Friday, September 30, 2016

Sexual harassment: We’ve won a battle, but the war's still going on.

Philadelphia NOW issued a press release and circulated a petition demanding that the Philadelphia Parking Authority(PPA) board fire its Executive Director Vincent Fenerty, found guilty of sexual harassment. From our press release:

An independent investigation has found Mr. Fenerty guilty of sexually harassing an employee over the course of two years during work hours and work-related events. Sexual harassment is never acceptable, but Mr. Fenerty felt entitled to engage "in a series of unwanted and repeatedly discouraged sexual advances" including, but not limited to "inappropriate touching and other untoward, unprofessional conduct" while conducting business for a state-run agency. This is a clear abuse of not only power, but of the tax system that citizens of the city Philadelphia pay into regularly.

By allowing Mr. Fenerty to maintain his current role, the PPA Board is implying that certain individuals in positions of power are above reproach for reprehensible behavior and that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is not a grave enough infraction for dismissal. Although his friends may refer to such sexual misconduct as "a high school puppy love situation," it is sexual harassment by definition: the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

Mr. Fenerty, you must step down from your position as Executive Director. No number of years of "exemplary service" makes you exempt from accepting the consequences of sexually harassing employees in the workplace.

Public pressure from NOW, the Mayor's Commission for Women and other organizations forced PPA to reverse course and dismiss Fenerty. But the dismissal does not resolve the underlying problem. We learned that unlike our city, which has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, PPA has failed to develop adequate policies to deal with sexual harassment.

Furthermore, Philadelphia NOW is concerned that our severely underfunded public schools are not getting the monies owed to them by PPA. The last audit of PPA was in 2009. Philadelphia NOW supports the resolution of Councilwoman Helen Gym calling for a long-overdue full audit of PPA. Unfortunately, Philadelphia City Council did not support the resolution; we are now considering what steps we can take to keep the pressure on PPA.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Creative Africa at the Phila Museum of Art is closing September 25!

Rick and I have a long history of procrastinating and getting to exhibits just as they are closing. We were a little better with Creative Africa which we saw 4 days before its September 25 closing. We were both so glad we didn’t let this one slip by.

Creative Africa is a set of several exhibits about modern African arts and crafts, including photography, fashion, and architecture. The museum staff advises starting with the stunning exhibit of traditional African textiles and then moving on to 20th and 21st century iterations of the tradition.

Traditional African Textiles

I was very surprised to read this disturbing account of 20th c. African inspired textiles:

Discover the surprising story behind the colorful fabrics long associated with African fashion.
A Global Story
The wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora embrace them as African, the fabrics have long been designed and manufactured in Europe, and now in China and India. The most luxurious are the wax prints designed and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Shortly after its founding in 1846, the company began exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three decades later, Vlisco found a new market in West Africa.

In addition to the textile exhibits there is a very powerful photography exhibit and (what we considered the high point of the show) an exhibit on the work of architect Francis Kéré. From the museum website:
Born in Burkina Faso and based in Berlin, Kéré integrates traditional knowledge and craft skills into innovative and sustainable buildings worldwide. In many of his projects, he maximizes local materials and community participation to reduce costs and ecological impact. This exhibition offers a look at some of his award-winning designs within an colorful interactive environment.

As the first son of the head of Gando, his home village in Burkina Faso, Kéré was the only child allowed to attend school in a large city. He later attended the Technical University of Berlin, where he earned a diploma in architecture and engineering. While still a student, he established a charitable foundation, Bricks for Gando, and began to raise money to build a school there.

In Gando, Kéré combined traditional Burkinabe building techniques with modern engineering methods. In 2005 he founded his Berlin office and has since garnered acclaim for his work in Western Africa, Europe, and North America. He is the recipient of the 2014 Schelling Architecture Foundation Award, the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and the BSI Swiss Architectural Award, among others.

Whenever Fere built a school, he involved the whole village. As Fere put it: "For me, architecture is about process, experimentation, and teamwork."
If you’re in the Philly area, make time for this exhibit this week end!

Friday, September 16, 2016

An idea I wish I had emphasized in Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party

Last week I had an interesting experience in Chuck Pennachio’s University of the Arts politics and media class. The students were actually interested in my book on grassroots politics, Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party--although there was the usual gender pattern. The young men were the ones who said they might consider running for committeeperson. I sure hope Hillary’s election (fingers crossed) encourages more young women to consider politics as a career path.

Several students said they would be more likely to run if the term were 2 years--as opposed to the current 4 year term. For many young people making a commitment to stay in a neighborhood for 4 years is not an option at this stage in their lives.

In a conversation I had about Green Shoots with Committee of Seventy Chair David Thornburgh, he brought up the possibility of returning to a 2 year term for committeepersons and mentioned two people (one a current and the other a former elected official) who suggested this would be the best way to reinvigorate the ward system. It would likely shake things up and get more young people in the political pipeline.

I’ve long thought we should return to 2 year terms but didn’t think it would ever happen as long as Bob Brady was Party Chair. It was Brady's idea to switch to a 4 year term in the early 1990s, thus making it more likely that he would keep ward leaders loyal to him in office and hold on to his post as Chair.

I wish I had incorporated this idea into Green Shoots. There are always some post-publication regrets, but at least I can incorporate this proposal into book events such as event at Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Sept.18.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My favorite bookstore Big Blue Marble was featured in my favorite newspaper the Guardian


My favorite bookstore Big Blue Marble was featured in my favorite newspaper the Guardian. From the Guardian article:

Tapping into Mt. Airy’s ‘shop local’ ethic, Big Blue Marble is a focal point for community activism and feminist, progressive debate (and they sell books, too)
Big Blue Marble is a lesbian-owned (and often lesbian-staffed) general interest store with a feminist, progressive slant. They specialise in children’s books, literary fiction, sci-fi, poetry, and YA, with strong showings in African-American non-fiction, history, contemporary politics and cookbooks. The core of Big Blue Marble Bookstore’s mission is to serve its diverse neighbourhood. In every part of their business, from the books they stock to the events they plan, they seek to represent the diversity of their neighbours.
From Elliott batTzedek (events manager):
We host events and discussions that are urgent for our community and provide experts and activists who help customers understand complex issues. While we have plenty of readings of fiction and poetry, we also have authors, teachers, and leaders talking about the most important topics in our community: Palestine/Israel, global climate change, Syria, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the history of how black artists used plays about lynching to support and strengthen black communities during decades of terror – to name topics from just the last few months.

I had two events for my last book Feminism at Philadelphia at Big Blue Marble and am really looking forward to an event for my new book Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party, on September 18!

We are so fortunate to have a real bookstore in our neighborhood. Yes, maybe we might save money by buying books online and in big box stores but so much expertise and personal attention to the customer is lost. We are losing too many small shops.

Recently Len Lear wrote an article in the Chestnut Hill Local about the loss of our local camera store. Lear’s article really hit home. My husband and I bought a camera in July and decided not to go a big box store; we were wiling to pay a little more because we wanted someone we could talk to. Unfortunately when we had a problem with the camera, it was too late--the store closed in August. Given changes in technology—all those cameras in our smartphones—the demise of the camera shop was probably inevitable.

The end of the neighborhood bookstore is not inevitable. If we are fortunate enough to have one these stores in our neighborhood, we can patronize them. Instead of ordering our books on Amazon—and I plead guilty here—we can order them though our neighborhood bookstore and keep that store in business.