October: Comings & Goings

Four U.S. Cities Join Philadelphia in Funded Sustainability Plan
Akron, Chicago, Detroit and Memphis received $40 million in September to fund Reimagining the Civic Commons, an environmental initiative piloted in Philadelphia to demonstrate the positive effects of investment in public spaces.

The pilot program, Civic Commons Collective, began in 2014 with an initial $11 million from the Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation. It consists of several organizations working on five public space projects: the construction of the Bartram’s Mile trail and greenway, the Centennial Commons creative playspace, the Viaduct Rail Park elevated green space, the Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park and plans for the now-closed Lovett Library.

Mayor Jim Kenney and Fairmount Park Conservancy hosted a forum in September for the mayors of the participating cities to discuss the lessons Philadelphia learned throughout the process and how to collaborate in the future.

“From river to river and out through Philly’s many diverse neighborhoods, our citizens, businesses and local funders are working to make recreation and nature accessible for all,” said Mayor Kenney, whose first major piece of legislation this year was the sweetened beverage tax to support a $300 million investment in the city’s parks, recreation centers and libraries. Four national foundations—The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation—are investing a total of $20 million, to be matched by local sources from the four partnering cities. Civiccommons.us will soon include information on partner cities’ progress. 

Hundreds March in Philly to Protest Dakota Pipeline, 7 Arrested
Local friends and allies of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota marched against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in a number of protests this fall, demanding that TD Bank divest from the majority owners of the project. Business was disrupted at five TD Bank locations during a rally Sept. 17, resulting in the arrests of seven people. 

The pipeline plan, which has garnered national attention, would place a tunnel beneath the Cannonball and Missouri rivers as well as Lake Oahe, all of which are near sites of cultural significance to different Native American groups. 

The Sept. 17 protest was organized by Philly #NoDAPL Solidarity to put public-relations pressure on TD Securities, a lead lender to Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics—majority owners of Dakota Access, LLC. Previous protests on Aug. 26 and 27 included a walk from Independence Hall to Penn’s Landing to show support. The full 1,100 mile, $3.8 billion system would run from Illinois through the Dakotas. In 2013, the Associated Press reported that there were nearly 300 oil pipeline spills over a two-year period in the area. 

Hospitals Honored for Healthy Food Programs
Six hospitals were honored at City Hall on Sept. 14 for taking part in Good Food, Healthy Hospitals, a nonprofit effort to reduce and prevent chronic disease by providing healthful food for patients, employees and visitors.

The program, concluding its second year with 10 participating hospitals, is led by food distributor Common Market and the city’s Public Health Department.

“Philadelphia has some of the highest rates of diet-related chronic disease in the nation,” said Tatiana Garcia Granados, Common Market co-founder and CEO. “By increasing access to healthy food served on site, these hospitals are treating these illnesses before they begin, saving thousands of dollars and years of preventable suffering.”

Good Food, Healthy Hospitals cited examples of laudable practices, such as Lankenau Medical Center’s utilization of its own organic farm, Jeanes Hospital’s weekly farm stand and the default option of whole grain bread on menus at all six facilities honored at the event.

Schuylkill Center to Give Highest Honors to Sustainability Educator
The Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership will be presented to Carole Williams-Green at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education on Nov. 17, where she will speak about her life in the environmental movement and then join a panel discussion on environmental education and underserved audiences.

Williams-Green, a former public school teacher and administrator, is the founder and president of Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center in West Philadelphia. The free event begins at 7:30 p.m.

Renovations Underway for Sewing and Fashion Studio, Education Space
A 3,635-square-foot space at 448 N. 10th St. is under renovation to house MADE Studios, which currently operates its sewing and couture classes at a smaller location in Old City. In the early 1900s, the seven-story building served as the home to Haverford Cycle Co. and is one of the last industrial buildings to remain undeveloped in the area.

“The larger space will allow us to now offer monthly studio memberships that will provide students and working designers the workspace, industrial equipment, and professional networks to launch and maintain successful fashion businesses,” said Rachel Ford, owner of MADE Studios.

The newly signed lease was announced by Arts & Crafts Holdings, an investor and developer that helped fund a rebranding of the Callowhill area with the Mural Arts Program, dubbing it the Spring Arts District.

PA Growing Greener Coalition Requests $315M for 2017–2018 Program
The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the state’s largest network of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations, has called for $315 million for Growing Greener III, to invest in Pennsylvania’s waterways, parks and trails, as well as green open spaces and locally grown food. 

Pennsylvania Sen. Killion (R-9th District), announced in September he will be the prime sponsor of a Growing Greener III bill that proposes the $315 million, along co-sponsors Sen. Alloway (R-York) and Sen. McIlhinney (R-Bucks).

Funding for the state’s Growing Greener program, established in 1999, has decreased from an average of $200 million in the mid-2000s to $57 million this year—a nearly 75 percent cut. The program is currently funded through tipping fees on waste disposal, as well as contributions from the Marcellus Legacy Fund and the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.

October: To-Do List

Illustration by Kailey Whitman

Illustration by Kailey Whitman

1. Go for a walk in the woods
It will be prime time this month for the colors to be ablaze in Philadelphia’s many acres of parks and woodlands. See the show up close and breathe in the fall.

2. Register to vote!
It’s your last chance to make sure that your voice is heard this year. Oct. 11 is the deadline to register, and you can always find the details you need at philadelphiavotes.com

3. Start your garlic
Fresh bulbs of garlic are something every cook likes to have in the house. You can grow your own by breaking apart cloves and planting them this fall in your garden.

4. Decide on your volunteer plan for the year
All over Philadelphia, there are opportunities to work in shelters, food pantries and at organizations that are working to make Philadelphia a more just and equitable city. Make a New Year’s resolution early, and start scouting out the places where your skills and expertise might have the most impact. 

5. Wash your winter gear
If you didn’t have time to clean your winter accoutrements last spring, make sure you pull out those dirty gloves, scarves, face masks and hats so they’re ready to go when the cold weather hits.

6. Pick out your pumpkin
Nothing says fall better than the cavalcade of jack-o’-lanterns that will start showing up on everyone’s stoops. Make a day of it and visit a nearby farm to pick yours out by hand. Linvilla Orchards has a Pumpkinland Harvest Festival open now through Nov. 6, where you choose your own pumpkin, pick apples, listen to live music, or navigate a corn or straw bale maze.

7. Clean out your gutters and downspouts
Climate change is already affecting our region, and warmer summers are just one part if it. We’ll also be getting more and more precipitation during the winters. Make sure your gutters and downspouts can handle the deluge by taking time to clean them out.    

8. Enjoy fun in the neighborhood
Choose from OutFest in the Gayborhood, the Fishtown RiverCity Festival, Old City Fest, Bloktoberfest in Graduate Hospital or the East Falls Autumn Street Festival.

9. Enjoy an Oktoberfest
This year, you can visit the first annual Oktoberfest at the 23rd Street Armory from Oct. 7 through 9, or visit Dilworth Park at City Hall for another Oktoberfest celebration from Oct. 12 to 16.

10. Bring in your plants
If you’ve given your hardworking houseplants some time in the actual sun and rain to keep them healthy—or if you’ve been keeping your favorite herbs in pots out on the patio—it’s time to bring them back inside before the frost does damage.

Personal Essay: Giving to others at a young age instills a lifelong love of volunteering

Illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

Illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

The Work of Life

by Angel Hogan

At dinner recently, a friend opened her fortune cookie to find the following Muhammad Ali quote: “Service to others is the rent you pay for having room on the earth.” We sat silent, considering. How has service impacted our lives? 

