PCHR trainings: Bringing messages and meaning to diverse audiences

Team PCHR was busy in the streets this week, deciphering laws and their practical impact for a range of audiences across the city.

On Tuesday, a partnership with the Nationalities Service Center helped boost the level of expertise for those assisting newly arrived citizens when it comes to areas such as countering discrimination in housing and employment.

Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney leans into the point made by Executive Director Rue Landau during a recent training at the Nationalities Services Center.

Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney (l.) leans into the point made by Executive Director Rue Landau (r.) during a recent training at the Nationalities Services Center.

Executive Director Rue Landau and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney tag-teamed as they explained the city’s fair housing laws and provided an overview of the Fair Practices Ordinance. Assembled were dozens of people who work with migrants and recent immigrants, representing the NSC as well as the Migrant Education Program and a representative of City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr.’s office.

With Philadelphia’s shifting demographics, it’s essential those helping people settle and integrate into day-to-day life are fully aware of what behaviors are accepted as well as what things are prohibited — such as discriminating or retaliating against pregnant or nursing mothers. It was a day of information exchange that included fielding questions and providing insights.

“The people who came to this training work with some of our most vulnerable residents, and it is so important that they are clear on the rules so they can share that information,” Landau said. “It was a great opportunity and it is totally what we love doing — getting out there and helping people understand how to protect themselves.”

PCHR's Naarah Crawley reviews the city's

PCHR’s Naarah Crawley reviews the city’s
“Ban the Box” law with a participant at the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega 1310.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Naarah Crawley and Monica Gonzalez strengthened understanding of the city’s “Ban the Box” law for dozens of people on the hunt for work during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega 1310.

Private sector employers and the city set up tables with employment opportunities, while PCHR reps spoke about overcoming perceived barriers to claiming those opportunities.

City Managing Director Rich Negrin spoke about the power of education, opportunity and the rewarding nature of public service during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega radio.

City Managing Director Rich Negrin spoke about the power of education, opportunity and the rewarding nature of public service during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega radio.

Men and women of all ages and interests stopped by the table to learn how a criminal background doesn’t have to impede future employment. Under the law, employers are not allowed to ask about criminal histories in the initial phases of the interview process — not on a job application or during the first interview, whether in person or on the phone. Likewise, past brushes with the law cannot prevent someone from receiving a merited promotion or raise.

“So many people lose out simply because they don’t realize these protections exist,” Gonzalez said. “Yes. They made mistakes. But they paid for them. And their punishment isn’t supposed to be forever, especially when they’re trying to do the right thing moving forward.”

Unity in the community: Chinatown edition

The 2015 Mid-Autumn Festival offered a grand time for Greater Philadelphia as an array of Asian-American cultural expressions flooded the streets of Chinatown with music, art, dance and an abundance of love. It is not only an opportunity to share and celebrate heritage, but also a chance for younger residents to rise and practice their organizational and leadership skills.

The 2015 Moon Festival on which the event is based comes on Sept. 27, but the local celebration came a little earlier, given the historic World Meeting of Families and the papal visit in Philadelphia.

PCHR Commissioner Wei Chen, who also serves as a youth organizer for Asian Americans United, was one of the lead organizers. He promised a great event, and he and his team members certainly delivered.

PCHR Commissioner Wei Chen and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney take a moment to celebrate during the 2015 Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown.

PCHR Commissioner Wei Chen and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney take a moment to celebrate during the 2015 Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown.

Glimpsing a diverse world via German eyes

As one of the oldest municipal civil rights agencies in the United States, PCHR often is a magnet for international visitors who also are in public service. Last Friday, a delegation from Germany joined a long list of scholars that have popped by the offices to get a better sense of how this agency works in balancing protection of the rights of all in such a diverse society.

The German visitors – whose positions range from university settings to halls of government – spent a couple of hours exchanging insights with PCHR staff and commissioners last Friday. It was a diverse assembly, indeed.

Turkish-born Muhterem Aras, one of the first elected officials in Germany of an immigrant background, is the first Muslim woman in the state parliament of Baden-Wurttemberg. Homaira Mansury, an Afghani immigrant, is a city council member in Wurzburg and an official in the German Social Democratic Party. Serkan Salman, born to Turkish parents, is a law enforcement official and dispute resolution expert from Berlin who also lectures on intercultural competency at the Berlin Academy of Public Administration. Sebastian Johna is a project manager and trainer at the renowned Goethe Institut, where educators and others from abroad study the German language, culture and heritage.

Having toured Washington, D.C., the visitors soaked up insights and experiences in Philadelphia before heading to New York.

“It’s always exhilarating to hear from people who are engaged in this same kind of work elsewhere, especially as they seek to learn from us and give us greater perspective on what is happening on the ground in their own countries, in ways that are far deeper than what we typically read or see in the news,” said PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau. “It was a great way to cap the week.”

Gaining a global perspective (back row, l-r) PCHR Commissioner Alfredo Calderon, Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney, Homaira Mansury of Wurzburg, Germany, Deputy Director Randy Duque, Commissioners Rebecca T. Alpert, Wei Chen, Regina Austin and Marshall E. Freeman and Sebastian Johna of the Goethe Institut. (front row, l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, Muhterem Aras of the German Green Party, and Serkan Salman, an officer in Berlin’s Central Office for the Prevention Landeskriminalamt.

