Stand Up. Take the Pledge.

The Philadelphia Children’s Alliance issued a call to action today. PCA, which seeks justice for victims of child sexual abuse, called on everyone to pledge not to stay silent, but to report child sex abuse. At a news conference today in Center City, Philadelphia, PCA unveiled a pledge it hopes everyone will embrace.  (The pledge is farther down below.) Joining PCA today were the Philadelphia Soul and the Greater Media radio group.  I’ve been involved with the Alliance for a few years and was also asked to make a few statements and lead folks in the pledge.  The Soul is donating to PCA some of the proceeds from every ticket sold for the home opener against Cleveland on April 1st.  The 5 stations of Greater Media will be talking about the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance and urging you to take the pledge and support the cause. Ron Jaworski, part-owner of the Soul, hopes everyone will, “Stand up and be sure that people are aware that sexual abuse of our children is taking place. Don’t be quiet. Let the authorities know.”  The great Olympian Carl Lewis told me, “This is not just about someone else’s family. This is about all of our families, all of our communities. So, we need to come together.”  Here’s the pledge:

“If I see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, I will not keep silent.  I will have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy and shame that should never define a child’s life.” 

If you see a child being abused, please call 911 immediately.

Joe Paterno

I met Joe and Sue Paterno only once. It was at a Special Olympics of Pennsylvania fundraiser at which I was the emcee and the Paternos were the honorees.  A photo of the coach and me still sits among other pictures on the bookshelf in my office.  It was taken at the end of a fun, genuine evening, in which Coach Paterno and his wife were recognized for some of the ways they have spent their time and money, making better the lives of thousands of young people in Pennsylvania.  Coach and I engaged in good-natured, competitive banter throughout evening.  For the record, he won, though I’d like to consider it a tie worthy of overtime.  Mr. and Mrs. Paterno were very gracious, even inviting my wife and me to stop by the house sometime. That kind of invitation was common from the Paternos.

My freshman year at Notre Dame was Ara Parseghian’s last year as head football coach. He was so highly respected on campus that when students were tired of the South Bend snow, some would look to the sky and say, “Ara, stop the snow.”  Success in football brings adoration, but, some coaches, as other educators, also earn respect through their ability to teach, to lead by example and to inspire.

As I think about Mr. Paterno’s life and passing, I believe that the Penn State community and the larger society will eventually understand and accurately describe the life of Joe Paterno.  For now, I join many others in offering my condolences to Sue Paterno and the Paterno family .

 I don’t plan on removing the photo from my shelf anytime soon.

2013 Order of Enjoyment

The String Band Division has selected its Order of March, or as I call it, the Order of Enjoyment, for the 2013 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade. This is a critically important draw as 2012 Champion Woodland String Band plots strategy of how best to defend its title and SugarHouse Casino PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Winner South Philadelphia String Band has had to battle in recent years to make an impression on the judges that will last through the entire round.

 It was a packed house in the Mummers Museum as representatives of each band selected envelopes, each containing one number.  In the draw, both Ferko and Quaker City improved their positions over 2012. Fralinger, which for 2 years has started near the beginning of the division, will in 2013 conclude the performances. Going up the street 1st will be Greater Overbrook String Band.

Here’s how it all sets up for New Year’s Day, 2013!

1. Greater O

2. Durning

3. Trilby

4. Broomall

5. South Philadelphia

6. Hegeman

7. Woodland

8. Aqua

9. Uptown

10. Polish American

11. Avalon

12. Ferko

13. Greater Kensington

14. Quaker City

15. Pennsport

16. Duffy

17. Fralinger

2012 SugarHouse Casino PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Awards

The winners of the 2012 SugarHouse Casino PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Poll have been announced at SugarHouse Casino.  Hundreds of Mummers were on hand to cheer the top finishers and enjoy the hospitality of SugarHouse.  The place was Mummin’. Woodland String Band, showing the class and polish it’s always had, serenaded the gathered as they awaited the results.  And, the results are:  Finishing 1st in the eyes and ears of the viewer’s in 2012 are South Philadelphia String Band and South Philly Vikings. This is the 7th year the viewers have been selecting their favorites in the String Band Division and the 3rd year they have been choosing their winners in the Fancy Brigade Division.

