PCHR reacts to SCOTUS marriage equality ruling

PHILADELPHIA, June 26 — Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Executive Director Rue Landau issued the following statement on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, which enshrines a significant civil right:
“We are thrilled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision for marriage equality.  This decision is the first step in ending the unequal patchwork of laws protecting the LGBT community that had been created across the country.  Now, all marriages will be recognized as equal, regardless of who you love or where you live in America.  
“While we celebrate this decision today, we must get back to work tomorrow to continue the fight for essential nondiscrimination laws in our own state, as well as the rest of the country.  
“It’s been 50 years since the first national protest for gay rights occurred in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and Philadelphia’s lawmakers were among the first to get the message.  We have had laws protecting people based on sexual orientation and gender identity for decades, and it has made us a safer, healthier and stronger community. Now is the time for Pennsylvania and all other states to follow suit.”

Image courtesy of VisitPhilly

Image courtesy of VisitPhilly

Summer survival: How neighbors can keep cool without throwing shade

With the misery mugginess can inspire, it’s no surprise that small misunderstandings can blow up into full-scale brawls on the block during the summer. At the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, we work to cultivate and maintain peaceful, respectful relations among neighbors. When hurtful words or actions threaten to rip apart the fabric of community, we try to help knit it back together.

philly_shot_fairmount(c)But there are steps that you can take on the front end that could help diffuse situations before they get too hot.  Here are some tips to consider as we enter the water ice-slurping season.  Like that perfect Philly treat, they can help everyone keep their cool.

  1. Mind Max
    High temperatures can be harmful to pets, especially dogs who may normally roam yards. But whether the windows are open or closed with the AC running, increased indoor barking can be disturbing as it travels through the walls. Likewise, your pup’s poop and pee tend to be even smellier in the heat. Stay on top of these matters to stay on the good side of fellow residents.
  1. Tackle that trash
    It could be sticky Popsicle wrappers or remnants of those steamed crabs. If it’s left to sit outside, uncovered, it won’t take long before bugs and other critters come to explore its contents. And let’s not forget the stench, because humid air makes smells hang even heavier. Don’t put your neighbors through that. Dispose of your waste properly – on the correct day of the week.
  2. Corral the kids
    We know – they have energy for days, and you want them outside so they don’t get on your nerves. But don’t let them get on someone else’s. Set play boundaries for them. Connect with your neighbors and try to create fair rules, like how to pursue those stray balls that go rolling into yards. Cut a deal with your kids on how loudly they can play and for how long. The sudden influx of squeals and arguing over who is “It” in a game of tag can puncture what had been a fairly quiet landscape just weeks before. That can be jarring, especially for retirees or people who work from home. Have a conversation on what consideration looks like and have them stick with it.
  3. Whack the weeds
    Nothing draws four-, six- and eight-legged undesirables like overgrown grasses, unkempt shrubs or other greenery run amok. Keeping your green space trimmed and under control will go a long way in maintaining harmony, from preventing contamination of your neighbor’s prized begonias to curbing pollen attacks, Just make sure your clippers and mowers stay on your side of the property line, and active only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., as per city code.
  4. Contain the cookout
    Many of us love those charcoal-infused flavors. But fewer of us love an invasion of smoke inside our homes from grills that are too high or close. Ditto diminished parking when someone decides to spread out their set up – grill, chairs, bar and all – in the street, and without notice. Give your neighbors a heads up by ringing their bell or dropping them a note to let them know of your plans. As a bonus move, ask them to bring a plate and join the festivities.
  5. Monitor the music
    J. Cole might be your stroll, but your neighbor may prefer J. Bach – or simple silence. Blasting your tunes may be tolerated during the day, but when the sun goes down, it’s a fine time to think about your neighbors. If the police are called to intervene, you could be cited for a ticket. Those can range up to $700 for repeat offenders. Don’t take the chance. Lower the volume.
  6. Share the spaces
    Parking in Philadelphia often comes at a premium, given its small streets, shared driveway configurations and the like. After working hard all day or slogging through streets on errands, most of us don’t want to return home to double-parked cars, cans, cones or other blockages to pulling in and getting in the house. No one owns spaces, but no one should hog them, either.
  7. Choose calm over chaos
    Scratched car. Trampled garden. Stolen lawn chair. Any of these are enough to set someone off. But before flying off the handle, get facts. After discovering the offender, see if you can speak with that person, or, in the case of a child, the parents. Listen first. Explain your concerns in a quiet manner. Try and negotiate with the other side. Work together and find a mutually agreeable repayment.  If the person is unresponsive or unreasonable, seek a third-party to intervene, such as a block captain – or us.

