Organizing Tips


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      By Gennifer Rollins

      Two years of moving parts came together on September 9th of 2017. There were whispers trickling down the grapevine about a change in the city’s heartbeat, gracefully affirming itself with the aging quality of wine. There were protests and gatherings, in-fights and community. Two years of bodies crossing in and out of borderlines within the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

      With an invitation to a master community organizer from the Netherlands, by the name of Jeanne van Heeswijk, Philadelphia’s loudest voices began to sing. It was a testament to working with delicate materials, such as race, violence, sovereignty, faith, safety, balance, and wholeness. Everything was intrinsically complicated. Some participants dropped out, for various reasons. New participants joined in for various reasons. Everything was happening within the walls of an institution, long known for its colonialist tendencies. PHL*A raised the question, “How do we begin trusting old regimes on the border of change? How do we know if it’s real?”

      Some of Philadelphia’s strongest and most earth shattering leaders were walking on egg-shells trying to trace out the nuances of gifting labor to such a precariously natured institution, bearing their souls for an undeterminable audience. Others were all but delighted to put their hands into a project that gathered so many forces, from all corners of the city. A couple of factions shattered into separate identities under the pressure of confliction. Some came together in ways they never had before, and learned new balance. Participation in Philadelphia Assembled was as complex and compelling as the content its makers were working with.

      Entangled around the fingertips of artists and thinkers were constraints of time. Dealing with elements, both malleable and stern, internal landscapes expanded. The result was a space unlike any other. Jagged walls became lined with literature. Historical evidence of people seldom taught of in the history books, gained new faces and recognition. All under the guidelines of squeezing in hours between teaching a young human how to grow, and tending to tender greens. Either way, there was dirt under the fingernails of Philadelphia’s makers.

      Within the arguable center stood a model for an Affordable Housing unit from the Kensington neighborhood; a shell with sitting space and enough room for Ramona Africa, Denise Valentine, and other figures of great stature. The hearth of organization and a sore and promising shard in Philadelphia’s history, housed modern-day Move organizers, heroes once-incarcerate, and spectators galore. All the bodies on deck moved in rapid motion as continuous cogs spinning around one still and central location.

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