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The Buck Starts Here

There have been 77 Aggravated Assaults with a Firearm so far this year in the 15th District, PSA1 according to Philly Blotter.  Aggravated assault is police talk for “somebody got shot”.  In addition, there have been 10 homicides.  But this is only half the story.  There probably have been as many instances of gunshots being heard in Frankford, sometimes fired randomly and others missing their targets.  It is not a pretty picture.

With that in mind, Nashid Edwards, Frankford resident, and activist in the anti-violence movement called a community meeting on November 13th at Gambrel Recreation Center.  The room was filled with residents who have clearly had enough of the status quo.  The big question was what to do.

The consensus was that this violence is all drug related and all agreed that drugs are not going to go away.  Drugs are not new but the violence is.

So after lengthy discussions from all participants, it was agreed that the group would work on the guys on the corner who have decided to go into the drug trade.  There are different situations that put them on those corners.  Some can be turned around with the right help and the group will work on that project beginning next year.

The next meeting is scheduled for January 3rd at 7 PM at Gambrel Recreation Center, Ditman and Wakeling Streets.  To read more about the meeting, follow this link to the story by Jack Tomczuk of the Northeast Times.

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Focus on Frankford: Nashid (Butchie) Edwards

By: Lisa A. Forrest

NASHID EDWARDS-Community Devotee/Enthusiast

Nashid “Butchie” Edwards, was a terror as a teenager and young man. He sold drugs, abused drugs and did many of the negative things that drug abusers do to get money for their habit; burglary, robbery, theft and deception. After being addicted to crack cocaine for 22 years, he just got tired of that lifestyle. He got off of drugs using AA’s, yes Alcoholics Anonymous’, 12 Step Program, and never looked back.

Fast forward to today, he is now the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the community organization that we have created, and the most active member in our organization, Concerned Citizens for a Better Frankford. Our goal is to empower the community and its children through education, awareness and learning a skill to fall back on. He is also, his elderly mothers’ caretaker, and has primary custody of his 3 young sons. He has gone from ultimate “bad boy”, to a man of heartfelt redemption. He has come a long way.

Nashid at Comcast Cares Day at the Boys and Girls Club

Nashid at Comcast Cares Day at the Boys and Gi.rls club

Nashid is a short statured, brown skinned, 50 something year old black man who wears thick lensed eyeglasses. He is always neatly dressed and well-coordinated from his many baseball caps, to his matching sneakers, to his polo shirts. It’s almost unusual to see him without his three sons, unless they are in school. He walks with a smooth stride and never seems to be in a hurry to do anything. Although he has a lot on his daily agenda, you would never know it until he says “Are we done here? I have somewhere that I need to be”.

He walks everywhere that he goes, and that keeps him in good physical shape. He is well known throughout the community. You can almost always tell in what era a person knows him from by the name that they call him. “Butchie” is his nickname from a young boy. “28” is his Muslim name from back when he was a part of the NOI (Nation of Islam), more commonly known as the Black Muslims. They used numbers to represent their names and placing from when they joined the NOI. If you were the 5th John that joined the NOI in Philadelphia, then your name would be John 5X. The 5X replaced your last name which was a forced name from slavery/history. Or you would hear people call him Nashid, the name that he uses now to represent the man that he has become. He is no longer Butchie or 28, but he never corrects anyone that uses those names to identify or call out to him, because he says that they are still a part of who he is.

Butchie was always a “bad boy” in our neighborhood. He told me, to my amusement, that he became a bad boy because he was tired of one of my brothers bullying him. He told me that my brother used to pick on him and take his candy until he couldn’t take it anymore. So he fought my brother back one day, and they became friends after that. And that was the beginning of his bad boy days. Also, I might add, in order to survive without getting picked on in our neighborhood, you had to show that you were fearless. And one of the best ways for a kid to do that is to act tuff or do bad boy things. So his bad boy antics eventually sent him away, at the age of 14, to St. Gabriel’s school for boys. One of his assignments while there, was to do a book report on religion. He chose to do one on Islam, and decided that was the religion that he wanted to practice. When he came home after doing his time at the all boys’ school, he went to the Muslim Temple and converted to Islam from Christianity.

