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.

Lead 2015 PCHR Award recipients named, nominations still open for public awards

PHILADELPHIA, March 2, 2015 – The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations today unveiled its four lead recipients of the PCHR Awards, where civic leaders helping to advance social equality and justice here have been spotlighted since 1987. Those lead recipients are:

Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER

Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER

Bishop Dwayne Royster and POWER – Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild – will receive the Clarence Farmer Sr. Service Award. POWER, a multiracial interfaith coalition established in 2011, has been a leading entity in grassroots efforts pushing for holistic social change throughout Philadelphia.

Gloria Casarez

Gloria Casarez

The late Gloria Casarez, inaugural director of LGBT affairs for Mayor Michael A. Nutter, posthumously will receive the Sadie T.M. Alexander Leadership Award. For two decades, Casarez served as a civil rights leader, advocating for fair and equal treatment in housing, access and employment for people of color, the impoverished and LGBT residents in Philadelphia, particularly transgender people of color.

Adrienne Simpson

Adrienne Simpson

Adrienne Simpson and the late Lt. Joyce Craig each will receive recognition as recipients of the PCHR Chairman’s Award. This year, the honor emphasized acts of bravery that benefit others, in the face of consequences.

Lt. Joyce Craig

Lt. Joyce Craig

Simpson publicly challenged the leadership of Philadelphia Magazine after publication of an article deemed racially inflammatory, despite being the lone African American there. Craig had a stellar career as a Philadelphia firefighter before losing her life last year while battling a blaze, making her the first female firefighter in the city’s history to die in the line of duty.

Ellen Somekawa

Ellen Somekawa

Ellen Somekawa, executive director of the FACTS Charter School and former head of Asian Americans United, will receive the PCHR Executive Director’s Award for her years of distinguished service to Philadelphia’s underserved.

In addition, five publicly-nominated awards for work in corporate responsibility, nonprofit stewardship, arts and culture, public safety and community service will be presented.

Nominations remain open through Friday and recipients will be notified by March 20.

“Our commission is thrilled by the strong character and the diversity of our award recipients and the positive impact they had had on our great city,” said PCHR Chair Thomas H. Earle. “We may be giving them an award, but it’s truly an honor to know that people of this caliber choose to give of themselves in this way in such deep ways to our community.”

The awardees or their representative loved ones will be honored during the 2015 PCHR Awards, which will be held on Tuesday, April 28, at the Arts Ballroom, 1324 Locust St., Philadelphia.

The awards event celebrates the people and organizations actively working to reduce discrimination and intergroup tensions while promoting tolerance and respect among all people, regardless of differences in race, religion, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Clarence Farmer and Sadie Alexander both were seminal figures in Philadelphia, both in leading the commission during various eras and as civil rights icons who forged bonds across educational, business, legal and public service sectors. This event pays homage to their legacy and serves as a reminder of the work still to be done, said Rue Landau, PCHR executive director.

“What we do on this commission impacts real people every day, and we take this work seriously. But we could not do it without partners, everyday people who dedicate themselves to improving the quality of life in this city for all who live here,” Landau said.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate their achievements, and look forward to who the public thinks who else should join this distinguished group as 2015 PCHR Award winners.”

For criteria, nomination applications, tickets or event details, visit www.phila.gov/humanrelations/awards  or call (215) 686-4670.

Fair Housing Commission adds new members

PHILADELPHIA, February 20, 2015 – The Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission expanded its ranks by two, adding two seasoned attorneys to help resolve concerns between the city’s tenants and landlords.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s appointment of Jennifer Santiago and David T. Rammler completes the five-member panel, filling a standing vacancy and replacing Diane Canty, who stepped down after 16 years of “valued service,” said Rue Landau, FHC executive director.

(l-r) Attorney Jennifer Santiago, the newest member of the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission, joins Commissioners Anthony Lewis Jr.  and the Rev. James S. Allen in reviewing a case with a landlord at a recent hearing.

(l-r) Attorney Jennifer Santiago, the newest member of the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission, joins Commissioners Anthony Lewis Jr. and the Rev. James S. Allen in reviewing a case with a landlord at a recent hearing.

Santiago and Rammler join a trio of veteran commissioners – Anthony Lewis Jr., the Revs. Ralph E. Blanks and James S. Allen. Commissioners uphold the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance, hearing complaints about unsafe or unhealthy rental living conditions filed by citizens and investigated by FHC staff.

Santiago, a private practice attorney, has served as a prosecutor and an assistant district attorney in New York, with a focus on domestic violence law. She also has amassed experience in family law while working at the Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, First Judicial District, which serves Philadelphia. The bilingual Philadelphia native trained at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple’s Beasley School of Law.

