We had a great time talking about neighborhood revitalization and citizen engagement projects at Germantown United CDC‘s second annual forum last week. While sharing our work was fun, it was equally cool for us to learn about other projects in Philadelphia. Zack Bird’s DIY anti-graffiti campaign was particularly inspiring, and we could relate to his remarks about why he does it (see below). After reading Inquirer columnist Karen Heller’s story about his paintings in the Wissahickon, you’ll probably want to pick up a paint brush and join him in the park, too. He has quickly achieved philebrity status in our book! We couldn’t actually wait until after the panel to tweet about him –
If you missed the program, check out Luke Smith’s recap of the event below, which includes a summary of Zach’s talk and our contribution. For more, see Germantown-based photographer Tieshka Smith’s collection of photos or check out stories in The Philadelphia Tribune, NewsWorksWHYY, Flying Kite, and the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog. – Aine & Emaleigh
Guest blog post by A. Luke Smith | Board Member of Germantown United CDC
About a hundred people turned out at the Flying Horse Center last Wednesday evening, May 8, 2013, to attend Germantown United CDC’s Second Annual “Forum on Sustainability,” which featured a “trade show” followed by a panel discussion where attendants learned how “it IS easy being green!”
The projector displayed a tuxedo-wearing Kermit the Frog to welcomed guests to the beautiful space at the Flying Horse Center, where various organizations and city offices engaged face to face with interested Germantowners. Derrick Searles of the Streets Department’s Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee informed visitors that anyone can host a block cleanup and, with just an advanced phone call, the city will gladly come and pick up all of the trash and debris the same day. The Sustainable Business Network recruited Germantown business owners and entrepreneurs to join the citywide network of businesses committed to the business ethos embodied in what they call “the triple bottom line,” or “Profits, People, Planet,” a concept that was repeated later during the forum discussion. Attendees bounced between tables hosted by local urban farms like Grumblethorpe, organizations like The Food Trust dedicated to bringing that healthy fresh food to Philadelphians living without access to it, and a prison-to-work program called “Roots to Re-entry” that gives prison inmates the opportunity to learn urban farming in the prison’s rehabilitated green house. There were too many fantastic organizations and agencies to list here (see the pre-event flyer for that). So many, in fact, it was a challenge to get interested Germantowners to leave the tabling area and take their seats at the forum!
Once seated, the audience listened intently as each of the seven panelists shared presentations and spoke passionately for 20 minutes about their work, and the work of their respective agencies and organizations.
Keynote Speaker and discussion moderator Robert Fleming, founder of Philadelphia University’s MS in Sustainable Design Program, posed the first question to the panelists: “Most peoples’ objective in life is to make enough money to live as comfortable as possible. But you guys are special. What makes you tick?”
After a moment of humble silence, acclaimed graffiti-fighting Muralist Zack Bird was the first panelist to chime in. “I actually have a good answer to that,” he began. “In my work for Palm Restaurants, I’ve had the chance to travel around the county building restaurants. I spent up to a month on each job, and so I’ve gotten to know a lot of American cities. But when I recently returned to northwest Philadelphia, I really rekindled my love affair with this place, especially with the natural beauty of the Wissahickon, and the history. I’ve found that it’s really a unique place, and I wanted it to be beautiful. And so a while ago I made a commitment to pick up litter anytime I see it.”
“At first I thought I was doing a favor to the community by picking up trash. But I was thinking about this recently, and I’m really doing a bigger favor to myself. Whether it’s picking up litter, or faux-finishing to restore a tagged up retaining wall in the Wissahickon, it just makes me feel great, like I’m floating on a cloud. So I guess that’s why I do it. That’s what makes me tick.”
Every panelist applauded in agreement to Zack’s response.
Then the audience queued up for questions and comments. Audience member Lisa Hopkins of the Civic Association Southwest Lower Germantown wondered whether The Food Trust had considered bringing back something like the home economics classes she remembered from her own school days, because teaching young adults how to cook, clean, and sew could be a key to healthy, sustainable living. While Dwayne Wharton said that his organization’s connection to schools is to help bring in healthy food, he thought the idea was a good one. Continue Reading →