During my childhood, my mom was a nurse at Saint Agnes Hospital in South Philly, first in the ER and later at the renowned burn unit. I loved visiting her workplace: an exciting world with its own language, lightning pace and dress code where my mom and others literally saved lives. 

When the chance came to volunteer, I embraced it. Since my mom worked full time with a long commute, my time at the hospital was also a practical decision. At 13, I was not ready to be home alone for 10-hour stretches; volunteering offered a safe place to spend summer. Unlike other young volunteers who came in sporadically, I “worked” 8 to 5 daily. Most teens might have thought this was torture, but the days that my enthusiasm waned were few. I flourished with my new responsibility. I was a part of the team, had something to contribute and gave not because I had to but because I wanted to. 

Volunteering opened an unknown door in my heart. I began to recognize the real gift of service is that it deepens our understanding of what it is to be human: wondrous, flawed, miraculous and vulnerable. Service has since been ever-present in my life, not just for what I am able to offer, but for what it gives back to me.  

One of my most recent experiences found me with dozens of others in bright yellow volunteer shirts on the art museum steps. On a hot morning during the July Democratic National Convention, we awaited the arrival of thousands of Philly kids hoping to make history. 

Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia nonprofit that teaches writing skills to young people in our city, organized an awe-inspiring event in an attempt to break the world record for the most people writing in the same place at the same time. Nearly 3,000 youth came out and sat in the blazing sun to pen what they would do if elected president. The spirit, community and magnificent collective effort of our youngest writers was an incredible sight to witness. What a gift.

Though much of my time is occupied by a job with a traditional wage, the words of Jonathan Safran Foer, on a slip of paper above my computer, remind me of the importance of giving, even when there is no tangible “pay” in sight: “Being attentive to the needs of others may not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.”

I am no longer the tireless teen taking her zealous first steps toward service. Long hours and responsibilities make it difficult to find time to volunteer as an adult, even for people who are deeply passionate about a cause. Yet, when those slivers of time open up, using them to give to others is a mighty and beautiful thing. 

Angel Hogan is a poet, volunteer and administrator in Philadelphia. You can read her work at angelhogan.com

Making your own herbal infusions or ‘teas’ is easy

Home Brew

by Anna Herman

Herbs, fresh and dried, are an essential ingredient in many a culinary endeavor. Where would we be without pasta with basil pesto, or chive cream cheese on a toasted bagel? Herbs are equally important in hot water—but try not to call it tea. 

Black and green tea are both made from the leaves of a shrubby evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis, grown mainly in China, India and Sri Lanka. Hot water infusions of these leaves are the only drinks properly named “tea.” That said, we are all in the habit of calling hot and cold beverages made by infusing (pouring very hot water over) or decocting (simmering) the leaves and flowers of aromatic plants as herbal “teas,” though they are more correctly named tisanes or infusions. 

Tisanes, or herbal teas, can be flavorful, medicinal, soothing, energizing and all manner of refreshing—and they are easily made from homegrown or bulk-purchased herbs. A simple handful of fresh mint plunged into a teapot filled with very hot water left to steep for three to four minutes makes a fantastic beverage. You can drink it hot or cold, with or without a bit of honey. 

Herbalists often mix a variety of dried leaves, flowers, barks, roots and peels to make a blend pleasing to the eye, nose, palate and spirit. Many common plant parts have traditional medicinal value—mint and ginger are considered digestive aids; chamomile and hops soporifics; thyme and sage are thought to help heal sore throats and coughs, while echinacea and elderberry may offer general immune system support. 

You can blend combinations that both taste good and are good for you. Learn as much as you can about any plant you are going to brew and consume. While most commonly known herbs are considered safe for regular use, there are herbs contraindicated if you are pregnant or nursing, others that you could have an allergic reaction to, or those that interact with other medications you are taking. 

Tea bags have become a convenient delivery source for all manner of teas, but the quality, quantity and freshness is always somewhat suspect. Why pay for packing, labeling, marketing, sales and distribution when for a fraction of the cost of fancy brands you can blend yourself a high quality herbal concoction for every meal and mood? Get yourself a reusable tea sock strainer or infuser for your teapot or mug. 

Where to start? Read the labels on the herb tea blends you’ve purchased. Note the ingredients. Do you like lemony fresh? Try a mix of lemon verbena, lemongrass and lemon balm; floral and fruity might lead you to blend linden, lavender, calendula and rose petals. Stressed or having a hard time sleeping? Try a mix of hops and chamomile. Mix and match what is readily available with what strikes your fancy.

Grow or Buy
The easiest herbs to grow for tea include various mints, chamomile, lavender, calendula, catnip, lemon verbena, lemon balm, thyme and bee balm (also known as Oswego tea). Other herb “tea” components that you could find in your backyard, local store or farmstand include: elderberries, blackberry leaf, red clover, dandelion leaf and root, nettle, oatstraw, hops, fennel seed, lemongrass, lemon peel, fresh or dried ginger and dried fruit. 

Most of these and more can be found at the Herbiary in Reading Terminal Market, Weavers Way Co-op in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, or online at a variety of sources such as Mountain Rose Herbs. Many local herbalists and purveyors are excellent resources to learn more about the qualities and characteristics of the ingredients you select. 

Harvest & Store
If you grow your own herbs, harvest and bundle to dry in a well-ventilated space away from direct light. Most herbs should be harvested early in the day, just after the dew has dried. If harvesting for leaf (e.g., mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena), choose specimens that haven’t flowered. If harvesting flowers (e.g., chamomile, calendula, lavender) clip the flowers when they’re young. Fennel can be harvested in the flower or seed stage. If you’re wild harvesting (e.g., nettles, burdock, plantain, elder flowers or berries), be sure the area is free of pesticides and pollution. Loosely tie most herbs and flowers to dry in a well-ventilated, protected space. A woven basket, screened box or loosely tied paper bag with a few air holes all work.

Once completely dry, the herb leaves can be removed from the stems and should be stored in a well-sealed and labeled tin, bag or glass jar that is kept out of the light.

Use
I am partial to straight-up lemon verbena, which I grow in large quantities, use fresh all summer and fall, and dry for winter and spring, so I have some on hand year-round. All summer I use fresh herbs from the garden, and for fall and winter create a few blends for gifts and family therapy.

The one I serve after big, indulgent dinners includes lemon verbena with a mix of mints and lavender; another for pretest jitters features chamomile, hops, lemon verbena and lavender; our go-to sore throat, cold and cough blend is thyme, mint, sage, lemon balm, echinacea root and flowers and fennel served warm with lots of honey.

For a holiday gift, I jar up a fragrant blend of lemon verbena, lemon grass, red clover flowers, lavender buds, rose petals and dried elderberries. Freshly harvested in early fall, packed in early winter, a cup looks, smells and tastes just a bit like summer.

Anna Herman is a garden educator who raises chickens, ducks, bees, fruits and veggies in her Mount Airy backyard.

Hot cups, co-working and cool spaces

Photo courtesy of Arterial Agents

Photo courtesy of Arterial Agents

New Brews

by Emily Kovach

Whether you’re looking for a cozy spot to read and sip tea, sit down for a meeting or enjoy a sweet treat, each of these purveyors provides a fresh take on the traditional coffee shop experience. 

