Creep Records isn’t creepy and it doesn’t just sell records

Creep Records is a smoke shop/record store/concert venue/clothing store/record label/art gallery/Frisbee golf store. You get the idea, if there's something you're interested in, they probably have it.

Creep Records at the Piazza in Philadelphia started at the humblest level, as a house show venue in West Chester. From there the company went on to become a record label, a high-end smoke shop, a record store, and, most recently, a small venue again.

 

Creep Records as it is today, was created as a record label in 1993 by Arik Victor, who is still an owner today. Before opening the label, Victor operated what was called the “Creep House” in West Chester.

 

“The ‘Creep House’ was like just this house that should have been condemned about 50 times where they’d just throw the house shows,” Creep Records manager Will Angelos said. “I was like, you know, 15 and I would go to the house shows, that’s what it started as.”

Eventually Victor, with the number of bands that were coming to his house, decided to get equipment and begin recording them and thus the idea of Creep Records was formed. After forming the label, Victor wanted to open a record store in Philadelphia that could serve as a sort of base of operations. He contacted his friend, another regular at the Creep House, who had founded a chain of higher end smoke shops.

 

Arik Victor and his buddy are the reason that Creep Records store works today. Will Angelos described it as “collector culture,” between the vast array of records and the high-end American-made glass smoking pieces. The idea is that, as the phrase suggests, people purchase things; glass, records, art, as collectors because everything is high quality and, in the case of the glass and art, made by a local artist.

“The glass side of it demands a lot of attention, just because there’s so many different things and the industry’s changing constantly, all the time,” Angelos said. “what’s different from almost every other store now, even the stores that used to sell American glass or have a heavy focus on local, they have an import case, where they sell import glass that’s essentially slave labor, that’s why they’re so cheap.”

 

The glass used to make the pieces isn’t just high quality; in most cases it is made by local artists who are affiliated with Creep Records. So, in addition to making quality products they also strive to support local artists. In addition to glass art Creep Records also shows and sells local art works like paintings, sculptures, clothing, whatever local art they can find.

 

Molly Belface, a worker in the smoke shop portion of the store, called Creep Records an “elite smoke shop,” adding, “We have glass ranging from like 20 bucks to multiple thousands of dollars.”

Belface talked about the store’s support for local artists and musicians, but also emphasized the experience, describing it as “hands-on.” She said that she knows most of their customers, “and not from outside of here — like we get to know them.” She went on to explain that they try to provide an amazing and very personal experience.

 

Most recently Creep Records went back to its house show roots by starting a small venue connected to the store. The venue is nothing fancy, but it sure beats a crowded basement. Saying the venue isn’t fancy is not to say that it isn’t stocked with quality light and sound equipment, and enough space to fit plenty of people.

“We do art shows, we do live music performances, we do meet and greets” Belface said. “The whole nine yards.”

 

Creep Records put on a show to celebrate the end of the school year called “School’s Out Art Carnival,” which as the name suggests had a carnival theme complete with cotton candy, popcorn and awful beer. The ‘Carnival’ featured performances by local performers including rapper Ronnie Riggles and saxophone player Jeremy Garcia. In addition to these two the show featured art work from 11 local Philadelphia artists and four other performers. The concert was $5 and proceeds went to the Flint, MI, water crisis.

 

Shows at Creep Records occur weekly. The idea is to support local artists as much as possible and be a staple in the amateur art community in Philadelphia. Creep Records buys their pieces from local glassblowers and their art from local artists; they even buy records from local small bands and sell them in their store.

 

Creep Records is not a record label, not a smoke shop, not a record store, it’s not even a concert venue. Creep Records is its own special entity that provides services tailored for its customers and the Philadelphia community. Whether you’re a local artist, a collector, a Frisbee golf player — they seriously have an entire section just for Frisbee golf because the customers wanted it — or just a curious local, Creep Records is going to have something for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Outside of the Outsiders: North Philadelphia’s Black Muslim Community

The culture of black Muslims in Philadelphia is changing the dynamics of the city.

Sign outside of Muhammad Mosque #12 on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 2508 N. Broad St.

“In regards to my religion, I never felt like the only one until I got to high school… that’s when I became one of the few but it was a learning experience that helped me build my faith,” says 21-year-old Juwairiyah Abdul-Basit, a resident of North Philadelphia.

