Thursday, September 17, 2015


By Karimu Abena Hamilton

photo provided by karimu abena

In 1763 Benjamin Franklin organized the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia. The notion evolved from a fire that wiped out a large portion of warehouses on a wharf and burned down three homes causing thousands of dollars in damages. The company was called the Bucket Brigade., which enlisted 30 members of the established white privileged males.  In 1818 a Philadelphian African American Fire Club was organized by a group called the African Fire Association. Unfortunately, the organization was dismantled as a result of resistance from white fire fighters that felt it would be a threat to the communities that they would potentially serve. "The formation of fire-engine and hose companies by persons of color will be productive of serious injury to the peace and safety of citizens in time of fire, and it is earnestly recommended to the citizens of Philadelphia to give them no support, aid, or encouragement in the formation of their companies, as there are as many, if not more, companies already existing than are necessary at fires or are properly supported.”
It has been documented that the first Woman Fire Fighter was actually an African American Woman named Molly Williams of New York. It has been rumored that she wore a calico dress and checkered apron as she confronted numerous fires alongside her male counterparts. Centuries later, Fire Departments all over the country have become inclusive of all races and gender. Lisa Forrest was inducted as the first PFD African American Woman Fire Captain and would be the third woman fire fighter captain of the City of Philadelphia.  
In the West Philadelphia Quiana Cureton- Williams has broken barriers and made history as well. She is the first African American and Female Firefighter of Engine 68. “I have always wanted to accomplish goals that were nontraditional for women.” Williams explains. She is a mother, wife and Firefighter. “I have been working for the department for the last 7 years, being a woman has its challenges, but I love my job.” A day for Williams starts off with an inspection of the vehicles and her equipment. “We are also responsible for the house cleaning and food preparation.” “We stay at the firehouse in shifts, which allows us to spend time with our families.” “The firehouse itself can be considered a second home and the engine members are a part of my extended family.” It has to be that way for we rely so heavily on each other when fighting fires.” Williams recalls one of her most memorable Fire Fights was on 52nd and Lancaster Avenue at an elementary school. The crew had pulled out and she was the last one remaining in the building.  “I was alarmed but the Department trains us to remain professional and think quickly in those types of situations.” Williams reflects. “As an example to my community members with proper training and hard work you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Course With LaRue Temple-113th U.S. OPEN

 By Karimu Hamilton

There was a tinge of excitement everywhere in Ardmore P.a. The Norristown High-Speed Line was jammed pack with middle aged men and some women in khaki shorts, skirts or pants, white visors and a rainbow assortment of polo shirts. Business boomed for residents and local businesses of the region alike.  The 113th U.S. Open was held in the suburban region of Pennsylvania on the Main Line and every one was excited. “Oh I can’t really explain it…” Dale Venable of Dales Beauty Salon Reflects; “but there was a sense of excitement in the air, it would have been even better if Tiger Woods had won.” She giggled. “My daughter”, another main liner beams as she walks up Lancaster avenue actually secured a Job at the U.S. Open for the week, she sold concessions and  this was a perfect way for her to start her summer.’ These are the type of stories that are being told; generously sprinkled throughout the Main Line regarding the past U.S. Open Event in Lower Merion, Ardmore, Pa last week. The local story however that has had a lasting impact is of Temple Larue, a young gentle man, a North Philadelphia residents who works at The Merion golf course;  was solicited to  be the caddy for golfer Michael Kim at the U.S. Open. “The Caddy has knowledge of the course; he assists the golfer around the details of wind factors, club and shot selection, distance and textures.” “The caddy is sort of like an assistant or guide to the golfer.” Larue explains. Growing up Larue was a huge fan of baseball. His mother would take him to the games during the season and he would always stay after the game to get autographs of his favorite players. “There is a click of the same people that always hang around after the game to get autographs of players and that’s when I met a woman named Lisa Jinn who recommended me to work at the Merion Golf Club.” Larue has been working at The Merion Golf for 16 years. “It has been a great journey working at The Merion, you have to have discipline, be able to withstand the heat and carry heavy golf bags.” “It was an amazing experience to work with Michael Kim.” He was a great player, actually a stellar player and very easy to work with.”” We had a lot of fun on the course we were working but we were also cracking jokes.” Larue is a big fan of Tiger Woods. “Well Merion is tough and Tiger he wasn’t prepared, I think that a lot of players undermined The Merion and were just not able to gain harmony with the course.” Larue reflects. Larue is definitely a gentleman, he has an excellent work ethic, he also works as and has a passion D.J ing, and he is a bartender. He does enjoy playing golf for leisure and believes that working at The Merion Golf course is a good place for him to be, he is surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and businessman and being in that environment has place him on course.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