River Wards Cafe

Port Richmond gets more cool points with the addition of this airy, modern café. Treats are on point here: Coffee from ReAnimator pairs perfectly with Weckerly’s ice cream sandwiches, milkshake lattes made with scoops from Bassett’s, and once-weekly deliveries from Ocean View, New Jersey’s beloved Frog Hollow Donuts.

Location: 3118 Richmond St.

Arterial Agents

This multipurpose shop offers a lovely selection of independent, somewhat obscure magazines, local snacks and brews from Ceremony Coffee served from a super snazzy wallpapered bar. While this creative concept would be right at home in an uber hip neighborhood, you’ll find them in Jewelers’ Row. 

Location: 700 Sansom St.

Rally Coffee

While many cafés double as unofficial co-working spaces, Rally takes the notion to new heights. At this Bella Vista spot, tables are reservable for must-have meetings, and the full space can be rented out for larger events. Expertly roasted coffee from Lancaster-based Passenger Coffee keeps the creative juices flowing.

Location: 701 S. 7th St.

Concave Coffee founder says shaping surfboards and roasting coffee are about focus

Photo Courtesy of Good Spoon Foods

Photo Courtesy of Good Spoon Foods

Riding the Wavelength

by Emily Kovach

A coffee roaster takes processed “green” beans, purchased from importers or sometimes directly from coffee farmers, and uses a combination of heat and time to coax out the best flavors possible. We asked local small-batch roaster Rick Malwitz, founder of Concave Coffee Roasters, to tell us more about the life of a roaster.

Why did you start roasting?
For the past 16 years, I’ve been a motion graphics designer and a custom surfboard shaper. Having multiple professions takes a good amount of caffeine! Curious why some coffee is better than others, I started messing around with a half-pound roaster rigged to the backyard grill.

What does a typical day look like?
I roast out of a small room in an old brewery near the art museum. The space is pretty bare bones, just enough room to fit the roaster, green bean stock and bagging table.
Right now I’m roasting weekly, mainly for wholesale clients. There’s a good amount of prep involved: gathering orders, printing labels and making sure all the green beans needed are here. The roaster is run by software that allows for consistency. After I tell the software what I want it to do, I can bag while batches are running. So it’s pretty nonstop.

What kind of machine do you use to roast and how did you find it?
The roaster is an old 10 kilogram Has Garanti that was stripped down and fully refurbished by Ambex in Florida. I was searching for something affordable to start Concave, but also large enough to keep up as production grows.

What's your roasting style?
I tend to get the coffee into that place just after a light roast, where caramelization really gets going but before the roaster starts introducing its own flavor. There are many factors that affect coffee, like environment, temperature, humidity, how long the roaster has been running... I’m always tweaking profiles slightly to look for improvements. Subtle tweaks can make dramatic changes.

What's the trickiest part of roasting? The most rewarding?
The whole process is tricky. It’s like a moving target. There’s rarely time to rest while roasting, though my wife joins me whenever she can, which is a huge help. The most rewarding is having clients who are genuinely proud to be supporting and serving Concave. It really is a partnership.

You build surfboards as well. Are there any similarities in the processes that you've noticed?They both have a once and done process. If something goes wrong, it will have to go in the garbage. The greatest thing in common is I’ll never fully understand or stop learning about both. There’s always room for improvement, which keeps things fun and interesting.

Function Coffee Labs explores the technical side of coffee

Photo courtesy of Function Coffee Labs

Photo courtesy of Function Coffee Labs

The Scientific Method

by Emily Kovach

Ross Nickerson possesses two of the greatest traits a barista could ask for: the unwavering precision of a scientist and the chatty good nature of a neighborhood bartender. 

Working behind the counter of Function Coffee Labs, he and his fiancée Megan McCusker’s new café at the corner of 10th and Fitzwater streets, Nickerson greets customers by name while carefully preparing their drinks: grinding and dosing the coffee on the shop’s large-and-in-charge Mahlkönig EK43 grinder, and pulling his signature “coffee shot” on a stylish matte black Synesso MVP espresso machine. Coffee shots, he explains, are brewed with a higher ratio of water and slightly less pressure than traditional espresso, allowing the fruity and floral notes of single-origin coffees to really shine.  

Nickerson and McCusker, both former teachers, met in 2013 while living in England and spent time together traveling and sampling coffee across Europe. They incorporated elements of their favorite shops into the design of Function Coffee, built out the space themselves and opened in April with the goal of creating a welcoming environment where they can educate customers in a non-intimidating way. Nickerson says part of Philadelphia’s draw was the quality of the shops already in place. “A shop like this couldn’t work as the first one in town,” he remarks. “The scene here is awesome, but there are still neighborhoods that need good coffee.”

Location: 1001 S. 10th Street

Incarnate Coffee fuses Nigerian culture with third wave coffee

Photo courtesy of Karen Katz

Photo courtesy of Karen Katz

Bearing Fruit

by Emily Kovach

Adesola Ogunleye moved to the United States from Nigeria at age 6 and spent her childhood moving around the East Coast. She attended high school and college in North Carolina, where she studied textiles and printmaking, moved to Baltimore after graduating and then came to Philly in 2012 following some friends who’d moved here. Food-related jobs had always appealed to her, and she worked at a Whole Foods in Annapolis, Maryland, where she learned whole animal butchery and was exposed to all kinds of specialty foods. 

Curiosity about cheese, beer and wine eventually led her to coffee, which she delved into as a barista at Bodhi Coffee in Philly. “The owners [at Bodhi], they want everyone to be self-sufficient and bring their own strengths to the shop, to make the shop better,” she says. “It gave me courage to open my own space.” 

Ogunleye’s first concept was a brick and mortar shop, specializing in fine foods as well as art, and the owners of Bodhi helped her put together a business plan and steered her clear of a shady landlord offering her a lease. This was back in 2013, and just as she was making some headway, her partner in the plan decided to leave, derailing her progress.  

In trying to reimagine her business plans, Ogunleye became introspective, trying to pinpoint what made her vision special. 

“I didn’t want to play the ‘immigrant Nigerian’ card, but there’s nothing here, no hip spaces, owned by a person of color,” she says. “Coffee is a white culture. You see baristas, but you don’t see people bringing their own culture to the space.” 

She says the pieces began falling into place when she decided to bring her strong perspective to the coffee concept with arts-focused, women-empowering, minority-empowering values and the addition of Nigerian pastries, including puff puff (doughnut-like snacks) and chin chin (sweet, crunchy, deep-fried dough).  

“That’s what I grew up eating and drinking, and since I decided to do that, so many more doors opened for me,” she says.

One of those doors has been her involvement with local food champion Judy Wicks’ investment and mentorship program, the Circle of Aunts and Uncles, aimed at helping underserved entrepreneurs secure funding and create business plans and strategies. In July, Ogunleye learned that Temple University-based Cloud Coffee was selling their coffee truck, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter fully retrofitted as a tiny café-on-wheels.

Over the past year, Incarnate has functioned by serving hot and cold coffee at pop-up events and selling cold brew through their website. But Ogunleye knew this van was her opportunity to create a sustainable full-time business. Wicks helped her secure the down payment funds in three days, and Ogunleye quit her job at Bodhi. 

Now she’s working with a marketing specialist, navigating the logistics of getting the truck licensed and inspected, and booking events for the fall. She’s also getting the truck wrapped, which will feature Incarnate’s logo of a roaring bear.

“I’m Nigerian and we’re to-the-point people—I’m very forward, kind of like a bear,” she says. “Cute and cuddly but with a tough side. Strong, in your face, but also with their family.”