South Philadelphia String Band with its “A Tune Full of Sugar” theme wowed the viewers of the String Band Division.  The costuming and performance satisfied every sweet tooth out there.  Captain Denny Palandro delivered another solid display of showmanship.  Congratulations to Jim Browne and all at South Philadelphia.  Your confection was infectious.   SPSB also won the coveted “Custard’s Last Stand” award. That will be formally handed out at the String Band Association banquet.

Here’s the the rest of the Viewer’s Choice top 5 in the String Band Division.

Coming in 2nd with the viewers is Woodland String Band, which took 1st Prize in the official judging with its jungle theme.   3rd goes to Quaker City.  Ferko finishes 4th and Fralinger, 5th.

In the Fancy Brigade Division, South Philly Vikings won the SugarHouse Casino PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Poll with its theme “Ka’Light’Oscope: Harness The Power of the Spectrum.”  This trend-setting brigade broke new ground again with its electrifying visual artistry.  SPV also won the official judging on New Year’s Day.  Vikings Captain Pete D’amato also took 1st prize in the official judging for Captain. 

Finishing second tonight in the determination of the viewers is Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars and in 3rd place, Golden Crown.

And in a wonderful display of commitment and community spirit, SugarHouse Casino not only hosted this year’s awards ceremony, but it also donated a total of $5,000 to the Mummers Museum, $2,500 dollars in the name of each winner, South Philly Vikings and South Philadelphia String Band.

Emotional Night

Nearly 200 people gathered outside The Epiphany of Our Lord School in South Philadelphia to show how much they love the school and to express hope that a path can be found to keep it open.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia anounced last Friday that it would be closing nearly 50 elementary and high schools after this school year.  The people who gathered at 13th and Jackson were adults and children.  The adults were parents who have kids at the school now, or had them there before and saw the benefit of it.  There were also alumni and people who did not attend the school but see it as important to the well-being of the community.  Some of those on the scene were also Mummers. I saw folks from the Jester’s and the Vikings.  Sheryl Meccariello, a crossing guard at the school, tells me she had 5 kids go through Epiphany.  In Sheryl’s words, “We’re family here.”  Family was mentioned more than anything else at the rally.  “It’s a family.”  “You love your school, you love your community.”  The crowd was determined not to give up on the school they love. “It’s more than just business,” said one.  Young Julia Parmisciano, who has experienced her own miracle after getting a heart transplant,  held a sign that read, “Epiphany’s Our Life.”  Whether they have a real chance to change the plans of the Archdiocese is not known.  But, their passion to try is real.  As one child shouted, “They can’t close this school down for nothin’.”

2 Street

For those unfamiliar with the Mummers, Mummers Row is where most of the Mummers Clubs reside. This stretch of Second Street South from Washington Avenue and on to Third Street South to Wolf is the heart and soul of Mummery. It can be the friendliest corridor in the city. Mummers know that at different times throughout the year, String Bands and clubs in other divisions will march or serenade along the Row. Most of the time, this is a fun, informal experience.  But, on New Year’s night after the parade, the post-parade gathering has gotten out of hand and in my observation it is mostly not the fault of the Mummers.

On the good side, thousands and thousands of people are there in the closing hours of celebrating the New Year. String Bands, Fancy Brigades, Fancy Clubs, Wenches and Comics are coming back to their clubhouses. Some clubs who have clubhouses in other neighborhoods but want to be a part of the experience, may pass through, too. It’s also where many spouses, kids and significant others see the performing Mummers for the first time that day since the parade. It’s often where a String Band, like Woodland, and a Brigade would learn that they won. It is a special time and place as the annual tradition draws to a close. To Mummers, even though it was on a public street, it was a private, or family affair.  But, on the bad side, in reality for many years it’s been a magnet for others.  Recently, a full beer can was thrown was thrown at my head. I know, what a waste of a good beer. 

For more than a decade, the character of the night has been rapidly changing. It is wrong to say that the post-parade was always free of problems, or that over indulgence was never a problem among a few people. But, it is true to say that it it used to be a lot better. For more than a decade, the problems have been worsening. Even with the problems, it is still relatively safe when compared to some other neighborhoods in those same hours. But, unchecked, that could change and safety is not the only concern. The intimidating and frustrating problems of property damage, public urination, and loud cursing seem to be growing. Why is this happening and what can be done about it?  Is this just the price of success?  Would New Orleans complain? Can we not endure a little rowdiness? Or, do we need to do something now?