He became a member of the NOI, an American sect of the Islamic religion of different nations around the world, but mostly in the Middle East and Africa. The religion that he now practices devoutly, along with being an Imam (someone that gives sermons, marries other Muslims, oversees funerals, etc). Somewhere along the line while in his teens, Nashid picked up the drug trade to make money. He wanted the street life of nice cars, women, money, etc. And he also broke a cardinal rule of street hustling, “Don’t get high on your own supply”. He used and became addicted to the drugs that he was selling.

Butchie and I grew up as family, even though I didn’t know him well, but well enough to speak to him. His mother is my mothers’ cousin. I got married at a young age and left our community of Frankford for a few years. So I hadn’t heard anything about him for many years, until we connected on Facebook, a couple of years back, and became very good friends. We had many conversations about many different interests and concerns. During our conversations, I relayed my ideas of a desire to create an organization to go back to our home town and help to implement change. I could no longer sit back and watch as our community sank deeper into a cesspool of drugs and violence. He was on board from day one and was instrumental in helping me to organize our group.

So it’s been quite a few months now and Nashid has become the most active member of our group. He has brought to us the many concerns of the community and has acted on everything that has been brought to him. We support him in all that he does individually, as a group, but he has been going above and beyond because he is the only one in our group that actually lives there. So the people in the community come to him with all kinds of issues and he handles them, or gives direction as to how the person should handle it. One Sunday morning he calls me up to say “Lisa, I’ve got people knocking on my door 8:00 Sunday morning”. I laughed a bit uncontrollably, because that was the moment that I knew that he had made his mark as a community devotee/enthusiast. After I regained my composure, I asked “What did she want?” he had already let me know that it was a lady. She wanted him to know that she had a nuisance situation, and that she wanted his help. As we laughed together, about the seriousness of someone coming to his home at 8:00am on a Sunday, he let me know that he gladly gave her information to help her.

Finally, when I called Nashid up to do an interview for this story, I asked him a lot of deeply personal questions. And he never hesitated to answer not one. I have gained even more respect for the man that he is, because he is not embarrassed about the man that he was. That shows some serious personal growth. He says that our group has lit a fire under him that gives him joy in giving back to the community. The community that he used to be such a terror in. And I am so proud of the man that he has become.

About the author: I was born and raised in Frankford, but I now live in Boothwyn Pa. and have been living there for the past 12 years. I am a member of the Forrest family of Frankford, and many people knew my father, Doctor “Doc” Forrest. I am a 52 year old mother to three grown daughters, and 4 grandchildren (3 girls and 1 boy). I have been a retail store manager for over 25 years, and I decided to go back to school in 2012, to get my Bachelors degree in Business Administration. A journey that I am enjoying immensely.

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Frankford Needs a Supermarket

There has been some talk about the Thriftway closing next year.  Rite Aid Has owned the property for several years and has opted to exercise its right to not renew the lease.  They plan to demolish the existing structure and build a new Rite Aid.  This will leave Frankford without a supermarket.

That is a big story in Frankford but it is only part of a larger picture.  The area around the FTC (Frankford Transportation Center) has been identified as the place most likely to attract developers.  They are the people who build things like shopping centers and housing.  The CDC has walked through the neighborhood with some of these guys and they all say the FTC is the place to start.  The CDC does not invest money to get these things done; they get developers interested in doing them.  That is part of their job.

So when news that SEPTA was going to do a construction project in the 5100 block of Frankford Avenue it sounded like an opportunity.  The project is to build a backup control center and also a break room for SEPTA FTC employees.  It would all on that empty space between Frankfod Ave. and Griscon between Pratt and Dyre.

Meetings were held, discussions between SEPTA and the CDC took place and some form of understanding that the community’s need for a supermarket at that location would be included in the project.

At the Frankford Business and Professional Association meeting on June 23, a SEPTA representative revealed that they are about to break ground on the project and there is no provision for space for a supermarket.

Kim Washington, The Executive Director of the CDC, went into action.  The SEPTA board was having a public meeting on Thursday, June 25th.  With only 2 days’ notice, she got 35 residents who agreed to attend the meeting with her. They met at the CDC office on Griscom Street all wearing pink shirts with the words “Stop Executing very Poor Thoughtless Action”.

