Starbucks on Frankford Ave.

In my neighborhood, a Starbucks was proposed for the main street (Frankford Ave.)    Starbucks promised an atypical luxury type of Starbucks that only exists in a few cities, but people said, “no” at an April zoning meeting.   There was an appeal to the city zoning board, but no one wanted to overturn the neighborhood’s decision.

Every time I walk by the empty storefront on Frankford Ave, I wonder if we made the wrong decision.   Why are we so binary in when we approach something like this Imagine if our response to Starbucks wasn’t “We don’t like you, get the fuck out” but, “We don’t like you, do these things and you can move in.”  We could have asked for anything and it was on Starbucks to meet those demands.  We could have asked for:

  • 75% of this store’s employees must have lived in the neighborhood for at least a year.
  • All teachers and post off workers get from coffee from 7 – 8 AM.
  • Give $250,000 to the rec center or palmer park annually.
  • Public trashcans that you maintain in service within a 3 block radius of the store.
  • The restroom is not customers only, but anyone can stop in its use.
  • School supplies for every student in the neighborhood.

Listen, I don’t care about Starbucks.   I drink at Steep and Grind or Mammoth Coffee these days.   I just think it is disingenuous when people say they only want the local coffee shop.   La Colombe is a great and worth $100 million dollars.   It’s long stopped being your corner coffee shop.

I actually think the analysis is pretty simple.  We have a neighborhood that a billion-dollar corporation wants to do business in.  The billion-dollar corporation has far more money than should be allowed, so let’s take it from them. Instead of just saying “No, get off my lawn,” let’s “ok, but give us XYZ.”

My favorite things in Philadelphia – 2019

Bowl of noodles – Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
Charcuterie – Royal Boucherie
Chinese – Han Dynasty*
Cider – Kurant
Coffee shop – ReAnimator Coffee (Master St.)
Decadent breakfast – Sausage Roll at Cake Life
Dessert – Slice of cake @ Cake Life
Falafel – Liberty Choice
Gay Bar – U-Bar
Good Cocktail in a Quiet Place – New Liberty Distillery
Grocery Store Beer – Bar @ KCFC
Greater calorie lunch than I deserve on a workday – Matt & Marie’s
Hoagie – Castellino’s
Italian – Le Virtu (this list is city only, but Andiario is a real contender)
Mexican – South Philly Barbacoa
Pizza to share with friends – In Riva
Pub Grub – Cook & Shaker
Restaurant – Royal Boucherie
Shawarma – Al-Amana Grocery Store
Single Dish – Squid Salad at Aether
Sushi ala carte – Kisso
Susi omakase – Da-Wa
Thai – Kalaya
Wine Tasting – Pen & Pencil

 

*The food here is so good.  The last time I was there, I was expecting to meet a friend.  She did not show, because she died in her house that day.  I’ve not returned to Han Dynasty and I am not sure when I will.

It’s not the same old Frankford Ave.

Today, I had an odd encounter in Fishtown.  Sam and I were walking down Frankford.  I was wearing a shirt with the Arabic phrase, يلا حبيبي.

In Arabic, it is pronounced yalla habibi, and it loosely translates to “come on, my love”. As Arabic is one of the official languages of our house, I often hear Sam’s family use this phrase. It always makes me laugh because sometimes it’s sweet and sometimes it means “get the lead out, we need to go” or “really sweetheart?”

While we were walking, a woman on Frankford Ave. called to me and asks “What does that say on your shirt?”

I respond with “yalla” and she quickly tells me “no.”

I look to Sam for some confirmation, and she says “let me read it.” I make a mention that “he’s the Arabic speaker between us.”

She then says, “oh it reads yalla hibibi. It means ‘come on, my love.’ That’s sweet.”

I smiled and walked away. I did not say “I know, mind your business.”  It did not feel like she wanted to know what it said (as she could obviously read Arabic), it felt like she wanted to make a fool out of a complete stranger.   Arabic is not my language and any attempt I’ve made to learn it has failed. However, if wearing a shirt with the language of my husband, that says something nice, and is a joke between the 2 of us is cultural appropriation than please let me know. <—- I am being serious.

I’m an elected member of the Democratic Party

Hello readers. Today is my first day as a member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee in Ward 18, Division 16. What is that, how did I get here, and what are my plans moving forward?

What is that?

You will never  read “member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee” on this blog again. I am what is called a Committee Person. According to the Committee of 70, a committee person is:

A committee person is his or her political party’s representative in each division. Committee people serve as a point of contact between the voters in a division and elected officials and their political party. Committee people are considered party officers – not public officials or government employees. They are also volunteers and receive no taxpayer-funded compensation.

Committee people have a core responsibility to help “get out the vote” for their political party. But you can make the job as big or as small as you want. Some committee people just choose to work on Election Day. But many committee people are in touch with their party and their neighbors all year long.

https://www.seventy.org/uploads/files/19302649368555322-committee-person-manual-2014.pdf

Philadelphia is made up of 66 wards. Each ward has its own leader and committee (Philadelphia, oddly has 69 of these, rather than 66. However, this does not mean anything to me, so let’s move on.) Each ward is then subdivided into something called divisions or precincts. I was elected to represent the Democratic Party in Ward 18, Division 16. There are actually two committee people for each division.

How did I get here?