There is no magic bullet to squashing neighborhood beefs. But taking these steps can help address unresolved problems that simmer in the background and boil over when heat-induced frustrations rise.

Underneath most disputes is a lack of familiarity with or trust in one another. Use incidents to start or renew a relationship with your neighbor. Take the time to not only speak from your point of view, but to also listen to another’s.  Share ideas on how to prevent similar problems in the future and work toward common ground.

When all else fails, call the professionals here at (215) 686-4670. We can help mediate neighborhood disputes as well as train you how to better do the same.

After all, most of us would rather spend our summer relaxing – not fussing and fighting.

PCHR reacts to S.C. massacre

PHILADELPHIA — PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau reacted to last night’s massacre at a Charleston, S.C., where nine men and women were murdered inside Mother Emanuel AME Church:

“Any act of violence is despicable, but the degree to which this suspect in Charleston, S.C. inflicted violence, pain, and apparently, hatred, on innocent men and women inside their church praying is horrifying. It should horrify every American who believes in peace and freedom.

“The African Methodist Episcopal movement, founded in Philadelphia, has a long history of pursuing and advocating for those goals, both here and abroad. This man attempted to shred our human bonds. Good people across this nation will ensure he is not successful in those efforts, starting with the authorities who worked tirelessly and swiftly to apprehend him.

“Today, we stand with those grieving the victims. And we support and invite the public to join efforts for healing, including the interfaith service at 7 p.m. tonight at Mother Bethel AME Church, led by the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler.”

Securing Our Future: Forging partnerships, tackling community-police relations, building leaders

PHILADELPHIA – With recent federal reviews on controversial interactions between police and residents leading the city to explore reforms, a set of younger Philadelphians recently committed to insert their voices into the mix.

On Wednesday, they helped drive that discussion, presenting their own report on improving community-police relations to higher-ups in the Nutter Administration, the Philadelphia Police Department and a selection of its rank-and-file.

Securing Our Future: Re-imagining Philadelphia’s Community-Police Relations condensed the thoughts of some 200 young people and their advocates who the week before had brainstormed ways of changing perceptions and realities on both sides of the badge.

Police, policymakers and young Philadelphians assembled at City Hall gathered to speak frankly about ways to improve relations between communities and police as part of the Securing Our Future initiative.

Police, policymakers and young Philadelphians assembled at City Hall gathered to speak frankly about ways to improve relations between communities and police as part of the Securing Our Future initiative.

“Both the young people and the police appreciated the opportunity to speak candidly with each other about the current state of police-community relations and how they can work to improve them,” said PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau.  “It was a huge success.”

Securing Our Future arose from efforts by PCHR, the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs.

The meeting at City Hall followed a half-day session the week before at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Drawing participants – diverse in age, ability, gender and education – from across the city, the hours of moderated conversations supplied the meat for this report. African Americans made up the majority of those in the room, much like they do the statistics concerning police interactions.

For their part, officials on hand said they got and understood the message presented.

“This conversation is as good, if not better than, many of the conversations we’ve been having with adults. Nothing in this report surprised me,” Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel told the participants assembled in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall. “You hit the mark, and I’m so phenomenally proud of you, that you would take the thoughtful time to put words down so we can move them to action.”