The meeting began at 3PM and at 3:30 it was adjourned.  Washington rose to object saying she had to address the board.  She spoke for about 6 minutes which you will find at this link.

What followed was an hour long discussion between Francis Kelly, Assistant General Manager of Public & Government Affairs and Kim Washington, Gary McLaughlin, Jennifer Powell-Folks and Nashid Edwards speaking for Frankford.  The Frankford folks did a great job of making their case.IMG_1591

SEPTA says they cannot change their plans because they have already awarded contracts, Federal funding is approved for this location and project and any change could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.

Frankford argues that SEPTA is in this situation because of its own mistakes and should do the right thing to correct them.

SEPTA asks if the Rite Aid site is big enough for a Rite Aid and a supermarket.  It is big enough for the buildings but would not have room for parking.

SEPTA asks if the property on 5100 block of Griscom (presently employee parking between Griscom and Penn).  The property is but the streets are residential and not big enough for tractor trailer delivery.

Frankford proposes that the project be redesigned to make it a 2 story building with a supermarket on the ground floor and SEPTA use of the second floor.  SEPTA says this would be a major redesign that would cost a lot of money.

Frankford proposes that the SEPTA building go over on the lot with the new Rite Aid.  There is enough room for those two buildings.  SEPTA says the funding is for the building to go where it is planned to go and changing it will cost a fortune.

The lack of communication with the Frankford community is the real heart of the matter.  A SEPTA representative attends the Frankford Business and Professional Association meetings routinely but SEPTA maintains that they met their obligation of notifying the community by advising Philadelphia City Council and posting public notices in the newspapers about the project.  That does not sound like a solid community partnership.

While you might expect that from a corporation in the private sector, SEPTA is a public agency.

There was no resolution at the meeting but they did commit to meet again.  Further news will be forthcoming.

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New Leadership Team is Transforming the Frankford Boys and Girls Club

During the last year, a new leadership team has taken over at the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club.  The results show in the newly painted walls and renovated spaces.  More importantly, there is a subtle change in direction from when the Club primarily offered day care services to today as a haven for kids 6 to 18 emphasizing the core programs of the organization: Arts & Culture; Character & Leadership; Education & Career Development; Health & Life Skills and Sports, Recreational & Fitness.

Since 1938 the club has occupied the former William W. Axe School building at 1709 Kinsey Street.  The 110 year old building is on the National Register of Historic places.  As with any building of its age, its needs constant repair and upkeep and the Boys and Girls Clubs have not been financially able to provide that support.

Late in 2012 the Concerned Citizens for a Better Frankford got involved in the club.  Many of their members were former Club members and did not like seeing the deterioration of the building and lack of programs.

taylor and miller

Rev. Dr. George F. Taylor and Clarence Miller

Earlier this year, Clarence Miller returned to the Club as Unit Director and began to shake things up.  He reconstituted the Advisory Council with Reverend Dr. George F. Taylor a 37 year veteran of the Boys and Girls Club as chair.

Nashid Edwards, Chief Operating Office for Concerned Citizens for a Better Frankford, and other former club members hold seats on the council.  The plan is to make up for lost time and refurbish the Club building.  Two successful fund raisers have been  held and It was through those efforts that the improvements to the building have been made.  There is still a lot to be done and the council will be laying out a strategic plan for next year’s activities.

While the Advisory Council is completely formed, help is still needed to participate in various subcommittees.  Those are groups formed to take on particular tasks like painting, fundraising etc.

Denise Matza is a Unit Director along with Clarence Miller.  Matza focusses primarily on programming for the kids.  She has only been on board in Frankford for a few months but has quickly grown to love the Club.  The Club philosophy comes through Matza very clearly “The main thing we provide is relationship building.  The Boys and Girls Clubs believe that building relationships is the first foundation before you teach them anything”.

With that foundation, the club offers after school care (accepts CCIS clients) from 2 to 6PM and teen programming from 7 to 9PM.  With the demise of three other locations that served the youth of our community (PAL, Salvation Army and Frankford Y) these programs are more needed than at any other time.