I have been on 2 Street New Year’s night most of the past 20 years and have spoken with a good many Mummers about what it is and what is should be. The residents of Mummers Row believe the big problem is that people from outside the neighborhood, with no sense of responsibility for the neighborhood, come in to do what they will. Many of these people are teenagers, underage drinkers.  These teens and young adults, often with backpacks full of beer and booze, treat Mummers Row as if it is their playground and their restroom. Some are from the area but they are coming from throughout the region. During this New Year’s Day Parade broadcast the evening was not mentioned at all.  Being quiet about this, not mentioning it, is not going to stop it. They know.

The first step in solving any problem is to face it honestly. To start cleaning up our mess we have to control our part of the mess. Among 10 thousand parading Mummers, it’s not unreasonable to think a few dozen might misbehave, but we need to address it. Some of the troublemakers have been people who are Mummers or who look like Mummers. More on that later. The main problem is irresponsible behavior, influenced by alcohol abuse and often, perhaps mostly, by people who do not live in the neighborhood. Most of the bad behavior I have witnessed has been by people who are not members of  Mummers Clubs.

The news media need to be part of the discussion. Yes, over the years, parade broadcasts and, more often, the nightly news broadcasts, talked about the 2 Street event. But that event has become a word of mouth happening, and a Texting, Facebook and Twitter event. Asking news stations to pretend that an event involving thousands of people using public streets and taxpayers money does not exist is not the answer. Even if the event were shut down, future serenades on different days might encounter similar problems given how the troublemakers communicate today. What is fair is to demand that the media not inflame or incite the attendees and not misreport what incidents do happen. For example, a small fight in a large crowd should not be called a “massive Mummers brawl.” The Mummers should not be held to a different standard, higher or lower, than any other gathering of citizens, including fans at sporting events. The Mummers also should not be blamed for actions by non Mummers, any more than we would blame one of our sports teams for the rowdiness of “fans” at a championship parade.  And finally on this point, Philadelphia needs to recognize it is because of Mummers families and clubs that some neighborhoods are as safe as they are.

Look at this child’s face.  This is what most of Mummery is about.  Happiness, family, freedom. I know that Councilman Mark Squilla wants to solve the New Year’s night problem. I believe Councilman Jim Kenney does, too. Many Mummers and non-Mummer residents of 2 Street want a solution and some of them have expressed a willingness to get the neighborhood together and begin addressing the problems.

Every idea should be treated seriously.  For example: Will police have to make mass arrests of underage drinkers? Will there be a need for a special court as there was at football games? Will there have to be tighter alcohol restrictions? Can the area be considered a block party and outsiders be kept out? If so, how would that happen, who would or even could it be enforced, and, who would pay for that? If it’s open to the public, how should police behave? Do residents want police never to look the other way? Can a people’s security force, a one night town watch, be formed, to observe and set the tone, but not engage. More to spot trouble and call the police in.  Should the evening be canceled altogether?  How can the media report on an event without influencing the event? To what degree are Mummers involved and if substantially, is it because some are the “Mum for a Day” variety who abuse the opportunity? Every question should be on the table and every answer listened to.

The vast majority of Mummers, even the ones who like to take a sip or two, are not the problem, but they are likely to be a big part of the solution. It will take a concerted effort involving residents, Mummers, the police, elected officials, the business community, the media, and parents to get this under control. It begins with a sincere desire to listen, to compromise and to act. This can lead to answers that will prevent serious problems, include a city that wants to be happy, and restore the warm coming home that people of the Mummers tradition remember and desire.

Faces That Launch Ten Thousand Mummers

With the holidays over, people with jobs are back at work and the kids are back in school.  But, the thrill of performing and the mega-thrill of winning in the 2012 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade still warms the soul. Congratulations to the winners.

There are many reasons to love the Mummers Parade, but take a look at these photos and experience the best reasons.

Children. Kids in the parade. Kids with families. Sons and daughters and their parents being together and in turn, making a lot of kids, of all ages, happy.

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