the best food i ve had in a long time
mamma k live food specialist

Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble\
 Kwanzaa was established during a time period when African Americans were involved in a cultural evolution. Prior to this movement which would have begun in the early 1960’s visible African American culture had been limited to the experience of slavery and poverty. Founders of this cultural evolution had become very concerned with the negative impact that these facets of American culture would have on their children and their communities. Thus, collectively and independently a nationwide movement had been born and it cross referenced all components of culture. Kwanzaa, Jambo Means Hello, The National Black Theatre, Central Harlem Montessori Project, Afro centricity and Odunde are all examples of what the cultural evolution produced. Children were given traditional West African Names, Independent African American schools were founded and rites of passages were structured. It was an extremely successful strategy. The mission of this movement was to provide the African American community with literature, art, spirituality that goes beyond the history of slavery and explores the importance of Africa and the accomplishments of African American achievers in this country before, during and after being enslaved. Africa was no longer presented as a dark and unwanted place but a Continent that was rich in heritage, culture and resources.  This year I attended an awesome Kwanzaa celebration held at the Imhotep Institute, a charter    school in Germantown, Pa. founded by Christine Wiggins. The event was very well attended, there were a plethora of artisans whom sold thier crafts from crochet hats, homemade soaps, and self-published books and healing herbal concoctions. The cafeteria was adorned with delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes, finger foods and nutritious drinks. One vegan food vendor Mamma K an elder in the living food lifestyle says; “my introduction or education in diet and nutrition began over 40 years ago with the Nation of Islam and the guide book Eat to Live, by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”  “I have since evolved my practice to natural food living and host occasional vegan food prep workshops and a Friday vegan cafĂ© at my home in Willow Grove, Pa. Another outstanding vendor that embraced the spirit of this Kwanzaa celebration was Carolyn Griggs a Hospital Administrator who custom makes pens out of clay. Her creative company Posh Penique began with” a dream”, she explained. She followed through and it translated into very interesting characture pens that resemble African masks and everyday people. The auditorium was filled with drumming and dances by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Robert Dickerson, founder of Unity Community Center and The Universal Dance and Drum Ensemble was actually the Host of this event. “We have been performing for Dr.Karenga for 14 years now, “Dickerson reflects.” He actually hires our performance arts company to present before he lectures and it is an honor.”  “ This was a historic event and it is important that we engage the youth and the entire community in hearing and meeting an African American scholar and visionary.” Dickerson continues. Dr. Maulana Karenga Kwanzaa founder and developer, was the last to speak and he stood at the podium as a very powerful figure. The audience was alert, at the edge of thier seats and hung off of his every word , some shouted yes and others swayed back and forth as he spoke.” Kwanzaa should be a way of life, a daily celebration of who we are as a people.” “We must remain connected to our African roots and embrace our entire heritage.” Dr. Karenga emphasized.  In practicing values and systems that mirror greatness we will reflect that greatness in our lives and in our communities is at the core of Dr. Karenga’s message this evening. Kuumbaa which means creativity is the 6th principal that was being commemorated. This event in its entirety reflected all of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, an effective collaboration of committed individuals, die –hards to preserving, empowering African American Youth, Families and Communities. Developers of tools to assist in sustain a holistic African American Culture. 