Abdul-Basit’s experience is one of many experiences of black Muslims in the city. Signatures of Philadelphia black Muslim culture like the “Sunni Beard” are now popular in the mainstream.

According to Encyclopedia.com, Islam is the second-largest religion in the world. Many cities that have a large black population like Philadelphia, have an influx of black Muslims. The U.S. Census Fact Finder lists the city’s black Muslim population to be a 1/3 of the black population.

Black Muslims in the city have a long history in North Philadelphia.

In the 1960s, Shaykh Muhammad Hassan founded the National Muslim Improvement Association at 2338 Cecil B. Moore (previously Columbia Avenue) St.

Two mosques in North are Makkah Masjid and Muhammad Mosque #12.

Makkah Masjid operates under Hyderabad House Inc. and the mosque’s adherents believe in Sunni Islam.

Patheos.com describes the difference of Sunni and Shi’a Islam by the belief that “the Sunni maintain that the Muslim community was to select the Prophet’s successor (caliph) to lead, whereas the Shi’a believe the Prophet chose his son-in-law, Ali, to be his successor.”

There are 57 mosques in the city and most of them follow the Sunni belief.

Sunni and Shi’a Islam is different from the beliefs of the Nation of Islam (NOI). The Nation of Islam, founded by W. Fard Muhammad in 1920, believes in the radicalization of African-Americans. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the NOI a hate group because of NOI’s belief in Zionism.

In the current climate of the United States, the misconception of Islam after 9/11 continues.

Abdul-Basit says that “the cruelty and mistreatment of women is a common negative image amongst Arab and Middle-Eastern Muslims but the thing is, that is a cultural practice rather than a religious practice and that’s what gets people confused about the religion.”

“One of the sayings in Islam is ‘Lakum deenukum waliya deen’ which means ‘For you is your religion, and for me is my religion’ or basically ‘to each is own,” says Abdul-Basit.

Exterior of Makkah Masjid on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 1319 W. Susquehanna St.

The misconceptions seep further when it comes to the black Muslim community.

“People outside the black Muslim community and even unfortunately amongst us regard non-black Muslims as truer to the religion despite some of the inaccuracies of Islam portrayed by the media,” says Abdul-Basit.

The Black Mafia, a Philadelphia gang who rose to power between the late 60s to early 70s, members were Muslim. Perceptions of black Muslims in the city changed with the influence of the Black Mafia also known to be the “Muslim Mob.”

Black Muslims in the city contribute to the economy through business ownership of clothing stores and Halal grocery stores.

Abdul-Basit says that black Muslims make large contributions to the city.

“My current nieghborhood has been populated my Muslims for decades and is still growing. My recent job is actually within this neighborhood and the foundation is owned by Brother Kenneth Gamble and Sister Faatimah Gamble,” says Abdul-Basit.

Stigmas around black Muslims in the black community exist due to structural beliefs rooted in Christianity.

“This is not to be disrespectful to other religions but I noticed that people from other religions actually comment on the structure of Islam. Even though they say they disagree with certain parts of the religion, they sometimes say that Islam has a certain sense of structure and morals that they see Muslims try to commit to as best they can,” says Abdul-Basit.

Medium shot of Makkah Masjid on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 1319 W. Susquehanna St.

The growth of the black Muslim population in Philadelphia continues to open space for conversations about the role of Islam in the black community.

The intersection between blackness and the faith follows a history formed by leaders like Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan.

“I have to say that I appreciate growing up in a Muslim household even more as I get older. My parents weren’t at all strict but they made sure our lives were structured around our religion (Islam). I did not experience as much discrimination from people outside of the religion as compared to others but in any case. My parents always taught me to hold my ground,” says Abdul-Basit.

 

“There’s Nothing That I’m Going to Hide”

From growing up in a small coastal town in Puerto Rico to owning buildings all over Philadelphia, self-made entrepreneur Luis Roche, 39, has found happiness and success after a lifetime of hardship.

“I moved here for a better life. It was my parents who wanted a better life in Philadelphia,” said Luis Roche, 39, introducing the tale of his life’s story.  

Luis next to his motorcycle, thinking back to when he first came to Philadelphia.

