Category Archives: Urban Life

Gearing Up: from potholes to victory rides

“A is for Air, B is for Brakes. . . ” So began the litany of preparing for my ride through West Philadelphia with women in GeaBD w ridersring Up — a nonprofit that helps women recovering from the trauma of incarceration and abuse get their lives back on track.

I thought I was going for an interview when I set off one cold, April morning. Turns out I went along for the ride. I learned a lot along the way.


Cathedral Kitchen: serving up hope since 1976

Issac graduation jumping! How do you capture 40 years of meeting the most basic needs of the poorest residents in Camden, New Jersey?

Cathedral Kitchen (CK) has been serving up hope to the people of Camden since 1976. So the documentary I created to help them celebrate this milestone contains many voices — from one of the original founders to the clients they serve today and the culinary arts graduates they’ve helped launch in life.

It was heartening to hear the enthusiastic reaction of CK stakeholders at the organization’s 40th anniversary party.


Adam Bruckner’s Philly Restart offers a second chance

I spent time with Adam Bruckner one Monday afternoon at 19th and Vine. The long line of more IMG_4277than 100 people, mostly men, testifies to his reputation and that of Philly Restart, an organization he launched single handedly 16 years ago. Along with a small cadre of loyal volunteers, Adam offers hope to people who are homeless and just getting out of prison. Food and a fresh start. You can see him on the streets every Monday, rain or shine. Listen in to learn more about Adam and this grassroots effort, started by this former professional soccer player with Philadelphia Kixx.


Play On, Philly!

How much stamina and perseverance do you have? I bet it can’t begin to match that of kids in Play On, Philly! — a rigorous IMG_7840 after school program that uses music as a way to teach young people important life skills.

I spent several rehearsal sessions with the orchestra on the St. Francis de Sales campus this spring and learned first-hand how determined these kids are to prove their worth — not just in music, but in life.

You can hear for yourself.


First person narratives give voice to the voiceless


Jenny Dougherty teaches English Language Arts at Freire Charter Middle School.

Want to get Philadelphia 8th graders to write? Ask them to create first person narratives — or poems or raps — about the experience of gun violence. That’s what Freire Charter Middle School teacher Jenny Hopkins-Daugherty did, and her students rose to the occasion. Jenny credits Need in Deed’s My Voice framework as the inspiration for this idea.

Hear them read their work:

Jamal Hughes

Fainese Morris

Kevin ScottBrian & David King

Nafir Royal

Brian Johnson

Blair Hatch




Philadelphians march for jobs, justice and education

This year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, thousands of Philadelphians took to the streets to register their dissatisfaction with racial inequity, as expressed through a low minimum wage, underfunded public schools and a concern about racial profiling by police and in other institutions.

While the day has typically been marked by service, many chose to expand their definition of King’s legacy through peaceful protest. A highlight was a tribute concert in Dr. King’s honor held in the Girard College Chapel, with music by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. This day also marked the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, King’s historic visit to Philadelphia, and his speech at the gates of the College.

Steven Vaughn-Lewis: a young teacher with grit

Philadelphia’s public school system is one of the most troubled urban districts in the country. With an ongoing budget crisis exacerbated by the problems that plague students living in poverty, teachers face an uphill battle….. Steven Vaughn-Lewis is a young, idealistic teacher trying to give his kids hope. But can the system keep him?

Learn what’s at stake by listening to his story through the eyes of those who know him.



First responder: What would you do?

building collapse

When a four-story building on Market Street collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift shop recently, we heard stories of bystanders, including an 18-year-old student at Science Leadership Academy, rushing to the rescue of the people trapped inside the building. Hearing their stories made me wonder what I would do in such a situation.

So I decided to ask people what they imagined their first impulse might be if faced with the choice. How would they respond? Many of the people I interviewed were at 30th Street Station, waiting for an outbound train. Here is what I heard.

Photo: Associated Press

Journalist turned private eye to speak at film screening of “The House I Live In”

tell the truth now While doing an interview for public radio in rural Vermont, Susan Randall, formerly of Chestnut Hill, saw a young man run out of an empty school bus and race across a cornfield. She followed. He eventually confessed to a triple murder, “right into my DAT [digital audio tape] recorder,” says Randall, which stunned this young journalist, then in her 20’s.

The event changed the trajectory of her life. Randall, now 44, will talk about her work as a private eye and now a federal public defender investigator, as part of a panel discussion following the screening of the film “The House I Live In” on Friday, April 5, at Enon Baptist Tabernacle Church, in Germantown.

Our interview with Susan made the front page of the Chestnut Hill Local.