Rammler, a legal consultant for the Fair Share Housing Center of New Jersey, has spent the bulk of his career in nonprofit law and social services in a variety of roles, from Philadelphia to Honolulu to Washington, D.C. Previously, he served as a staff attorney and director of government relations for the National Housing Law Project, a nonprofit housing rights program. He is a board member of the National Lawyers Guild, Philadelphia chapter. He earned his J.D. from Case Western University School of Law.

“The skill sets and experience level of these new commissioners are fantastic,” Landau said. “Fairly reviewing these cases, understanding the human element and applying the law, is especially important work because so many lives are directly impacted by what happens here.

“We couldn’t be more pleased by the mayor’s selections,” she added.

FHC is charged with diffusing and arbitrating disputes between tenants and landlords. Legally binding decisions rendered by commissioners may be appealed to the Courts of Common Pleas or other appropriate courts. It operates as a division of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

Learn more by calling (215) 686-4670 or visiting www.phila.gov/fairhousingcommission.

Testifying for equality: A rationale for a Commission for Women

PHILADELPHIA – PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau was one of host of voices rising in favor of a proposal to institute a Philadelphia Commission for Women at a hearing in City Council on Wednesday.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau delivers testimony during a hearing by City Council's committee on law and government.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau delivers testimony during a hearing by City Council’s committee on law and government.

Designed by City Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Marian B. Tasco, the unpaid commission would study concerns and advance initiatives to help level the playing field for women and girls in the city.  A set of legislation originally authored last year is winding its way through City Council and toward Mayor Nutter’s desk.

Resolution No. 140244 would amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to establish the commission permanent, with Bill No. 140230 allowing the idea to be put before the voters – perhaps as soon as during this spring’s primary elections.

“Addressing . . . rapidly unfolding scenarios smartly and effectively could be the work of a Commission for Women, because evaluating policies that come with rising immigration or shifting employment sectors, for instance, would help alleviate the persistent and growing poverty Philadelphia currently faces,” Landau told members of City Council’s Committee on Law and Government.

“Be it by ballot or executive order, creating this commission poses to be a benefit. It could lead toward greater equality by offering research-based perspectives to City Council and future mayoral administrations to better inform decisions by both.

“That’s a win-win situation.”

Read the full testimony here: pchr_testimony_comm4women_021815.

PCHR expands by two — officially

All sworn in! Wei Chen and Shalimar Thomas officially join the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations today after taking the oath of office from the Hon. Ida K. Chen.

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Wei Chen and Shalimar Thomas take the oath of office from the Hon. Ida K. Chen as Commissioner Marshall Freeman looks on.

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The Hon. Ida K. Chen adds her signature to certify the newest commissioners.

PCHR hosts French policymaker, exchanges ideas

PCHR routinely serves as a stopping point for foreign visitors looking to exchange ideas and solutions, and Tuesday was no different when Maguy Salomon dropped by to swap experiences with commissioners and key PCHR staff.

Maguay Salomon, a French lawmaker, contrasts her experiences to those of African-Americans and immigrants here during a meeting a lively conversation at PCHR. (l-r) Salomon, Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney.

Maguay Salomon, a French lawmaker, contrasts her experiences to those of African-Americans and immigrants here during a meeting a lively conversation at PCHR. (l-r) Salomon, Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney.

Salomon serves on 65-member council that manages Nantes, the sixth-largest city in France, a youthful, arts-and-letters locale on the western side of the country. She also directs the Louis Delgres Cultural Center, which focuses on advancing diversity and celebrating the region’s contemporary Franco-African culture and society.

Nantes also has a significant history in the 18th century French-African slave trade, leaving a rich multicultural imprint even through today. A number of residents can point to historical and contemporary African and Caribbean roots, as the city remains an attractive immigration destination. Violent actions by disaffected North African Muslims in Nantes have grabbed headlines in recent months.

Issues of identity and inclusion among people of color are not exclusive to the United States or foreign to France, Salomon said.

With a capable translator and guide from Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, Salomon also made stops at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, the Anti-Defamation League and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to round out her trip and understanding of the city and its people.

A Franco-American dialogue on culture and society. (l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner, Maguy Salomon, Commissioner Marshall Freeman and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney.

A Franco-American dialogue on culture and society. (l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner, Maguy Salomon, Commissioner Marshall Freeman and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney.

“It was a fascinating exchange,” Commissioner Saadiq Jabbar Garner said. “Even when there were times we could not find the exact words, I could feel her. I knew what she was talking about. That we could share that bond, share ideas on things to try, what has worked for us and what hasn’t, just heightens the relevance of this commission.”