Millions of people search for the coveted American Dream, but very few end up finding it. It’s no secret that those who have achieved the idealistic definition of success have attributed their newfound class to years of struggle that make for a classic and inspirational Cinderella story.

Luis Roche, moved to Philadelphia with his mother when he was sixteen years old. In the City of Brotherly Love, he was pulled into the dangerous lifestyle of selling drugs and was caught for possession after a few years.

“I was twenty years old when I went to jail. I got caught for conspiracy with the intent to deliver cocaine. I was in jail for 7 years.”

The National Institute of Justice began a study in 2005 that monitored approximately four-hundred-thousand prisoners after their release from prison. The results found that two-thirds of the offenders were once again arrested within 3 years.

After his arrest Roche made the decision to not be another statistic. He wanted to make a better life for himself after his sentence and become a man his daughter could look up to.

“There’s two things you can do when you’re in jail,” he said. “ You can waste your time or make yourself something. To me, it was like I can’t keep doing what I was doing. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail. I had a daughter and she was looking up to me. My mom going to see me in jail…For me, I had to do everything that I had to in order to be a better person.”

At the age of twenty-seven, Roche was released and immediately set out to make a new life for himself and his mother and daughter. Working as a window washer for nine dollars an hour to support his family and dreaming of a time when he didn’t have to work for someone else.

“I was a window washer first, then I went to school,” he said. “When I came out of jail I was on parole. And they don’t want you to be in the street, so I had to pick to either go to work or go to school. And then I quit my job and went to school.”

“I always liked school. Before I went to jail, I was going to be a policeman. I took the test and everything. I took the polygraph and was getting ready to go to the academy. And I was going to community college for architectural technology.”

While in prison, Roche made nineteen cents an hour and struggled to find work after his release. “This is an important point,” he said. “I was given social security because of some of my problems, like my anxiety. When I was going to to get a job, ninety-nine percent of the time they were like ‘nope.’ They don’t want to give me a job. Because of my felony.”

“They think you’re a bad guy. So, what else can I do? I can put it into something that will help me, or spend it all and struggle to get a job at 711 or Wawa,” he laughed.

After years of struggling to earn enough money to eat and pay his bills, Roche’s persistence and determination was met with a surprise he never expected. “I used to get social security with my dad,” he said. “When you go to jail, they will hold your social security. So, they save your money and then give it to you when you get out. When I saw the check I was like ‘woah!’ I called mom! Imagine working for nine dollars an hour and seeing twenty-thousand dollars in your account. How are you going to feel?”

Thinking about his friends and the people he has met in Philadelphia, Roche knew he had another choice to make about his future. While most other people would have quickly spent the money, he knew that it was time to take his life into his own hands.

“I decided to invest in properties. Which turned out to be great.”

Luis now owns four properties in Philadelphia, and hopes that his latest purchase of an apartment building will provide financial security for the rest of his life.

When asked if he believed he was successful, his answer was a moving sentiment to the last twenty years of his life.

“Looking at me, yes. From the struggle of trying to get a job for $8 an hour, $7 an hour, waking up at six o’clock in the morning to having what I have now. You

know, ninety-nine percent of the people, people who make way more money than me don’t have what I have. So  I consider myself success.”

“You know what? A lot of people think, just because you say the American Dream that you can just go and lay on your sofa and that it will come to you. For everything you want, you gotta work hard. Whether you are in the United States, Cuba, anywhere you go, you gotta work hard. Work for what you want. I did it. When I came out of jail, I didn’t have a penny.  I was working for nineteen cents an hour.”

Knowing the current political climate that has thousands of Americans protesting for higher wages and expansive benefits, Roche believes that every person is responsible to make their own dreams a reality.

“You cannot just sit around and go to welfare and get $200.00 of food stamps and think that it’s going to make you better person. You gotta work for it. You gotta work with not your body, but your mind. Work hard and you will eventually succeed.”

Looking back at the last twenty years as his fortieth birthday approaches, Roche reminisces, “I love my life! The older I get the better I look…God is good.”

Behind the Badge

June 20, 2017 Temple University police Sgt. Jones outside on 9th and Diamond

Temple University’s police Sgt. James Jones is more than a police officer, he is a friendly face, a father, a son and a Philadelphian.

“No, I did not always want to be a police officer,” said officer Jones. “My mother gave me an ultimatum, it was either I go to college or join the force and since I didn’t really enjoy school I join the force.”