Nonviolent action: The power of the polls is not our only power

Illustration by Chris Bernhardt

Illustration by Chris Bernhardt

A New Era of Civil Disobedience

interview by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

In the book “This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century,” brothers Mark and Paul Engler explore how the strategies and tactics of nonviolent action are actually more effective than armed conflict, and why they are an essential addition to voting when it comes to creating change. Grid spoke with Mark Engler at his home in West Philadelphia.

Why publish this book now?
ME:
A lot of social change is sort of long-haul, slow, inch-by-inch work where you’re building organizations over a course of decades. On the other hand, there are these moments of mass revolt that seem to explode onto the scene every once in awhile, where protests are capturing the media attention, changing public conversation. I think that there’s a sense that we’ve seen a lot of that in the last, say, five to 10 years—explosions like Occupy, like the Arab Spring, like Black Lives Matter. 

They’re trying to effect political change from outside of the formal structures of politics. We wanted to give a framework for people to understand that and give [it] a bit of vocabulary: What are those uprisings? What impact do they make? Do they have an impact on our political system, and if so, what is that?

You make the distinction in the book between philosophical nonviolence—where the Quaker or Catholic Worker traditions are situated—and those that choose nonviolent action because it’s the most effective tactic.
ME:
We want to take that pivot from just looking at nonviolent action as an individual moral philosophy to all sorts of movements that are using nonviolent tactics. Not necessarily from the philosophical connection to the tradition, but because they’ve strategically decided that they’re not going to wage an armed conflict—that that’s not how they’re going to advance their struggle.

You talk about two very different types of organization. One is large-scale but decentralized civil disobedience, the other is structural—akin to union organizing.
ME:
The first distinction I would make, particularly because it’s an election year, is we’re told again and again that the way you create change is by electing the right people, or maybe lobbying those people, but really working from inside the process. Everything we’re talking about [in the book] is a different orientation: It’s social-movement-side stuff, it’s looking at people who are organizing outside the formal means of politics—they’re pushing politicians, they’re pushing the system, but they’re using people power and organizing outside of that formal political process.

Now, once we’re there, once we’re with social movements, there’s a lot of thinking about what the best way for people to organize is. We wanted to illustrate one divide that shows up again and again in movements throughout history—and people describe that as “movements” versus “organization.” We describe it as mass mobilization versus structure-based organization. 

You have these long-term efforts to build unions, to build community groups, to build up a group like the NAACP. But the NAACP, while it has an important role in the civil rights movement, it isn’t the one that’s organizing the sit-ins, it isn’t the one organizing the freedom rides across the South—it’s Martin Luther King’s group, the SCLC, which organizes mass protests in Birmingham or Selma or St. Petersburg or other places. 

Those types of explosions of nonviolent direct action have come from other groups that are often smaller, newer, scrappier. And sometimes there’s a tension between those new startup groups and the more established groups.

You said in the book that you think the real power is going to be in the synthesis of those two approaches.
ME:
Right, I think that’s exactly true, and throughout history you see some really interesting examples of people who are using both the power of mass mobilization and the power of organization to try to force change.

Gandhi is a good example of that, where they’re doing these mass campaigns of civil disobedience, which he calls the satyagraha campaigns. He’s also working with the Indian National Congress, which is an opposition organization that ultimately becomes the ruling party of India… There’s a very interesting synthesis and ecology between those different approaches to change. 

Black Lives Matter has started to organize chapters and issue guiding principles. “Nonviolence” isn’t named per se, but “loving engagement” is, and they define that as “embodying and practicing justice, liberation and peace in our engagements with one another.” Is that another way of talking about nonviolent action?
ME:
If we’re looking at what Black Lives Matter is doing, we look at the many tactics the movement has used—they’re blocking traffic, they’re blocking bridges, they’re doing those types of occupations—those are all tactics that are part of the playbook of civil resistance. So if we look at that wider playbook and say, “OK, how has it been used in the past? How is this particular movement doing it?” some of that comparative work can give us some insights into why this stuff works. 

The other thing we see with Black Lives Matter is you get this constant refrain of, “We support your cause, we support your issue, but we just don’t like the way you’re doing it. Can’t you go about this in another way?” And one thing that the comparative work does is it shows that this is actually something that shows up again and again. So, this is the same thing that they said to Martin Luther King… we see patterns, we see trends that happen again and again.

You write in the book, “Movements at their most transformative produce tectonic shifts that make the ground tremble, and although the impact is undeniable, predicting exactly which buildings or bridges will buckle is often difficult. Because of this, activists who generate the tremors often do not receive the credit they deserve in the policy changes that came about.” The Occupy movement is potentially one of those instances, and you cite some real reforms. But it seems the real impact over time has been somebody like Bernie Sanders becoming a viable presidential candidate. 
ME:
The more structural side of organizing often has a very, very specific demand. So it might be a 25 cent raise for a particular group of workers in a particular classification within a corporation, and they’ll fight the boss for that 25 cent raise. 

These mass mobilizations, in order to bring in thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, millions of people—the types of issues they’re bringing in are much broader than that, they’re more symbolically loaded with that wider political significance. And because these movements flare up and seem to fade out, a lot of people say, “Well they didn’t accomplish anything,” while the union or community group can point to a specific reform that they change. 

My argument is that while it’s easy to be cynical and say that these [mass] movements didn’t do anything, if you actually track what they did, they can have some very important accomplishments, oftentimes with no budget, no paid staff—this is an outpouring of people power that is not well-resourced to begin with. 

So, in the case of Occupy, they had a very clear and documentable impact on the media discussion, which went from the summer before being about austerity, being about the debt ceilings, and changing that to a national conversation that was about inequality, that was about jobs, about the unjust power of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. 

And we’re not satisfied to stop and just say, “Well they changed the conversation.” I think that’s really important, but changing the conversation does have concrete impacts—they passed millionaires’ taxes in California and New York that were considered dead in the water before. They passed a homeowner’s bill of rights in California. In Ohio—where they tried to do an anti-union drive similar to what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin—that effort failed, and it failed with people on the ground organizing, saying, “Occupy totally changed the framework how we were fighting about this, where we went door-to-door and every conversation was in that context of the 99 percent and 1 percent,” and that effort loses where Scott Walker had been able to succeed.

These are long-term changes, too. It’s not just those specific things that we can point to in the first year or six months… We see people like Elizabeth Warren coming into office, we see Bernie Sanders raising a lot of the same issues, echoing a lot of the same rhetoric as Occupy Wall Street, and finding this really surprising—at least to the professional political class—shocking response, a resonance among the public that people wouldn’t have predicted.

You said in the book that people surprise themselves with the amount of power that they actually have.
ME:
 I think that that’s absolutely true, and that’s another part of the problem of seeing voting as the end all be all.

Mark Engler is an author living in West Philadelphia who co-authored the book “This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century” with his brother Paul Engler, executive director of The Center for the Working Poor.

We must build self-sufficient communities to untether us from corporations

Illustration by Anne Lambelet

Illustration by Anne Lambelet

The Power of Not Working

by Jerry Silberman

Question: How can political power be mobilized on a local level to effect social change?

The Right Question: How does a community really have power over its future?

If you, dear reader, work for a paycheck, spend it on the things you need to live and by the end of the month are feeling a pinch for the next check, don’t feel bad; the overwhelming majority of Americans are in the same position. Apart from the obscenely wealthy, few Americans could go two months without a paycheck before hitting on seriously hard times. 

