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“River Never Smooth”!

We all believe in love! There’s all kinds of love – love for our family members, love for friends, even degrees of love. We look for a soul-mate; we label people as acquaintances, good friends, best friends and the ever popular, bff! We need love; we won’t thrive without it. When I was 5 years old, I was a flower girl for my Aunt Cass’s wedding. As I knelt in the first pew of the Church, I thought she would go to a Castle and we would never see her again. Her life would be a fairytale. I can tell you it was not as she lost her husband while she was pregnant with their third child.

Some very hurtful and even deadly things happen in the course of love. It’s the latter we’re going to talk about. This is not your typical Christmas feel-good-story but we need to be aware that people we know and even those we think we know may be experiencing physical, emotional and other types of abuse all in the name of love!

Fiona Harewood

Fiona Harewood can tell you about this – she has been there herself. Putting her experiences and her efforts towards regaining her own personal power and self, she has written a new book to help others. Her story is so compelling and important, we, at The Frankford Gazette are helping her to pre-launch her book, “River Never Smooth  – Reclaiming Power After Abuse”. 

A current resident of Juniata, Fiona also is a member of a local Church here in Frankford. She comes to us from the country of Guyana, officially a “Co-operative Republic”, located on the northern part of South America. The northern border of Guyana is the Atlantic Ocean. Guyana is the only country in South America where English is the official language. She would also live for a time in Barbados until 2001 when she came to the United States.

This is not her first book. She also wrote, “I DID IT…You Can, Too”, and in it, Fiona challenges “drop outs to become dreamers”. She knows what she’s talking about – she was a failure during High School, completing only one CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) in English Literature. Once she arrived in the United States and had to clean homes to make ends meet, she knew her way forward would be to finish her education. At 44, she returned to school and after 3 1/2 years, graduated magna cum laude with a degree from Pierce in Paralegal Studies. Another 18 months and Fiona completed the work necessary to receive a Masters in Public Policy from Drexel University. Kudos to you, Fiona. Her education would serve her well. She then wanted to encourage others who, for one reason or another, did not complete their education. Also, she wanted to encourage those students already in school to stay there. She has spoken at schools and other organizations sharing the wisdom that she has earned and learned.

Which brings us to her newest book about to be released. In “River Never Smooth – Reclaiming Power After Abuse”, Fiona is once again sharing her own personal story that is also a national issue affecting millions. In speaking with Fiona, she shared with me the following facts. Did you know that nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in just one single year? Or that more than 12 million men, women and children are affected by varying forms of abuse over a year? Abuse has many types, not just physical. There is emotional, mental, sexual and financial abuse just to name a few. Also, we know that there is not just one type of abuser or one gender alone responsible for such violence.

In her book, Fiona uses her storytelling abilities to illustrate for us what abuse can look like and why some people don’t even feel they’re being abused. In telling her story, Fiona has structured “River Never Smooth” into 4 parts.

Part 1 is “Bad Choices” that many of us make. We have family and friends who try to tell us but do we at least consider what they have to say? This is so important for our teenagers and young adults who need to understand that people who try to point them in the right direction care and are only trying to help. It is very important to listen and learn from other people’s experience as opposed to living their tragic circumstances. We must be ready to accept that this is an abusive relationship and be ready to change it. This can take a long time.

Part 2 tells us about “Starting Over” and this is where friends and families can help victims of domestic violence and abuse. You can’t do this alone. Sometimes, it requires much more than empathy. If we truly want to help someone “escape” their situation, we need to be ready to help them financially, and otherwise, until they can get back on their feet. We know that, especially in the case of women, the choice is to stay with an abuser because of financial needs.

Part 3 explains to us that “Repeating Mistakes” is something that will happen. It takes time, practice and real awareness to choose those who are worthy of your trust and your love. Once you’ve been hurt, literally, it will be a while before you will see as clearly as you need to in choosing friends or partners.

Part 4 leads us to “The Decision and Getting It Right”. Hopefully, you will be stronger by the time you get there and experiencing a sense of power. No matter how many times we have failed or given love to people who will end up hurting us, there is one who truly does loves us unconditionally and that is God. You have got to rely on God’s help for strength, for the commitment you need not to be drawn into what is almost a second nature – putting others first. This is about you and what is best for you!  Surprising as it may seem, you must also forgive your abuser before you can fully heal. Overall, after reading “River Never Smooth”, you will:

  • Identify abuse and know how to deal with it;
  • Know when to move on;
  • Live a life free of regrets; and
  • Rise above your circumstances and emerge an overcomer.


In conversations with her Mother, Fiona shared with me that her Mother once told her, “Your life reminds me of a river – a river never smooth”. Fiona credits her mother with naming the book. For some people, that’s so true. But, like Fiona, we can take that “never smooth river” and redirect it for our own good and to help others traveling that same river.

I feel that Fiona and her story is a very, very powerful one that needs to be told and heard. Look below for an upcoming Global Launch Party on January 26, 2020. You can register for this Launch experience at this link –

Dating Abuse Statistics., Accessed October 13, 2019. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Get the Facts & Figures. resources/statistics/, Accessed October 13, 2019.



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4800 Block of Griscom is a window into the city’s battle against gun violence

Mike Newall from the Inquirer did a very good story on my old neighbors on the 4800 block of Griscom.

The problems there are pretty well know but solutions have not been forthcoming.  The neighbors decided to try something new.

Every block has its rhythms. For so long, on the 4800 block of Griscom Street in Frankford, the daily rhythms were decided by drug dealers: a group of about 20 men who, on hot summer days, often stood in the shade under the trees near the Alonzos’ house, where Saul, a 33-year-old construction worker from Guatemala, lives with his wife and two young daughters.

Like other parents on Griscom, Alonso told his children the gunshots they heard were fireworks.

Read the rest of the story at his link.

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Baby Grayson Finally Comes Home

Before & After
Prevailing Hereditary Diseases
By Sophia H. Lewis “Nana”

Grayson with mom Kyra

By the grace of our faith, we as grandparents expect the new births of our continuous blood lines of generations to be uninterrupted without ever having to face complications. I beg to differ. My grandson, Grayson, was born a beautiful baby boy. Then a few short weeks later, a severe medical condition called Cardiomyopathy drastically affected my grandson’s life and then God performed His miracles and blessings.

Grayson had no prior signs or symptoms that indicated he was about to become gravely ill. There was no way for him to alert his parents that his tiny body was soon about to endure the fight of his life. Late one night in August, Grayson started with a grunting breathing sound. I said to my daughter, a first-time mother, “Grayson’s breathing sounds a bit unusual. “  She immediately called the pediatrician and he suggested taking him to the nearest emergency room.

As the family sat and waited, the last thing to ever cross our minds was for my daughter to come out to the waiting room of the ER to announce to us that Grayson needed intubation ASAP! I gasped for air. Every second became valuable just like that. Once he was placed on the respirator, his status changed drastically. His blood pressure skyrocketed, glucose levels plummeted, and his heart was being challenged.

Emergency transport was arranged to move him to another hospital, over 60 plus miles from his hometown. The ambulance not only raced against time but also against the heavy rainy weather which ruled out any chance that he could be air lifted to the much-needed children’s hospital. As my daughter rode in the ambulance with her extremely sick child, her husband and the rest of us drove through the rainy night on the dark country Carolina roads. You best believe prayers were expressed with each passing mile.

Now my grandson Grayson was in the care and hands of the doctors and nurses who specialized in newborn serious health conditions. All sorts of tests were done to rule out the various possible diagnosis. Before we looked up, days had passed by and Grayson’s condition began to go downhill steadily. Once he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a whole new set of challenges hit his tiny body.

It was touch and go as they attempted to get him off the breathing tube. I recall one doctor saying, “we will have to listen to Grayson to tell his story rather than try to write one for him” I realized at that point, it was going to take a miracle for Grayson.