Have I always been a registered Democrat? Yes. Do I love the Democratic Party? Not always. Do I blame the party for the Donald Trump? They definitely get some of the blame. I generally don’t trust people who’ve made careers in politics. It has always felt like a bunch of privileged children reducing the real life consequences of organizing to a game. It’s probably why I love everything that Armando Iannucci makes. If you’ve seen Veep, than you know that Dan Egan is deplorable and dumb. Let me tell you that he is very real. These are the many reasons I chose labor organizing as the vehicle for change and not party politics. Yet, here we are.

What made me run? A few months ago, my neighbor Scott reached out to 2 of us on the block and encouraged us to run. That ask, made me actually sit down for a second and think about running for an office. The first thing I wanted to know was, “Is my other neighbor running?” I did not want to run against her. She’d be really good, the neighborhood would be lucky to elect her, and there are enough elected people that resemble me. She declined and I decided to stop being bitter about the Democratic Party for a minute and told Scott, “Yes. I will run.”

This led me to Jon Geeting of Philadelphia 3.0. He is a political organizer that started a democratic club in my area called Riverwards Area Democrats – RAD. Their goal was to promote an open ward (I’ll explain that in the future), and get some fresh faces as the committee people. Jon told me about the process to get on the ballot:

  1. Get some blank petitions.
  2. Get the signatures of >15 registered democrats in your division on said petition.
  3. Ge the petitions notarized. (now you are on the ballot)

I did what he said and a few weeks later, I found out that I was on the ballot. I also was surprised to discover that there was only one other person running for committee person, so barring a serious write-in campaign it looked like a victory was on the horizon. Since I did not have a challenger I decided to do 2 things in preparation for election day.

I made my first piece of campaign literature and had it printed. This cost me $135.00. I then organized a canvass of my neighborhood. Sam, Cathy, and a few neighbors went around the division on the Saturday before the election. They knocked on doors, handed neighbors my post card and reminded them to vote. Cathy reported that one person on 2nd Steet said, “A committee person has never knocked on my door before.” Sam spoke a ton of Arabic on Mascher Street and I met some enthusiastic folks on Hancock St. It was a good time on the doors.

The next thing I did, was stand in front of the polling place after work on Election Day. Personally, I felt this to be a waste of time that day. I know better and should have just started to knock on doors in the neighborhood. It started to rain, so I spent the last hour at home texting people that I knew in the neighborhood and reminding them to vote.

At the end of the night, Sam and I refreshed the http://phillyelectionresults.com/ every couple of minutes until the results were posted. I got 63 votes and won the election.

Moving Forward

Today I started serving my 4 year term. I think I am going to document what this experience, so other people can get some insight into what it means to be a committee person in Philadelphia.

I am interested in recruiting a block captain for every block in 18-16.   I think this will be a good way to keep the neighborhood clean.   I’d like to host a community meeting this summer, so that we can collectively identify some neighborhood priorities.  I’ll be reading lots of Paulo Freire to prepare in the meantime.  I hope to work closely with my co-committee person.  His name is Michael Bradley.  He is young and enthusiastic and I think that will be greatly needed in the years ahead.

I have no interest in stating what the priorities for 18-16 are or should be in the future.   We can figure those out together, and we can work to solve the most immediate problems at hand.

Philadelphia, we need to talk.

Today I need to have a courageous conversation with a loved one. Philadelphia, I love you and we need to talk. There are inappropriate times to chant E-A-G-L-E-S.  A concert 3 months after the Super Bowl is one of those times.

Let’s talk. Last night, Sam and I saw Keb’ Mo’ in concert. I’ve wanted to see him perform live for many years and this was my first opportunity. He’s a great musician and he puts on a good show. I prefer him without his full band, and his first couple of songs were just him and his drummer so I was thrilled. I wanted to hear his cover of Dylan’s The Times They Are a changin’, but no luck for me.

Between songs, there were a few people who felt like it was ok to yell at the stage. At first it was words of encouragement (he didn’t need them, he commands the stage like a pro), then it devolved into a weird conversation when Keb decided to respond.

Dude in crowd: “You go this Keb!”
Keb’ Mo’: “Thanks man. I hope I do.”
Dude in crowd: “Oh you do!”

Then it got weird and obnoxious. Someone decided to yell out, “Go Eagles!” That gets the biggest reaction from the crowd of the night. Keb’ Mo’ responds with, “oh yeah. Go Eagles! (chuckles) I need to tell you a secret. I don’t know much about sports.” He then starts his next song. During that song a man wearing an Eagles jersey walks up and throws his Eagles hat on the stage.

The crowd roared and I cringed. The classy and super talented musician, now takes off his fedora and puts on the cap for a 15 seconds. He is a hell of a showman, because he gave the crowd what they wanted. People loved him for it. He then he took it off, set it on the front of the stage and continued with the concert.

Between songs, people tried to get the E-A-G-L-E-S chat going a few other times but it it did not catch on.   However, the yelling at the stage continued. At one point, someone tried to diffuse the football chants by starting a K-E-B-M-O chant, but it did not take.

Philadelphia, I love you. You know that I do, but football had nothing to do with the concert. The musician you came to see told you that he was not interested in your team. Just listen to the music.  I like that this great town is full of weirdos. I love Philadelphia passion, but it was poorly weilded last night.

The Super Bowl was on 2/4/2018. That concert was on 5/18/2018. It’s cool to be proud, but check it a little bit.