It’s worth considering, then, that the more self-sufficient a community is, the more power it has. Think about the following: If you didn’t have a paycheck for six months, how much could you do for yourself that you usually pay for? Grow your food? Cook it? Replace a broken window? Repair your laptop, change the spark plugs in your car or switch out the chain on your bicycle? What skills or goods do you have that you can barter or loan in exchange for something you need? And, importantly, how many of your neighbors are willing to barter or pay in kind, with labor or goods? 

Last year I traded two free-range chickens for an acupuncture appointment, and have often cleaned up a fallen tree (or dropped and removed a dead one) in a neighbor’s yard that wound up in my wood stove. 

Our current society is based on unequal trade; businesses spend billions on advertising to convince us we need something, then charge us just a little more than we can afford to buy it—because we just have to have it and they know we’ll open our wallets, anyway. 

The profits of Exxon, GE, Google, Home Depot, McDonald’s, Walmart, Macy’s and all the rest are based on a culture they have built that leaves us forever unsatisfied—so we get in line for a new iPhone as though our lives depended on it. 

But there is a different way. Most Amish communities today interact significantly with the outside cash economy, but when push comes to shove, the skills for a comfortable life without high tech machinery are still alive and well. The community is there as a safety net for all its members, whether they need a new house to be built, or a sick child to be tended to. 

As a union organizer, I realize that at least some level of financial independence is necessary for a union member to be able to go on strike. That independence, across the membership of a union, is what allows them, as a union, to exercise the power of not working, which can convince their boss to agree to make changes in wages and working conditions he may not otherwise make.

The goal of community autonomy points to a way to exercise political power, by understanding the scale at which we can be effective. Mobilizing power to pressure elected politicians to do things that they don’t want to do only works if the politician knows that we have the power to end their job. At the national level, the influence of money in politics—and the near impossibility of a viable candidate with the resources to contest the corporate consumer culture—means that we cannot put their jobs at stake. We can vote for Hillary or Donald, but either vote is basically for endless consumption, endless war and profits before people. Voting in national elections merely comforts corporate America that they are still the moral leaders of our society.  

However, we can make a difference locally, which is where change must start. Just as we can choose a bike or SEPTA instead of a car, and forgo that Chilean strawberry in January, we can vote for City Council members, township supervisors or school board members (hopefully even in Philadelphia, soon). These elections are on a scale at which an organized community can make a difference. 

Local politicians will do what we ask to keep their jobs, and we can therefore pursue an agenda to reduce energy consumption, hold corporations accountable for the costs they impose on all of us, and limit wasteful development or set aside green space.

We can experiment with new models of community, organization and consumption by establishing a community that can, in some small part, cut itself loose from consumer society by electing local leaders who share our agenda. These new models can, in turn, help us learn how to navigate the challenges ahead by pooling resources and skills to become more self-sufficient. 

Jerry Silberman is a cranky environmentalist and union negotiator who likes to ask the right question and is no stranger to compromise. 

Social Justice: Community Comes First

Volunteers from Asian Americans United

Volunteers from Asian Americans United

There are many opportunities to lend a helping hand and make Philadelphia a more just city. You can do anything from helping to address the immediate needs of homeless Philadelphians or new immigrants, or look farther into the future by building the next generation of leaders and participating in long-range neighborhood planning. Let’s keep our reputation as the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Asian Americans United

AAU’s mission is to build leadership in Asian-American communities and to improve neighborhoods and unite against oppression. It accomplishes these goals through quality education, youth leadership, fighting anti-Asian violence and supporting immigrant rights.

Who you’ll help
The next generation of leadership in Philadelphia

What you’ll do
Work on a planning committee to develop strategy for campaigns and plan youth programs

“I volunteer with AAU because it allows me to explore and celebrate my Asian-American identity. I am constantly inspired by AAU’s youth and elders who fight to ensure our voices are heard and our rights protected.”
– Jenny Chen, AAU volunteer

Books Through Bars

This volunteer-run organization distributes free books and educational material to incarcerated people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. They send quality reading material to prisoners to encourage creative dialogue and educate those living both inside and outside of prison walls.

Who you’ll help
People who want to better themselves while incarcerated 

What you’ll do
Choose and send books, log letters, drive, rustle up book donations, organize the library, help with office tasks, attend events, or hold book drives and fundraisers

Bread & Roses Community Fund

Named after a rallying cry of textile workers on strike, Bread & Roses organizes donors at all levels to support community-based groups in building movements for racial equality and economic opportunity. Their fundraising efforts are invested into the community through grantmaking, capacity building and convening. 

Who you’ll help
Advocates who are creating movements to raise the minimum wage, fight for better schools, dismantle institutional racism and organize many other noble efforts

What you’ll do
Help with fundraising that will be given back to community groups, offer your time and expertise to grantees, serve on committees or the board, or assist with event management

Broad Street Ministry

This Christian community offers social services and inclusive hospitality for those who are in need of support. Broad Street Ministry also cultivates artistic expression. 

Who you’ll help
Fellow Philadelphians who are in need of respite and respect

What you’ll do
Act as a greeter, serve food, pack hygiene kits, sort personal mail or the clothing closet and even get involved in therapeutic arts

Philadelphia Citizens Planning Institute

CPI builds the power of young people to demand a high quality education of the city’s public school system. This youth-led organization unites diverse groups of people together to address the problems that our communities face, but adults can volunteer, too. 

Who you’ll help
Public school kids who deserve a chance to not only survive
but thrive

You are:
Either a passionate student who wants to lead the charge to improve schools for yourself or others, or an adult who wants to help raise funds, share technical skills or join the board

Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

With a strong belief that the energy of new arrivals can reinvigorate a community, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians connects newly arrived individuals from around the world with the economic opportunities they need to succeed.

Who you’ll help
The latest generation of immigrants who are eager to call the United States home

What you’ll do
Tutor English, teach computer skills, build relationships with potential employers or assist immigrants with finding jobs

Women in Transition

WIT seeks to promote the emotional and economic independence of women endangered by domestic violence and substance abuse in the Greater Philadelphia region. 

Who you’ll help
A woman in crisis who needs support to start a better life

What you’ll do
Get trained to work on a 24-hour crisis hotline, assist with intake assessment, help develop the Lifeline Peer Support Group program, conduct individual and life management counseling sessions or community education and training sessions

Arts and Culture: People Power Through the Arts

Philadelphia’s diverse and vibrant arts community is one of the reasons that we’re topping “best of” lists across the country. Community-centered art programs that expand who has access to the power of art need your assistance. So, pick up a paintbrush, help someone tell an important story or serve on the board of the next great theater company.

Art-Reach 

Help a child who might be the next Basquiat, Rembrandt or O’Keefe. Art-Reach strives to create a world in which all communities have access to the arts. Art-Reach creates and expands accessible opportunities in the arts to traditionally underserved audiences, including those with low incomes or disabilities. 

Who they’re looking for
Artists of all disciplines who want to share their craft 

What you’ll do
Intern with the Art-Reach staff to assist with fundraising events and general operations

Arts & Business Council

Actively connecting the creative sector with the business, legal and technology communities, the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia builds and supports relationships between the cultural community and the for-profit sector to create a strong, vibrant region.

