By Mazzie Casher
To all mayoral and city council candidates in America’s poorest large city…
One of you will be the 100th mayor of the city where America was born. If you and the City Council are not aspiring to enshrine the example of the transformation that all majority Black and Brown cities should follow, why are you running?
The goal of this letter is to give you a vision of how Philadelphia will operate by 2050 if you make it a priority to enact a process to bring about socioeconomic parity along racial lines. You could consider using the model applied to Philadelphia 2035, which in 2011 gave us a vision for how the city would look in 25 years. In fact, your plan for 2050 should surpass that level of research, planning, and attention to detail in long-range implementation.
The population of people of color in Philadelphia is 65% — a group America has normalized as “other.”.” We are 44% African American, 14% Latino, and 7% Asian — this is a Black and Brown town. Until race is no longer a factor in this nation, the persecution of minorities will continue. The major services provided by local government and industry must reflect and represent our population.
Racism and poverty have many causes — ending both requires a determined 25-year minimum effort led by the 100th mayor. Within our rights, we are entitled to the best educational, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities. As mayor, it is your responsibility to ensure that we are afforded these necessities.
As mayor, you should guarantee that our collective capacity is harnessed for prosperity. Employment and business opportunities in the Philadelphia region should be distributed proportionately according to race, excellence in education and training, internships, and mentorships. Your policies should ensure that people of color are prepared to enter any profession and are able to launch any enterprise. All barriers should be removed from education, social advancement, and employment for poor people and people of color.
At this point, you and other readers may ask, “Why is this the vision for Philadelphia in 2050?” You only need to take a stroll through City Hall’s North Arcade. Walk south on Broad Street from Arch Street. Just as the cool shadows overtake you on the way to the courtyard, take a look to your left — there is a plaque that bears William Penn’s prayer for Philadelphia:
“And thou, Philadelphia, the virgin settlement of this province – named before thou wert born – what love, what care, what service and what travail, there have been to bring thee forth and to preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee. Oh that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee; that faithful to the God of thy mercies, in the life of righteousness, thou mayest be preserved to the end. My soul prays to God for thee that thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest and thy people saved by His power.”
This 339-year-old prayer has yet to be answered. Penn’s vision is still valid. For him, Pennsylvania was a “holy experiment,” a place where persecuted minorities could coexist in peace. Hence, the City of Brotherly Love. You, as the 100th mayor of Philadelphia, should be the vehicle for this reality to manifest at last. If you cannot wrap your mind around it, then drop out of the race now!
Your first piece of legislation needs to proclaim, “Reset with long-term implications!” From day one, you should ensure that young Philadelphians are equipped to join you and future administrations in the great rebirth. For the 2050 generation, it would be as important as the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
If those fateful utterances were written down in today’s Philadelphia, the folks meeting to hash them out would be 65% Black and Brown. The occupational makeup of the everyday citizens who decided to do something revolutionary was rich and varied. Just about 50% of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were lawyers or had some legal training. Another substantial portion were businessmen and manufacturers, physicians, and other professionals. Still another portion were regular people, skilled laborers, and middle managers. They may have even worked for SEPTA, PGW, or Comcast today.
For those reasons, your policies regarding education should include the following:
• All public and private schools in Philadelphia offer the following three tracks for students of all ages. Students would move freely between the tracks depending upon their interests.
• College track—high level college prep for all children.
• Vocations & trades—competency in vocational training in partnership with unions and employers to ensure professional success.
• Entrepreneurship—starting and running a business.
• The school day would end at 6 p.m. Time after 3 p.m. would be dedicated to culturally relevant rites of passage: social enrichment and practical life skills (emotional intelligence, relationship building, etc.).
• The economic potential of Philadelphia would be maximized with local talent. Local industries should prepare children for the jobs of the current and future job markets in industries in the region. Students should acquire the skills needed to succeed in those industries, including middle and executive levels.
• The School Board would be voted in by general election, and teachers should reflect the racial composition, share cultural values, and live experiences of the students they serve.
• Parenting classes should be an extension of public education. A parenting curriculum should support and align the values of home and school life and help parents raise successful children.
• All neighborhoods, especially those with the lowest median income, would have the finest libraries and recreational and cultural centers. Facilities would be fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and be fully staffed with mentor-minded personnel.
You would have fulfilled your pledge to the school-age children across the city — to value and protect their lives, to adequately educate them, to provide the opportunities that would give them a fulfilling life, as opposed to them recovering from trauma or addiction or becoming “justice-involved.”
Speaking of justice involvement, your aim should be eliminating the disparities in urban policing once and for all. Police should be required to live in neighborhoods where they patrol. In the first few years on the force, they should live in rookie housing (in lower income sections) and gradually earn increased specialized benefits such as consideration on tax incentives or vouchers, subsidized housing, and free tuition at local universities for their dependents. Even more vital, it would be illegal for an officer to aim above the waist when discharging their service weapon.
The police and fire departments, municipal government, the School District including the Board, and all of the largest local employers — the Comcasts, University of Pennsylvanias, Jeffersons, and CHOPs; the most influential media outlets: CBS3, 6ABC, NBC10, Fox29 and iHeart Radio, as well as the largest banks and lending institutions — all of these, from the mailroom to the boardroom, must reflect the real Philadelphia. As the 100th mayor of Philadelphia, you must lead and inspire the greatest of these institutions to serve the least of our citizens.
I humbly request an opportunity to meet with each of you to discuss these issues in a meaningful way.
Mazzie Casher | Love Spreader
Mazzie Casher is the cofounder, CEO and executive director of PHILLY TRUCE FOUNDATION.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.
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