WURD celebrates its founder and Black women in politics

Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician, tending to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968. (AP Photo)

Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician, tending to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968. (AP Photo)

Today is Founder’s Day at WURD, Philadelphia’s only Black talk radio station, created 18 years ago by Dr. Walter P. Lomax, a Black physician, entrepreneur and philanthropist in Philadelphia who died in 2012 at 81 years old.

In his honor, the radio station is broadcasting a day of panel discussions and interviews about topics important to Lomax. The two pillars of Dr. Lomax’s public life were physical health and economic wealth. He advocated on behalf of Philadelphia’s Black community on both fronts, building a string of medical clinics and investing heavily in Black-owned businesses.

“We know right now, with COVID 19, that is so relevant and pressing,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, president and CEO of WURD, and Lomax’s daughter. “The Black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 from a health standpoint and an economic standpoint. These things have converged in a very powerful way.”

African Americans are statistically less likely to be able to withstand long-term unemployment caused by the pandemic, and are more likely to hold essential jobs that require them to interact with the public, making them more likely to get exposed to the virus.

Because of the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread Black Lives Matter protests this summer, issues of Black health and wealth are dovetailing with issues of police violence.

These are issues that have been on the front-burner of WURD for many years.

“‘No rest for the weary’ is the theme for us at WURD,” said Lomax-Reese. “Yes, there’s this incredible convergence and urgency, but we have been talking about police brutality and systemic oppression since we started in 2002.”

Kamala Harris becoming the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket has become another major topic of conversation in the past ten days. WURD radio host Andrea Lawful Sanders hosted a midday panel of local Black woman elected officials.

State Rep. Morgan Cephas admitted she had no experience in campaigning when she decided to run for the legislature in 2018. She now represents Pennsylvania’s 192nd district, including Overbrook and Millbourne in West Philadelphia. Cephas credits her victory to the assistance of She Can Win, an organization supporting women in politics.

“One of the best experiences that I got out of running for office was understanding and owning my story as an African American woman,” said Cephas. “I had an opportunity to work in City Council and I didn’t realize you didn’t have real Republicans. But up in Harrisburg you have real Republicans and you are constantly reminded that you are a woman of color in Harrisburg, and that you come with the issues of your community on your back.”

Also on the radio panel was City Councilmember Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who believes Black women are poised to make a significant impact in politics.

“In a post-COVID world, where time is lives, we no longer have the luxury of sitting back and saying, ‘Process is going to take us to the right place,’” said Quinones-Sanchez. “Look at Philadelphia and Black women: when we run, we win.”

Host Sanders led the Black women elected officials in a discussion across a range of issues, including gun violence and poverty. The panel, which was organized around the occasion of the 100th anniversary of passing the 19th Amendment ensuring women had the right to vote, came back around to the importance of voting.

Councilmember Kendra Brooks stressed that this year, in particular, voting is critical.

“If you want a resolution to gun violence, you need to vote. COVID, the recession: who would best serve your needs if elected? We know the man in the White House has not served the Black community,” Brooks said. “We need to make sure we’re touching the young generation, 18-35, folks who never gave a damn about voting, folks that were told suddenly that they are essential employees: we need to let them know this is the time to activate their essentialness.”

Founder’s Day is normally held as an in-person event at the Free Library of Philadelphia, with a job fair and a health and wellness fair. Although Dr. Lomax had to be celebrated strictly over the airwaves this year, next year WURD hopes to once again hold a large-scale, in-person event.

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