Who they’re looking for
Business leaders who want to give back to the community

What you’ll do
Serve as a board member for an arts organization through their Business on Board program to assist with fundraising, financial literacy, strategic planning and project management 

Mural Arts Program

Philadelphia is home to the nation’s largest public art program—the Mural Arts Program—and it’s dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. Mural Arts transforms public spaces by uniting artists and communities to create accessible art for everyone.

Who they’re looking for
Artists, active community members and others who want to empower their peers

What you’ll do
Serve as ambassador of the organization to educate the public through events, paint days and arts advocacy

Scribe Video Center

This is a place where emerging and experienced media artists can gain access to the tools and knowledge of video making and work together in a supportive environment using video and film as tools for self-expression and for representing and supporting their communities. 

Who they’re looking for
Aspiring videographers who can help tell real Philadelphia stories that the mainstream media misses

What you’ll do
Make an engaging and transformative video, or help out with opportunities to work screenings and events

Rescues: All About the Animals

We’ve all seen the “Who Rescued Who?” bumper stickers and T-shirts that speak to Philadelphia’s deep love for the family members we’ve found in shelters. Running those shelters takes a lot of time, elbow grease and kibble, and they are always looking for volunteers to help care for animals and give them the best chance of adoption—maybe that person is you?

ACCT Philly

Animal Care and Control Team is the region’s largest animal care and control service provider, and it manages the city’s animal shelter facility in North Philadelphia. Every single day of the year,  you can adopt a pet at ACCT Philly.

Who you’ll help
Some of the centers 28,000 homeless, abandoned or abused animals that are served annually

What you’ll do
Walk dogs, assist with socialization and enrichment activities for cats and dogs, give animals the best chance of adoption by bathing, grooming and taking pictures, or become a foster parent or volunteer for office tasks

Morris Animal Refuge

This open admissions shelter offers high quality care for cats, dogs and other small animals. The refuge provides a full range of animal care, adoption services and humane education.

Who you’ll help
A homeless pup or other needy animal who is ready to become part of someone’s family

Spend some time to
Train dogs, socialize cats, counsel adopters, and perform numerous other tasks at the center and adoption events

PAWS

Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society is dedicated to saving Philadelphia’s homeless, abandoned and unwanted animals. It is the city’s largest no-kill shelter and operates two high-volume, low-cost clinics serving pet owners and rescue organizations that lack access to affordable, basic veterinary care.

Who you’ll help
A shelter cat or dog who wants to love their way into a new situation on a comfy couch

What you’ll do
Help at adoption events, socialize potential adoptees, walk and bathe dogs, transport animals to and from foster and adoptive homes, provide administrative support

“I volunteer with PAWS because I appreciate the work they do to make Philly a no-kill city and to help as many cats and dogs as possible. It is very rewarding to be even a small part of that mission.”  
– Sharon Mills, PAWS volunteer

Environment: Good Stewards Make Good Neighbors

The health of our environment directly impacts the health of our people and our economy. These are just some of the great organizations working across the region to ensure that we’re protecting some of our most valuable assets: healthy air, clean water and neighborhood access to nature. Lend a green thumb or knock on doors to support the cause.

Awbury Arboretum

Awbury Arboretum preserves its historic house and 55 acre landscape and connects to the urban community with nature and history through educational programs and events. It has been open to the public free of charge as a public park and arboretum for nearly 100 years. 

Calling all:
Guerrilla gardeners, trailblazers, event programmers and office experts 

What you’ll do
Work in the garden, host events, lead tours, help with administrative and office tasks, participate in spring and fall plantings, remove invasive species, or assist with trail maintenance, mulching and seed collection

Jewish Farm School

JFS is dedicated to teaching about contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative training and skills-based Jewish agricultural education. Their Philly Farm Crew program organizes volunteers weekly throughout Philadelphia.

Calling all:
Urban gardeners

What you’ll do
Get your hands dirty helping out on vacant lot gardens, urban farms and with food providers

Land Health Institute

This organization is dedicated to environmental education, ecological design and repair of degraded land. Utilizing unwanted and unused spaces within cities, they connect people to nature through education and land revitalization. 

Calling all:
Graphic designers, fundraisers, marketing gurus and web development specialists

What you’ll do
Grant writing, membership outreach, assist with new ways of marketing online and out in the real world, design materials or even serve on the board—applications are now being accepted.

Natural Lands Trust

The region’s largest and most comprehensive conservation organization saves thousands of acres of open space in Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey each year. They also own and manage the region’s largest system of private nature preserves, which help ensure biodiversity in the region.

Calling all:
Amateur naturalists and open space advocates

What you’ll do
Plant trees, assist with controlling invasive plants, count birds and butterflies, and learn valuable land management and conservation skills

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

While PHS is internationally renowned, much of its great work happens right here in Philly. It’s best known for the high-profile Philadelphia Flower Show, but it has many programs that increase access to green space and nature throughout the entire city. The Garden Tenders program, whose volunteers help start community gardens, is one way to get involved.

Calling all:
Neighborhood rabble-rousers and urban gardeners

What you’ll do
Go through a training program to gain hands-on gardening experience and learn how to establish successful, self-sustaining community gardens. You’ll gain insight into finding a site for a community garden, recruiting and keeping volunteers, basic horticulture, assessing and finding resources in your neighborhood, planting and garden maintenance, and forming viable partnerships.

Overbrook Environmental Education Center

This nonprofit is dedicated to the preservation of our neighborhoods and natural environments, the improvement of public health, and the promotion of sustainable and livable communities.

Calling all:
Artists, community health experts, gardeners and community organizers

What you’ll do
Organize and engage the Overbrook neighborhood, maintain and expand green space, and assist with programming and community events of all kinds

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

SCEE inspires meaningful connections between people and nature. Using forests and fields to foster appreciation, SCEE deepens understanding and encourages protection of the environment.

Calling all:
Naturalists, office workers and educators

What you’ll do
Garden, care for plants in the nursery, train for the Senior Environment Corps, run wildlife clinics, and assist with special events, including environmental art shows and other receptions

“Volunteering is my way to say thank you and to give something of myself back to my community.”  
– Henry Geyer, SCEE volunteer

Philadelphia Orchard Project

The Philadelphia Orchard Project works with community based groups and volunteers to plan and plant orchards filled with useful and edible plants in neighborhoods across the city. 

Calling all:
Tree huggers and Lorax lovers

What you’ll do
Plant orchards in the spring and fall, and assist with other weeding, mulching and planting throughout the year

Protecting Our Waters

This grassroots nonprofit organization works to protect the health and vitality of our communities by defending people, animals, water, air and land against the damage caused by all phases of shale gas extraction, processing and use.

Calling all:
Community organizers, policy or law experts and anyone who can lend a hand with office tasks

What you’ll do
Help to organize creative and nonviolent actions to draft and pass legislation that would protect our land and water

Riverbend Environmental Education Center

Riverbend is dedicated to teaching environmental principles to children in Southeastern Pennsylvania through a direct connection with nature, inspiring respect for the natural world and calling on them to be aware, responsible and caring citizens. 

Calling all:
Handy-people, naturalists, kid and animal lovers, and office experts

What you’ll do
Volunteer for habitat maintenance such as weeding, raking and watering, maintain facilities at the site, become a naturalist educator, assist with administrative and marketing tasks, help run summer camps, and provide care to animals at the center

Soil Generation

This black-led coalition of Philadelphia residents and organizations supports equity and social justice for community-managed green space, gardens and farms through advocacy, grassroots organizing and community education.

