Pictures of past community events at Germantown’s Waring House greeted local families to the East Penn Street site on Saturday as they arrived to fill bags with school supplies donated by the Wister Neighborhood Council.
Anita Hamilton and Debra White Roberts, leaders of the WNC which is working to restore the community site, sported pink hard hats — a signature of WNC — as they poured markers, pencils, notebooks and construction paper into bags for neighborhood families.
“It’s a blessing,” Melisha Brown said as she glanced at her bag. “At my son’s school, we have to pay for everything. School supplies, textbooks and uniforms. This was just like a big coupon.”
Shawde Wood agreed, saying the event was a good idea in light of the nation’s economic climate.
“Nowadays, it’s been real hard to come across school supplies,” Wood said. “It’s been kind of hard. And [the bag] helped me save a lot of money.”
Noted Chanel Devlin, “My daughter has 15 things on her list. It’s ridiculous!”
Brown, Wood and Devlin collectively agreed that the WNC is a community driven group.
“It keeps people together,” Wood said. “I’ve lived in this community for maybe over 20 years. I’ve been here and we’ve been through so many things as a community.
“Watch it go up. Watch it go down and try and put it back together,” she continued. “The most important thing is to show them your respect. Show people that you’re here to encourage them.”
Added Devlin, “I would love to help to rehabilite this building. We need something positive to go on.”
Activism at the Saturday event
Also at the gathering were several social and political activists in support of Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a life sentence without parole in Georgia.
Adàn X and Not4Prophet, members of a New York City political hip-hop group X-Vandals, came to perform in support. Not4Prophet sang an A capella version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” to the crowd.
“It’s a good cause,” Adàn X said. “It may sound cliché, but one of the big things is this idea of community. When people come together, all of sudden, things that seemed impossible seem possible.
“I’m just marveling at how big and spacious [the Waring House] is,” he continued. “We see potential. We see gardens. We see businesses. We see things for the community and for young people. With the right spirit, enough of imagination and hard work, anything becomes possible.”
Despite growing up in New York, X has a personal connection to Germantown. His father is from the neighborhood and the house he owned is where X has lived for about two years.
“Even though I’m not from Philly, I spent so many Thanksgivings and Christmases [here],” X said. “In this neighborhood, especially, it kind of feels like home.”
Pam Africa — who has a personal connection to WNC leadership — lauded the community work being done on East Penn Street and beyond.
“It’s just amazing to see that they took on a project like this to try to make this something for the community,” Africa said. “When you look around the community, it’s nothing like this. It’s nothing like sitting under a tree right here and listen to one of the elders tell a story.”
Noted Wood, “The main thing was that they were giving back to the community and we came to participate and show our faces.”