He endured seizures, a stroke, a bleeding blood clot in the brain and the worst, cardiac arrest. The healthcare team worked endlessly around the clock, adjusting the various medications and treatments taking hm towards his wellness.

Each day was a ray of hope for restoration. After a little over two months, day by day, the assistive devices began to disappear. The last item removed was the NG feeding tube. It had taken quite the effort for him to regain the ability to latch back onto breast feeding.

Grayson was discharged on September 15th and he is back home and settled in enjoying the comfort of his home with his mother and father. He has a lot of maintenance medications but on that same note he has met many goals while becoming stronger. This has been a difficult life experience, as I watched him fight like the true warrior he is.

We don’t know how we will turn out once we are born. To prevail over uncontrollable conditions shows that we are conquerors, when we expend energy fighting for our lives despite the hand we are dealt. My grandson Grayson is a fine example of strength.

God held him in His arms the entire time of this ordeal. Maybe the only lasting outcome that might affect Grayson is to tire more quickly than others his age but that is yet to be seen. I say this because now as he lives with a minimal to mild stridor, wheezing sound caused by disrupted airflow, after all he had endured.

I recognize God being present the entire time. One last thing, all the supportive prayers have been answered. God Blessed Grayson with miracle after miracle and we, his family, are forever grateful.

For more information about infant cardiomyopathy follow this link.

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(GAR) Grand Army of the Republic Looks to Relocate

The Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library on Griscom street is looking to relocate.

From the Summer edition of the Grand Army Scout newsletter.  Follow this link for the complete newsletter:

Joe Perry

GAR Scout_summer_2019 In 1958, when the Ruan House was purchased on Griscom Street (4278 Griscom Street)grand army, I was 10 years old and living in the Frankford neighborhood not far from the Museum. I walked near the Museum on my way to the Frankford Boys Club and to Boy Scout meetings. In 1960 my brother and I saw the movie “Pretty Boy Floyd” at the Holiday Theater that now stands empty around the corner from the Museum. I used the Free Library’s Frankford Branch and attended Frankford High School.

When the Museum opened to the public in 1985, neither I nor any of my friends had ever heard of the GAR Museum. Therein lies the problem. The Museum that preserves the history of the greatest crisis that faced our nation is mostly known only to the Civil War community and few others. Look around and you will realize that the advancing years of those active in our Civil War community is a real concern. We are responsible for the preservation of the history of those who fought the battles and for those civilians who supported them. We know what they did to end slavery and preserve the Union, but do we know who will continue to run the Museum?

Our Museum is now faced with its greatest crisis. We are just holding our own with building maintenance, but the costs of keeping this old house are very high. The Museum’s neighborhood and location are driving visitors and volunteers away from our doors. We need to relocate.

Other museums are facing the same difficulties. You may have heard of the closing of the Philadelphia History Museum. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is having problems. On the positive side the National Constitution Center has opened a permanent Civil War and Reconstruction Exhibit this year. The size of the Exhibit is the same as the GAR Museum.

We need greater support for our Museum like that received for the Museum of the American Revolution, The Barnes Foundation and the USS New Jersey.

The GAR Museum now has only ninety-seven (97) paying members which include nine (9) Board Members and five (5) additional volunteers. We cannot maintain the Museum with so few. As Churchill once said, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” We need to ask ourselves why and how we can get greater support. The best way, and I believe the only way, is to move the Museum to a new location that will be conveniently located and easier to maintain.

The Museum’s Board of Directors is moving forward. We will find a way to do this, but we need your help. Let us hear from you. We are exploring several locations along Roosevelt Blvd. near the Laurel Hill Cemetery and other Philadelphia locations.

Many have served the Museum and have accomplished a great deal, most notably Hugh Boyle. Hugh has set us on the right course to the future and as a Board member he will continue with us. I have been asked to assume his role and I am thankful for the opportunity. I will do my best to carry on, with the few, these happy few, we band of volunteers. For those today that give their time with me, shall be my brothers and sisters.

Joe Perry