Calling all:
Food and environmental justice advocates who believe in community self-determination

What you’ll do
Get trained to lend your voice to ensuring that City Council and other policymaking bodies understand how urban gardens help strengthen communities

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership

TTF’s mission is to improve the health and vitality of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Creek and watershed, which includes neighborhoods in North, Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia and Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Rockledge and Springfield in Montgomery County. 

Calling all:
Stream stewards and green infrastructure geeks 

What you’ll do
Monitor stream quality, maintain and clean trash from streams and help with plantings that contribute to stream health

Mentorship: Each One Teach One

Kids are resilient, which is a good thing given the challenges that many of them face in Philadelphia. One of the biggest gifts that we can give them is awareness of their own potential and pathways to achieve it.

Camp Sojourner

This nonprofit leadership program for Philadelphia girls focuses on team-building, leadership development, creative arts and appreciation of nature. The organization offers girls the chance to get out of the city for a one-week sleepaway camp experience.

Who you’ll help
Young women in Philadelphia who deserve the chance to thrive and become leaders

What you’ll do
Get involved in year-round mentoring, service projects, creative arts and leadership development activities

Mighty Writers

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach kids to think and write with clarity—a critical skill that will serve them in school and throughout their lives. Programs include daily after-school academies, long- and short-term writing classes, a teen scholar program, mentorships, college prep courses and college essay writing classes. All of their programs are free to Philadelphia students.

Who you’ll help
The next Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates or Virginia Woolf

What you’ll do
Become a tutor, mentor, workshop leader or intern at the Mighty Writers office, where you’ll do a combination of working with kids and learning nonprofit management

“I figured that I could share my love of writing and reading with children. It immediately felt like home, and I haven’t looked back once.”  
– Shanise Redmon, Mighty Writers volunteer

Neighborhood Bike Works

This nonprofit provides educational, recreational and career-building opportunities for urban youth in underserved neighborhoods in greater Philadelphia through bicycling; it also promotes cycling as a healthy, affordable, environmentally friendly form of transportation.

Who you’ll help
A kid who needs a buddy to show them how to build a bike—and a better life

What you’ll do
There are many ways to work with this organization, including one-time events such as Bicycle Safety Checks or Valet Bike Parking, in addition to more regular opportunities such as Earn-A-Bike, Ride Club and Saturday Drop-In.

Food Justice: Feeding Our Souls

Friends of Farmworkers staff

Friends of Farmworkers staff

Food is central to everyone’s life, but it doesn’t come easily to everyone’s table.  Whether it’s ensuring that none of our neighbors go hungry, or protecting the people who help to feed our community, volunteering can help nourish your soul.

Friends of Farmworkers

Friends of Farmworkers supports low-wage workers as they pursue economic and social justice. Services include legal assistance, education and advocacy on employment-related issues to eligible Pennsylvania workers.   

Who you’ll help
Farmworkers throughout the state of Pennsylvania who are vulnerable to exploitation

Who they’re looking for
Attorneys and law students to help do client interviews, translate documents and create know-your-rights materials. They are particularly in need of volunteers who speak Spanish.

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

This organization strives to build a community where all people have the food they need to lead healthy lives. Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger connects people with food assistance programs and nutrition education, provides resources to a network of food pantries, and educates the public and policymakers about responsible solutions that prevent people from going hungry.

Who you’ll help
People who need help navigating food resources on a day-to-day or long-term basis

What you’ll do
Advocate for legislation to fight food insecurity, administrative office work, or serve at a soup pantry or kitchen

Philabundance

Providing food for approximately 90,000 people per week, Philabundance works closely with shelters and emergency kitchens and collaborates with national networks in an effort to eradicate hunger.

Who you’ll help
Some of the increasing number of families who are choosing between food and other necessities

What you’ll do
Get hands-on in the warehouse at the hunger relief center, glean food from local farms, work at the Fare & Square grocery store or participate in many other programs—you can also assist with office tasks to keep the whole operation going

Share

Originally a community food co-op that offered below-retail-price packages of food in exchange for two hours of volunteering, Share has grown into a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education and advocacy. Each year it distributes nearly 25 million pounds of emergency food relief to Philadelphia residents facing hunger.

Who you’ll help
An individual or family who needs access to nutritious, life-sustaining food

What you’ll do
Assist distribution, bagging and boxing at the Share warehouse, and even help with gardening. Groups are welcome, as are supervised teenagers.

Care for Kids and Elders: Lean on Me

Although Philadelphia has robust networks of charitable groups providing resources to people in need, it can still be daunting to navigate these public and nonprofit systems—especially for the elderly and for people with health concerns. Here are just a few organizations helping some of our most vulnerable citizens receive food, shelter and health care.

CARIE

The Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly is a proponent for affordable, quality care for older adults, and often acts as a liaison for the elderly and their caregivers.

Who you’ll help
Older adults who need assistance in order to receive proper services from elder-care professionals

What you’ll do
Assist with planning events, accompany crime victims to court, facilitate resident complaints, answer phones and mail, provide accounting or legal support

Surrey Services

With locations in Broomall, Havertown, Media and Devon, this organization provides tens of thousands of volunteer hours to older adults through a wide range of services 

Who you’ll help
Adults 55 and older who need home care and companionship

What you’ll do
Drive members to medical appointments and errands, minor home repair and gardening work, clerical and data entry tasks, assist with events

Meals on Wheels

Independently run, local chapters of Meals on Wheels provide prepared food to older citizens. The much-lauded national organization has a number of programs in Philly and surrounding suburbs.

Who you’ll help
People who need prepared meals delivered to their door and cannot necessarily cook or get to the grocery store due to health complications

What you’ll do
Prepare and pack meals, pick up and deliver to seniors’ homes, assist with clerical support, or organize and plan publicity events

Ronald McDonald House

The Philadelphia chapter of this national organization holds two locations in addition to facilities at children’s hospitals and its summer camp. Through private and corporate donors, Ronald McDonald House is able to shelter and support families for $15 a night—or no cost at all if there is an inability to pay.

Who you’ll help
Families with children receiving medical treatment and are in need of shelter

What you’ll do
Welcome and register families looking for a place to stay; assist with mailings, clerical work and phone calls; keep public areas well organized; help with mealtime and transportation tasks

“Working at the front desk, I have had the opportunity to meet the most amazing,
compassionate, strong, generous and loving families from across the world.”  
– Danielle McAdams, a volunteer with Ronald McDonald House

Sriracha and Old Bay seasoning liven up a fall favorite

Spicy Sprouts

by Peggy Paul Casella

For a short window of time, from September through December, you can find knobby Brussels sprout stalks at farmers markets and some grocery stores across our region. These mini brassicas are one of the healthiest vegetables around, with more vitamin C per serving than oranges and lots of vitamins A and K, beta carotene, folic acid, iron, magnesium and fiber.

Some studies have suggested that certain nutrient compounds found in Brussels sprouts may help reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone health, manage diabetes, maintain healthy vision and even keep your skin looking young. Fun fact: One of the most beneficial cancer-fighting compounds in Brussels sprouts—glucosinolate sinigrin—is also the reason this vegetable gets so stinky when it’s boiled or overcooked.

Buy sprouts on the stalk if possible, as these will have the highest nutrient content and will stay fresh longer when kept in the fridge. Plus, they’re usually cheaper that way, due to the reduced amount of labor involved for the farmer. Look for small, compact, bright-green sprouts that are white at the base.

For best results, cook Brussels sprouts for a relatively short time over high heat; roasting, broiling or pan-frying are all great techniques that bring out the vegetable’s nutty sweetness and reduce the stink factor.

Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha–Old Bay Aioli
Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a blender, combine the mayo, mustard, sriracha, Old Bay, garlic and lemon juice. Purée until smooth, season to taste with salt and pepper, and adjust the other seasonings as desired. Set aside.
  2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter melts and the mixture is hot but not yet smoking, add the Brussels sprouts, cut-sides down, and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Cook without stirring until the cut sides are nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium, stir the sprouts and cook for 5 minutes more, until all the sprouts are tender. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Spoon the sauce over the cooked Brussels sprouts a little at a time, tossing well after each addition until they are coated to your liking. (Or pour the sauce into a small bowl or ramekin and let guests spoon as much as they like onto their own servings.)

Peggy Paul Casella is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener, produce peddler and author of the blog Thursday Night Pizza

Refugees in Pennsylvania shouldn’t suffer more abuse when they seek political asylum

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

End Family Incarceration

by Erika Almiron

When I was taken into custody at Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania—for hugging women who had been unlawfully detained there for months with their children—I couldn’t believe it. 

As the executive director of Juntos, a community-led, Latino immigrant organization fighting for our human rights, I had spent over a year—working with hundreds of people—trying to close the center, and I was there that day because we believed these families would be set free. 

We’d been monitoring a growing list of human rights abuses against the refugee families who are detained there as they await review of their cases for political asylum. Many are fleeing from Central American countries that have been economically and socially destabilized due to years of failed U.S. interventions and global corruption. 

There are various reports and testimony showing the clear state of crisis inside the center, which had been operating with an unlawful license for years. Our work resulted in revocation of its license, which should have resulted in the immediate release of the families. But, on that same day of my arrest, Berks County commissioners filed an appeal to continue operating, and now the women and their families remain incarcerated in deplorable conditions.  

After my arrest there, the facility erected a fence to ensure the women can’t leave: The center has been operating unlawfully since it was open, yet it’s the children, not the center’s operators, who are incarcerated. I am still fighting my court charges for hugging these amazing mothers who continue to fight for their freedom.

I had not heard much about the Berks detention center until the fall of 2015, when I was informed that a 19-year-old woman was repeatedly raped by a guard at the facility, in one instance in front of an 8-year-old girl detained there. I was floored. Not only was the rape itself horrific, I had never seen an instance of children being detained like this, much less being subjected to this kind of trauma. 

Imagine: A young Honduran woman flees an abusive relationship in a country mired in corruption and poverty with her child—risking their lives to find freedom and safety—but instead, when she arrives in the U.S., she is serially raped by a man who was paid to incarcerate her indefinitely. 

Eventually, her rapist was charged and found guilty, but he could potentially spend less time in jail than many of the women inside of the center.

Since this incident, we at Juntos have fought to shut the Berks detention center down and to end nationally the practice of jailing families and immigrants. 

Last summer more than 18 women—who were detained for almost a year despite clear federal guidance that 20 days should be a maximum—organized a strike against the abusive work program inside the center: They were paid $1 a day to clean the facility. One of the strikers, a witness to the rape, was unjustly deported with her daughter and was ultimately returned to the U.S. after a judge ordered the U.S. government to bring her back. 

The innocent young people incarcerated at the Berks center are suffering irreparable, lifelong harm from their detention. They live in conditions that have already led to repeated illness and trauma, all documented in their medical reports. Many of the children are depressed, and at least one has expressed a desire to kill himself. 

Yet, the center remains open. 

Then, last month, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson publicly stated—contrary to clear evidence—that families were being detained an average of only 20 days. 

In response, 22 mothers released a letter saying they will leave the center dead or alive. They have been starving themselves for over a month now on a hunger strike, longer than the length of maximum detention, losing weight and growing weaker every single day. The children, to join with their mothers in demanding freedom, are now threatening to strike the education program, which provides only one teacher for all middle and high school students there.

Violating human rights and causing trauma to these women and children is unacceptable—and entirely unnecessary. 

Since the day the license was revoked, the state of Pennsylvania has had the power to rescue these women and children from their abuse through an emergency removal order. We call for all Pennsylvanians to hold Gov. Tom Wolf accountable: We must tell him that the doors of this barbaric facility should be shuttered immediately and demand that, while their asylum cases are pending, the mothers and their children be released to the families they already have in the U.S. 

 The world is suffering from a global refugee crisis, much of which is rooted in war and unfair trade agreements that create poverty and corruption at the hands of the powerful for their personal gain. We must address migration by addressing root causes, not incarcerating families—the victims of this global crisis—who desperately need our support. 

Their lives, and our humanity, are at stake.

Erika Almiron is the executive director of Juntos, a community-led, Latino immigrant organization in South Philadelphia fighting for the human rights of workers, parents, youth and immigrants. Gov. Tom Wolf can be reached at 717-787-2500.

Lay down your arms—but be prepared to fight

A Truly Civil War

by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

In 1849, in the run up to the Civil War, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his essay “Civil Disobedience” that “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.”

He references “the revolution of ’75” as such an instance, knowing that the memory of the Revolutionary War, which had ended just 66 years before, would still be deeply etched into the national consciousness. One of Thoreau’s main points of contention at the time he wrote “Civil Disobedience” was that, while America as a country was free from English rule, “a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves.” Our nation’s bloody civil war began 12 years later, and over the course of those four years, more than 600,000 Americans lost their lives. 

It’s hard to ignore that our country was founded on armed conflict, starting when the boats and guns invaded from Europe and settlers wrested the land from the Native American peoples. You can still feel the results of our violent past everywhere: in the troubling statistic that there is now a gun for every man, woman and child who lives in America; in our inability to pass gun regulations in the wake of the massacre of the children of Newtown; in the militarization of our police force; and in the casual but insidious quip by a presidential candidate that “Second Amendment people” might rid him of his opponent. 

Violence is part of America’s DNA. Revolution is part of America’s DNA. But they need not forever be intertwined in a double helix. 

When we examine our more recent history, we see that other revolutions have taken place by using the successful tactics of nonviolent resistance: the fight to give women the right to vote, to give black Americans their full civil rights, to give gay Americans the right to marry whomever they choose. 

While these wars were not without actual casualties, the preponderance of strategies and tactics used by these movements were nonviolent. And there is now empirical evidence to show that, even in countries with dictator-led armies, nonviolent revolution is actually a more effective strategy than armed conflict. 

We may all have access to guns in America, but our best bet if ever we want to overthrow the government and start anew would be to lay them down by the riverside and study how Gandhi helped to take back India, how the Serbians peacefully liberated themselves from a violent dictator, and why our own civil rights movements have been successful. An indispensable study guide will be the book “This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century” by brothers Mark and Paul Engler. They offer a clear picture of why these movements worked, and a blueprint for activists seeking victory whether for climate justice or Black Lives Matter.  

You’ve heard the comments before, and may have even been the object of them: Protesters are wasting their time. Shouting for change won’t make a difference. What does (insert your preferred form of civil disobedience—a building occupation, blocking traffic, etc.) accomplish, anyway?

It turns out, it accomplishes a lot. It requires—of what Thoreau called a “wise minority”—the willingness not only to vote, but to undertake other collective action that will serve as a fulcrum for change. “Cast your whole vote,” he says. “Not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”

As more and more of us push back against a government that is failing us—on climate policy, on state violence and many other issues—we need to remember that when it comes to revolution, gunpowder is no match for people power.