“Urbi et Orbi”

“It’s not your standard bus tour. For three hours, passengers on the Drug War Reality Tour ride through North Philadelphia’s neighborhood of Kensington, seldom disembarking to see the sights on this trail of smuggling and addiction.

A short ride from Philadelphia’s Center City, the neighborhood has come to be synonymous with extreme poverty, drugs, the sex trade, and violence in the minds of many in the city.

Local textile jobs have long since gone to cheaper labor in the South and abroad. Boarded-up houses line the streets, lots stand vacant, and shops string razor wire along their rooftops to ward off burglars. Most of the businesses – liquor stores, pawnshops, check-cashing offices, and inexpensive Latin American or Chinese eateries – cater exclusively to the very poor.

But there’s another local economy in Kensington, though it’s an illegal one. The drug trade, says bus-tour organizer Arun Prabhakaran, is second only to public assistance as the major source of income in the neighborhood.”

CSMonitor, on Kensington, about the neighborhood and those fighting to change things.

I have a personal history here. It drove me to write this song. I wrote a letter to the CSMonitor, thanking them for the story. In it I told them that those who work to bring hope to such a dark place are fighting the good fight.

It’s something to consider for the local mayoral elections ahead. While I have issues with many Mayor Street initiatives, the Safe Streets program is helping to make Philadelphia a safer place. I think we are due for a party change for mayor. 50 years is long enough. But will Sam Katz keep this valuable, if expensive, program going? He mentions the scant evidence of a rise in arrests. But it’s not about arrests. It’s about kids being able to play on the streets. It’s about neighbors being able to linger on their front porches and talk to one another. It’s about being able to walk to school and fear your grades more then getting shot! That is the greatest achievement of the Safe Streets program. That’s no small feat. No small feat at all. It deserves recognition.

“Urbi et Orbi” – “(May there be) peace in other parts of the world, where forgotten wars and protracted hostilities are causing deaths and injuries amid silence and neglect on the part of considerable sectors of public opinion” Pope opens Easter Sunday mass with call to work tirelessly for peace. A message just as well for Kensington as for the Middle East.

May you have a happy, and reflective, Easter.