Friday, December 14, 2012


i love the african aesthetic and i totally adore this movement of afro-fusion design that is poping up all over the runway and even in shoe stores. I was on my way to work and I ran into this really cool lady who had this awesome book bag and i was inspired to take a picture and find out where did she get that bag...?karimu abena hamilton

her name is ms. royale randolph( i think) and she brought her bag in ghana. she is a dance major and learned all of these interesting forms of dance and movement and she took history lessons there and remembers specifically a lesson on ghanain medicine....interesting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

West Philadelphia High School A Safe Haven For Hurricane Sandy Evacuees

red cross volunteers smile as they pass out oranges

helen mae reisner & norma edwards volunteer nurses

A hurricane can be defined as a tropical cyclone, a storm with winds that blow at a minimum of 74 miles per hour. Along with strong winds a hurricane can be accompanied with heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Hurricane Sandy made her presence felt late Sunday afternoon with temperatures dropping, sporadic gusts of wind and heavy rain. Mayor Nutter, through a press conference, urged “to all residents if you live in a low line area, if you live in a flood prone area you need to relocate right now.” To assist evacuees that do not have anywhere to go, The City of Philadelphia has provided emergency shelter to its residents at West Philadelphia High School, Roxborough High School and Samuel Fels High School. Mayor Nutter explains those site were picked for a reason, “they are large, they are relatively new and they are able to accommodate a large number of people as well as pets,”  At West Philadelphia High School, the emergency response team appeared prepared and ready to serve Philadelphian evacuees. There are Red Cross workers, Police Officers, Civic Volunteers walking quietly through the hallways. ” My apartment is on the Mill Creek and last year my whole apartment was flooded and I was unwilling to learn that lesson again.” I am disabled , I came here so that me and my grandchildren would be safe.” “Once Mayor Nutter had said The New West building, I was out,” Ms. Iceland of the Lucien Blackwell Apartments  explained. ” I am glad that I came and I feel safe,” she continued. The Gymnasium was quiet with neatly lined cots covered in Red Cross blankets. “I am homeowner,” Mrs. Jenell  Anderson of South West Philadelphia explains . “I am scared to death of trees falling on my house. ” “The roof is not stable and it may collapse.” “ I rushed so fast to West Philadelphia High School that I brought my school books but forgot my clothing and personal items.” The Red Cross has been great they gave me a sweat suit and a bag of toiletries,” Anderson revealed. There is an intergenerational group of volunteers in the building that range from  seniors to college students .  Helen Mae Reisner a nurse administrator for the United States Postal Service and a volunteer nurse for this Hurricane Relief effort  explains,” I have been doing this for a long time I am here to serve and offer comfort to the evacuees. “ Alongside Helen is Norma Edwards a 21 year nurse veteran for the City of Philadelphia . “I worked for the city for 21 years at health center #4.” “This is what we do, we are involved in many civic operatives regarding nursing.” “We are with the medical reserves, first responders and today volunteers for the relief effort implemented here at West Philadelphia High School,” Edwards explained.  If you are a pet owner, there is also a section in the school for pets. At that time the shelter contained 5 cats.  Janet from the Philadelphia County Animal Rescue Team PCART explains , ” After Katrina people were unwilling to leave their animals and so the Red Cross concluded that shelters should be set up for residents  and their pets.” In the cafeteria Red Cross workers are anxiously passing out sandwiches and fresh fruit. The area is quiet and there is a sense of contentment. People are playing cards, game boards , children’s feet are kicking under the table gently as they wait in anticipation for their mothers to peel their oranges. It still is the beginning and the storm has yet to arrive but amidst this potential crisis The City of Philadelphia  is prepared with what feels like a safe haven for its South West and West Philadelphian Residents. Karimu Abena Hamilton                                                                             