Gaining a global perspective (back row, l-r) PCHR Commissioner Alfredo Calderon, Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney, Homaira Mansury of Wurzburg, Germany, Deputy Director Randy Duque, Commissioners Rebecca T. Alpert, Wei Chen, Regina Austin and Marshall E. Freeman and Sebastian Johna of the Goethe Institut.
(front row, l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, Muhterem Aras, German Green Party member of the Baden-Wurttemberg Parliament, and Serkan Salman, detective chief superintendent for the Office of Intercultural Issues, State Criminal Investigations Office in Berlin.

ADA 25 in Philly

PCHR joined hundreds from across the city and region on Saturday to commemorate a special independence day — marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

From a resource fair in the courtyard at City Hall to an expansive disability pride march through Center City to stirring speeches, those gathered came to both celebrate achievement and outline the challenges that remain. PCHR aids in protecting the rights of those with disabilities through the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, helping to prevent discrimination in housing, property, employment and public accommodations.

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Among the organizers of the day’s festivities was PCHR Chair Thomas H. Earle, who also heads Liberty Resources Inc., a leader in disability rights and advocacy work in Pennsylvania.

PCHR: Global tutor on American civil rights

PCHR again played host to a crop of young scholars from the Middle East visiting the United States through Temple University’s Dialogue Institute.

Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders is a multi-week, multicity program sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of State. It is one of several programs the Dialogue Institute presents.

The exchanges allow students from abroad – in this case hailing from Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon – to get a better sense of American democracy through government and culture in action, with lessons direct from experienced practitioners.

The cohort visiting Philadelphia focused on immigration, race relations, civil rights and enforcement efforts.

Guiding the discussions on this trip were experts from the Mayor’s Office on Multicultural and Immigrant Affairs and PCHR, speaking of the role of local government in immigration and minority affairs.

Deputy Directors Randy Duque and Pamela Gwaltney each gave presentations on the challenges and opportunities for cultivating harmony alongside pluralism in an urban setting. Patricia Coyne, veteran PCHR community relations representative, provided a more on-the-ground perspective and anecdotes.

“We were able to help dispel some misconceptions they had and explore their thoughts on civil rights law,” Gwaltney said. “It was a lively and exciting exchange.”

Love over hate: spring holiday edition

Rather than dwell on a ruling that affirmed freedom of speech but poses the opportunity to poison relations among residents, a coalition of advocates, led by an ecumenical group of faith leaders, gathered to declare that Philadelphia would stay true to its roots of tolerance.

A diverse array of faith and civic leaders joined Mayor Nutter to counter hateful speech with a new campaign, #DareToUnderstand.

A diverse array of faith and civic leaders joined Mayor Nutter to counter hateful speech with a new campaign, #DareToUnderstand.

Under gray skies Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Michael A. Nutter led the announcement of the #DareToUnderstand campaign — a response to provocative ads deemed anti-Muslim set to post on SEPTA buses and trolleys in April after SEPTA lost its court battle to bar the campaign. The ads are paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a cited hate group that has traveled from city to city, buying space on transit systems for ads that depict Muslims as hatemongers who target Jews.

The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia spearheaded a coalition of concerned residents interested in taking a stand against the ads, a group that includes PCHR and the Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Hundreds came to LOVE Park as Nutter and a host of speakers all affirmed support for and respect of the First Amendment. By the same token, as the Rev. Judy Sullivan remarked clearly, this group intended to make it known that “we won’t stand by as words and images seek to divide us.”

Since the remedy for hate speech is more speech, enter #DareToUnderstand — a comprehensive resource center that encourages people to take an active, but peaceful role in speaking against hateful and divisive words. People are encouraged to take to social media and use the hashtag along with selfies, poems or other expressions of solidarity.  There are also ideas to help parents, teachers, faith leaders or others to open discussions and probe the concept of tolerance further. A campaign to bring awareness of #DareToUnderstand, from billboards to taxi ads. is under way — as is fundraising for those efforts.

Speech may be free, but irresponsible speech should be called out, the presenters at LOVE Park declared. That this is a week considered holy on the calendar of two major faith traditions — Christians are preparing to celebrate Easter while Jews are preparing for Passover — added greater resonance, advocates said.

PCHR leaders declare they #DareToUnderstand. (r-l) Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney, Commissioner Rebecca Alpert, Executive Director Rue Landau and Deputy Director Randy Duque.

PCHR leaders declare they #DareToUnderstand. (r-l) Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney, Commissioner Rebecca Alpert, Executive Director Rue Landau and Deputy Director Randy Duque.

#DareToUnderstand is a natural extension of the work PCHR does on a daily basis, said Rue Landau, executive director.

“These ads may be a deterrent to our work, but as a city, we’re better than these ads,” Landau said to cheers at LOVE Park. “This is a time we can come together.”

Even dare to understand.

Counter hate campaign launched by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia.

Counter hate campaign launched by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia.

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.”