Among the findings:

  • Few experience interactions with police that extend beyond law enforcement, and when that happens, it tends to be skewed more toward males and not inclusive of young women
  • They reported feeling that police use their position as people in uniform to intimidate, and that fear, mistrust and a lack of communications between both sides add to tensions
  • Media, music and news reports are cited as contributors to negative narratives and stereotypes, of them and police
  • Most agreed that improving service delivery, eliminating biases, improving cultural understanding and being engaged in the communities served would lead to success

Read the full interim report here.

These insights provide context, considering the demographics behind altercations that tend to stir the tensions that have bubbled to the forefront as of late.  The Police Advisory Commission reports that African-American males make up nearly 2 in 5 shooting victims, almost 1 in 4 murder victims and more than 1 in 3 murder offenders. Likewise, suspects in officer-involved shootings tend to be significantly younger than the average officer, with some 1 in 3 suspects being between age 18 and 23.

Those numbers can translate into misperceptions, if not unfortunate action.

In this age of social media, national incidents of police misconduct circulate at a faster pace than ever, fueling already existing suspicions.  News from McKinney, Texas to Baltimore to Ferguson, Mo. has done little to reassure young people that protecting and serving is the primary purpose of policing, students reported.

The Philadelphia Police Department already is in the midst of reviewing and revamping its policies as a result of two recent landmark reports – one from the U.S. Department of Justice on officer-involved shootings and the other from the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Since statistics show young people, especially males of color, are likeliest to be involved in encounters with the police, those engaged in this initiative hope to impact that broader discussion.

“We spend a tremendous amount of effort reacting to negative encounters with police, instead of building opportunities for positive ones,” said Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the Police Advisory Commission. “Building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve means dismantling stereotypes that prevent honest communication.”

Greg Brewer, an 18-year-old South Philadelphia resident who attends YouthBuild Charter School, said his previous interactions with police mostly were limited to a “good morning” or “hello.” That didn’t dampen his hope that something better could be established.

“After the meeting, I walked away thinking and knowing a change will be made in our society,” Brewer said. “We sat together and showed our feelings toward each other, and our humanity. It wasn’t just police versus community, but peer-to-peer, person to person.”

Bethel’s announcement that the department would be assembling youth panels throughout the city as sounding boards for police districts thrilled Brewer, as it did his fellow ambassadors. But the follow through will be the real determining factor, said Nadiyah Young, a 23-year-old from Logan.

“Not seeing any changes would be a turn off,” Young said. “I have hope for the future; I just want what we discussed to be implemented.”

In the months to come, PCHR and its partners will be helping to create guidelines and support materials for schools and communities to hold similar conversations.

“It was really hope-inspiring to see and hear a more productive and respectful dialogue regarding police and community,” said Deputy Director Randy Duque. “There was a deeper interest in listening to and understanding the needs of the youth. And it was exciting to hear how much young people and police officers wanted more dialogues like we assembled.”

For Greg, Nadiyah and all the young people who participated in this process and for those who live in the city, it is essential for this progress to continue. They expect — and deserve — no less, said Everett Gillison, Mayor Nutter’s chief of staff.

“This is a dialogue,” Gillison said. “This is not just a one-and-done.”

Watch the videos.

Securing Our Future: Young people speak on leading change in community-police relations

On Wednesday, some 200 young people and those who advocate for them converged at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to discuss the real and perceived problems they see in community-police relations. The initiative — Securing Our Future: Re-imagining Philadelphia’s Community-Police Relations — came together through the work of PCHR, the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs.

In a half-day of moderated discussions and brainstorming, the participants — largely aged 16 to 24 — gathered in groups and exchanged experiences and ideas for improvement. Their thoughts were captured and compiled for a report to be presented to members of the Nutter Administration and the Philadelphia Police Department.

As conversation on reforming police policies in wake of local and national controversies continue, these young people are aiming to make their feelings and voices known. An elected set of ambassadors will continue the dialogue at a formal City Hall presentation and group discussion with representatives of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Updates can be found with the hashtag #SecureOurFuture. All photos courtesy of Bill Z. Foster Photography.