ms. iceland of lucien blackwell apartments


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


1100 Block of Wilton Street Moving On Up
grant larry palmer block captain

Through the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee

The Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee is a community based initiative designed to encourage and support residents in gaining control of their immediate environment. This is implemented through a series of city wide agencies such as The Office of Sustainability which explores food, energy and greening initiatives. The Office of Neighborhood Services through their Community Life Improvement Program CLIP addresses graffiti, abandoned buildings, lots and overall sanitation issues and finally ,The Office of Community Services which provides Philadelphia residents with Omni –gender and age,family ,education and employment services. Last week Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee PMBC hosted its annual clean block contest. The contest is held after a seasonal city wide cleaning schedule. The Program is designed around short term projects that require a neighborhood leader or Block Captain and participating residents or Block Association. The 1100 block of Wilton Street in South West Philadelphia is a participant this year. Grant Larry Palmer like most residents on this street is a home owner and a second generation resident. “As block captain” he expresses proudly, “I intend to take full advantage of the resources the City of Philadelphia has made available to us.” “I would like to restore the block to its original state where all of the houses have the Corinthian style columns and lamp post that light the street.” ”I was raised on this block and this was my mother’s house.” Larry explained as he passed out supplies of push brooms, paint and paint brushes to his neighbors.” “Its Judgment day and the sensation of community pride are infectious.  School is out thus, the children ride their bikes up and down the side walk with anticipation of a special surprise.  Elderly women hustle and bustle to arrange tables and table cloths with tin foil pans toppled over with southern based comfort foods like fried fish, chicken, kale and collards, string beans, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, upside down cake and sweet potato pie. Judges look on beaming and impressed with the strong sense of unity that is exhibited among the block residents.  Wanda Jones an administrator for The Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee explains, “The block is judged on several different aspects. “Community involvement, the history of the block, block unity, cleanliness and beautification projects.” “Resident community involvement and awareness is key components to the success of block beautiful contestants.” Wanda Jones reiterates. The bouncer has arrived, an antiquated Philadelphia trolley is parked at the end of the street and soul music is playing. The judges of this contest detail a cross demographic of civic leaders from former block captains, elected officials, church leaders and even other city agency administrators. Essentially individuals who have made an impact through demonstrating strong leadership and organizational skills are qualified to judge in this contest. Tara E. Smith a community support specialist under the Town Watch integrated service divisions and also functioning as one of the judges for the contest states” I have a lot of respect for block captains and their ability to enroll the community, taking into consideration everyone’s busy schedule it really is an accomplishment for blocks to enter the block beautiful contest.” Also as an liaison for the South West division of Town Watch the competition is an excellent promotional There is a great since of accomplishment amongst the residents this afternoon. The Block Beautiful contest can be considered a stepping stone, grooming neighborhoods to explore and secure other neighborhood development projects like planting trees, home weatherization,healthy food initiatives and implementing a community business improvement district. City wide initiatives and support systems partnered with concerned organized residents is the recipe for sustainable communities.  karimu abena hamilton

Friday, September 21, 2012

melissa maddonni haims Yarn Bombing -oooOO ahh ohhh....

this is called breast strokes.....
originally created in 2010 for a show whose focus was on breast cancer awareness month.
ps. since my mom died of breast cancer on january 7, 2008.
she taught me how to knit and crochet a number of times during my life, but it really stuck right before she died. 
read: i've never really created anything with needles or hooks until 2007.
and without her i probably never would have. 

i have always had a very deep respect for transformative art. i am inspired by those who can take materials from their immediate environment and create or capture a moment that brings forth joy. Melissa Madonna Haims was born and raised in norristown pennsylvania. her father was an excavating contractor which entails digging and preparing sites for construction. her mother Theresa Maddoni was a craft artist. in fact both her paternal and maternal grandparents worked with fabrics in the context of knitting, crochet and sewing. hence, Melissa growing up had been influenced by creativity. as a young adult she studied at the Parsons school of Design where she received a degree in fine arts and marine affairs. she has worked in new York for several years as an established installation artist. this role would entail going to a gallery space and transforming the space with art. she also had a long standing career as an Interior Designer for the carpet industry managing large accounts in the states and abroad within corporate sector. not too long ago her mother passed away and she began to work on her unfinished knitting projects. diligently one by one as her mother’s spirit quietly guided her. one day she wasn't quite sure what to do ...with one of her mother’s projects and she decided she would make something else. maybe the piece became a soft sculpture or a component to a mixed media fixture ...melissa was evolving and had progressed as a fiber artist. she began working with fibert art genres described as; yarn bombing which involves crocheting or knitting on existing public or private structures, hyperbolic crochet entails applying a mathematical approach to crochet patterns, mixed media pieces and soft sculpture. melissa is an active member of the 3rd street gallery, a cooperative gallery in old city. she is on the executive team for Fiber Philadelphia 2012, a city wide festival exploring the fiber arts. currently melissa has made a shift and is working as an independent artist. this allows her to spend more time with her daughter and husband and though she truly enjoyed working as an employee, there has become such a demand for her art work that she must focus on writing grants, securing commissions and building her business. i see symbolism in the act of yarn bombing ....visualize and actively bring your dreams to life. karimu abena hamilton


knit graffitti