In addition, a formal literacy program is in place within the after school program under the direction of Chris Gale.  Each participant is assessed three times a year.  They utilize the DIBELS assessments and report card grades to track the members’ progress. The kids learn while having fun and the program does suggest that is has helped participants improve school performance.

club team

Nashid Edwards, Denise Matza and Chris Gale

There is a Tiny Tots instructional basketball program on Saturdays.  During the week the club offers teens “passport to manhood” and “smart girls”.  Other community organizations have begun to come to the Club to use the facilities for youth oriented programs.  Northeast EPIC Stakeholders has one ongoing at this time.

The Club will be cooperating with EPIC and the Frankford CDC in a coat drive in November.  A toy drive for club members is also on the calendar for December.  They will also be on hand for the great Frankford Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Holiday Thriftway on December 5th.

For more information about the programs at the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club, you may call Denise Matza at 215.743.7515


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Building Bridges For Learning!


A Virginia Beach school reaches out to Frankford

Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel lies Virginia Beach, VA. I have a friend who is a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and she is a Digital Learning Resource teacher at St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in VA Beach. My friend knows that I will take items people are giving away and find them a good home. One of the fourth grade teachers knew that I had taken materials before and asked me if I would like a classroom set of Reading textbooks as they were updating their books. I said, “Sure”. She decided it would be a good time to clean out her closet as well. Soon, the Assistant Principal learned about this and offered all of the old Reading textbooks, manuals, testing materials and supplementary materials from Kindergarten through Grade 4 – over 400 books. Hmm, what to do? Who would want them?

My husband, Bob, you also know him as the Editor of the Frankford Gazette, told me about Nashid Edwards, the co-founder of Concerned Citizens for a Better Frankford. Nashid and his organization have partnered with Stearne School, to help and support them teaching our neighborhood children. I contacted Nashid to see if he would be interested, he contacted the Principal of Stearne and “Yes” was the answer. These books, posters, big books, flashcards, testing materials, etc., could be used as supplementary materials in school and home.

The next step was figuring out how to bring these materials here. Bob and I would drive our RV down to Virginia Beach, load up the RV and bring them home – to Nashid and Stearne. Little did we know, that St. Gregory staff had heard about our coming for these materials and they decided to “pay it forward” by donating more surplus they no longer needed or used that might help other students. By the time Bob and I arrived in Virginia Beach, I think this picture tell the story. Make sure you look down the hallway on the right. There were even boxes behind those yellow doors.

Size of donation

Bob and I could only bring one-half of all of these materials back in our RV. There were 2 tons by the time these generous souls had gathered and boxed up everything. The joy each felt that these materials would be used and would continue to encourage students’ learning was something to see and something never to forget. We packed up our RV and headed home. (At some point we must return to bring up the rest of the “goodies”.)

When we returned, Nashid and his organization were ready to unload, sort and put everything to good use. But every good story has a “back story”. On the way down to Virginia

(l-r) Nashid Edwards, Richard Cook, Pete Specos and Wayne Sledge

(l-r) Nashid Edwards, Richard Cook, Pete Specos and Wayne Sledge

Beach, Bob slipped and fell on some oil at a gas station and injured his neck damaging some nerves that affect his eating, drinking and speech. As I write this story, he’s in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for diagnosis and treatment. We are confident of a full recovery and are grateful for all the prayers and support of family and friends.

Wayne Sledge, member of the 1st graduating class in 1968

Richard Cook, member of the 1st graduating class in 1968

As Bob didn’t feel well, Pete Specos, was kind enough to drive the RV (I could drive through the Bay Bridge Tunnel but I wasn’t confident of some of our very narrow Frankford streets) down to Stearne to make the final delivery.

When St. Joachim RC Church closed last summer, many of the parishioners stayed together because of our sense of community. We organized and titled a new nonprofit organization, Keep the Faith in Frankford. This was not just about our church but about ourselves and believing that we can mkae a difference right where we are. We believe that and Concerned Citizens for A Better Frankford believe that, too. I titled this story to show that from start to finish, this was an effort and collaboration between organizations and people who did not know each other but who are in the business of building strong minds. This can only happen if we work together for the good of all of our children.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel photo: