
3300 Grant Avenue

 Or by mailing a check payable to:

The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia PA, 19107

Or by making an online donation by clicking here.

My Brother’s Keeper Philly – next steps

Last fall, Mayor Michael A. Nutter publicly accepted President Obama’s challenge to create environments that would be more conducive for black and brown boys to be successful, given well-documented statistics that bear the sad reality of poor outcomes for too many of them, be they in Philadelphia or elsewhere in the nation.

With the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia came a series of brainstorming sessions and conversations to assess what this city would need to strengthen in order to better guide these young men to a productive adulthood that’s starting to bear fruit. MBK Philly expects to issue its recommendations and action plan by the end of the month, unveiling it locally and presenting it to the White House. In many ways, it will further the efforts of the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males.

“One of the unifying themes that came from these meetings was the need for a coordinated communications strategy with two ends,” said Erica Atwood, the city’s director of Black Male Engagement. “One, is to promote the positive stories of young men and boys of color by asking them to tell their stories, and two, that Philadelphia create an ‘Act or Fund’ campaign to encourage each of us to find a way to impact this work.”

At the center of that work are six areas that would allow black and brown boys — indeed all children here — to thrive better:

  • Entering school ready to learn
  • Reading at grade level by third grade
  • Graduating from high school ready for college or work
  • Finishing post-secondary education or training
  • Entering the workforce successfully
  • Reducing violence and providing a second chance

In the wake of strained police-community relations noted most recently in a report to President Obama on 21st century policing needs and increasing media reports indicating black and brown men tend to fare worse during such encounters, finding ways to stem those negative interactions earlier on is critical. It also brings greater urgency to initiatives such as MBK Philly.

Since the beginning, PCHR has been in the mix in helping how to think through and achieve these goals — lending insights on the issues and assisting some of the ensuing meetings as facilitators.

CRD representative Jonah Roll helps lead a conversation during a session at City Hall.

CRD representative Jonah Roll (c.) helps lead a conversation during a session at City Hall.

In fact, PCHR Deputy Director Randy Duque serves on the MBK Philly working committee, a group of some two dozen people who work throughout city government. The committee took the lead in convening additional listening and informational sessions with interested organizations and individuals willing to offer sound ideas on addressing the challenges outlined. And productively guiding conversations among diverse stakeholders is a tailor-made role for the Community Relations Division (CRD), a seasoned team trained in facilitation and conflict resolution skills, Duque said.

“I had proposed to the steering committee that the CRD could help keep everyone focused on the task at hand, and they did,” he added. “We got overwhelmingly positive feedback from the steering committee members and participants on how CRD brought people through the discussion topics.”

CRD representative Tierra Thompson makes sure the thoughts of the group are captured during a City Hall session.

CRD representative Tierra Thompson (c.) makes sure the thoughts of the group are captured during a City Hall session.

CRD representative Patricia Coyne clarifies a discussion point during a City Hall session.

CRD representative Patricia Coyne (r.) clarifies a discussion point during a City Hall session.

The series of targeted meetings that followed the initial kickoff ranged, from talking with leaders the School District of Philadelphia to those within Latino communities. Committee members also gleaned thoughts from young people, including those at the Juvenile Justice Services Center, those engaged in programs such as YouthBuild, PowerCorpPHL and the Youth Desk of the Liberian Ministers Association, among others.

Of course, unveiling the action plan will be another step along the journey, not the final destination. It will take more to accomplish those outlined goals, Atwood said, citing one young man’s view that applied aptly to students and adults alike.

“He said, ‘In order to make this work, we must be willing to be vulnerable. We must be honest, willing to acknowledge our shortcomings, our gaps in performance, our failures and our missed opportunities.’ And he’s right,” she added. “We all must be willing to work hard to reach a better outcome.”

For more, visit MBKPhilly.com.

Final days to nominate for the PCHR Awards

PCHR is on the hunt for Philadelphia’s champions of civil rights and human relations.

Specifically, PCHR is looking for those individuals and organizations that make life better for all of us through their work in arts and culture, public safety, corporate responsibility, community service and nonprofit stewardship. Fuller criteria for the 2015 PCHR Awards can be found here.

The commissioners have made their selections of award recipients. Now the public gets to have its say, but only until Friday, March 6.  There’s no need to delay any longer. Let your voice be heard  — make your nomination today!

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PCHR on the radio

headphonesPsst! Have you heard? The 2015 PCHR Awards are in the air and calls for the five publicly-nominated awards are winding down.

Friday is the deadline for nominations — don’t delay!

Helping to share that word are La Mega 1310 AM Philadelphia and iHeartMedia Philadelphia.

If you missed the PSA on La Mega en español, check it out:  .

And catch the interview with Loraine Ballard Morrill and PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau here.