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Faye Anderson's Comment Before Philadelphia City Council #PHLBudget Public Hearing
Public Comment on FY2020 Mayor’s Operating Budget (Proposed)
Philadelphia City Council
Faye M. Anderson
Director, All That Philly Jazz
April 15, 2019
My name is Faye Anderson. I am director of All That Philly Jazz, a place-based public history
project that is documenting and contextualizing Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz. All That
Philly Jazz is a member of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities.
As a community preservationist, I fight to save places that tell the story of 400 years of
African American history and culture. Philadelphia’s development boom has led to a
demolition crisis. The historic buildings erased from public memory include Union Baptist
Church where Marian Anderson learned to sing; Philadelphia International Records, home
of “The Sound of Philadelphia;” and the Royal Theater. The Legendary Blue Horizon may be
down for the count. It is scheduled to be demolished in the coming months.
If you’re wondering about my t-shirt, it’s a photo of what was left after the Legendary Blue
Horizon historical marker disappeared.
Gentrification has led to disappearing blackness. Less than 24 hours after Mayor Kenney’s
Historic Preservation Task Force released its final recommendations, L&I issued a
demolition permit for the Wharton Centre, a historic building that was a community anchor
in the 5th District. The center was in operation during Philadelphia’s jazz heyday. Its
recreational activities included jazz concerts with legends and legends-in-the-making like
saxophonist and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Benny Golson.
A Kenney spokesperson said, “The index recommended by the Task Force would enable
consideration of historically significant buildings prior to issuance of a demolition permit.”
An index requires a budget and staffing. In his proposed Fiscal 2020 Operating Budget,
Mayor Kenney has not asked for increased funding to conduct a citywide survey of historic
resources. Without a budget increase for the Historical Commission, Mayor Kenney’s
promise to take action to strengthen historic preservation sounds hollow. The city’s
demolition crisis will continue unabated. It’s still demo now, survey later.
Truth be told, the Historical Commission needs more than money; it needs melanin. While
Philadelphia is majority-minority, the Commission staff is 100 percent white. The lack of
diversity means the African American story is viewed through the lens of an all-white staff.
On Friday, I commented in support of the nomination to add the Henry Minton House to the
Philadelphia Register of Historical Places. Minton resided and operated a restaurant at 204
South 12th Street. He belonged to an elite guild of caterers and was a leader in the free
black community. In The Philadelphia Negro, W.E.B. DuBois wrote that Minton “wielded
great personal influence, aided the Abolition cause to no little degree, and made
Philadelphia noted for its cultivated and well-to-do Negro citizens.”
While acknowledging the nomination satisfied the criteria for designation, the staff
recommended against adding the property because it was not “recognizable” due to
alterations to the front façade. Commissioners typically follow staff recommendations so
they voted against designation.
A building whose walls hold stories of William Still, “Father of the Underground Railroad,”
and Frederick Douglass was denied historic designation because it is not “recognizable” to
the all-white staff. An inexpensive street banner would make the building instantly
While the monochromatic staff doesn’t care about African American history, they do care
about ensuring a politically-connected insider gets what he wants. And what he wants is to
be able to tell his client they can demolish a house whose owner gave John Brown a place to
stay shortly before his raid on Harper’s Ferry.