Officer Jones, now 46 years old, grew up in West Philadelphia. He was the middle child in a family of three. Jones grew up with a passion for sports and competition.

June 20, 2017 Temple University police Sgt. Jones outside on 10th and Diamond looking down the street.

“I always loved sports and I was pretty good in all of the sports I played,” said officer Jones. “But living and going up in Philadelphia during the crack epidemic made things very difficult as a kid. My mother saw how things were going on the streets so she made me go to trade school to take up some of my free time, so I wouldn’t be out in the streets doing something I had no business doing.”

Jones went to trade school to be a carpenter and it just so happens to be his first job out of high school. Jones later went to school to be a corrections officer working in pretrial for the courts in Philadelphia.

Jones has one daughter and wanted the best for her so he became a police officer in Philadelphia but he wanted to send his daughter to the best schools in PA. At the time the Lower Merion School District was the best. The only problem was that to be a police officer in Philadelphia you have to live within city limits. The city found out that he wasn’t and fired him.

“I tired to get relocated in the lower Merion area,” said Jones. “But unfortunately only the mayor’s sons can get a job as a police officer in Lower Merion.”

June 20, 2017 Temple University police Sgt. Jones driving down 10th and Diamond

Jones wanted to work in the city that he loves so dearly. He was offered a job at Temple University that would allow him to work in city and live and lower Merion.

“This city has changed so much over time and I wanted to be apart of that,” said Jones. “Me being a police officer I’m a big believer in treating people like people. No matter where they’re from rich or poor, black or white.”

Jones just want to be able to go home at the end of his eight hours knowing that he made a difference in his community. Thats what is behind his badge.

Wild Mutation Records is Spinning to a Groovy Beat

Owner and Founder, Bill Chamberlain talks owning a record store in 2017 and his thoughts on vinyls and music.

“What would be a better job than sitting around listening to records all day,” says Bill Chamberlain as he flips a record over to the B side. Sure, records haven’t been enjoying the same glory they did in their heyday, but that hasn’t hindered sales at Wild Mutation Records. Since coming onto the Philadelphia music scene in 2016, this Fishtown gem has been riding on a wave of success in this new age of vinyl revival. It’s hard to say what the draw to vinyl records is in 2017, but Chamberlain seems to have hit the nail on the head.

Bill Chamberlain, Owner and Founder of Wild Mutation Records.

So what’s keeping the vinyl revival alive? The sound quality of CD’s and more recently mp3’s may have ousted records from the music scene for awhile but Chamberlain views the sound quality to be irrelevant. Unlike mp3’s, he believes each vinyl record is a visual work of art through its unique and complex album cover. Now that vinyls are no longer the mainstream medium for consuming music, they have come back with a new a appreciation of being a nostalgic form of art.

“As far as why people like vinyls today, I think it’s because you can’t pick up an mp3 and look at an interesting cover that has nice artwork and has lyrics inside it.”

A diverse wall of records inside Wild Mutation

In 2017 Urban Philadelphia, there are currently two things that are hip and happening, the borough of Fishtown and vinyl records. Located on Frankford Ave, Wild Mutation Records has successfully combined the two with its prime location and diverse collection of records. While Wild Mutation is just one of many unique record stores in Philadelphia, it sets itself apart with its emphasis on Punk and music.

The Wild Mutation Records logo, located outside the store.

The inspiration behind opening Wild Mutation can be traced back to the 90’s. In this instance, combining work and pleasure was no conflict of interest. Having played guitar in cult punk bands like “The Pist” and “Behind Enemy Lines,” releasing his own records, Chamberlain is certainly is no stranger to the music scene. A record store was the perfect business for him to combine his two greatest passions, music and vinyl records. Unfortunately, the idea of opening a record store in the 90’s was seemed impossible, as CD’s were all the rage. While the timing certainly wasn’t right, Chamberlain nonetheless continued to build his collection in hopes of someday opening his store.

“The way sales of records were going, I figured there was no possible way I would be able to do this successfully.”

Eventually, time was on Chamberlain’s side as the late 2000’s sprung the “vinyl revival.” Sure vinyl records were not the mainstream for consuming music, but there is a certain intrigue about them that keeps them alive. The recent resurgence in vinyl was exactly what he needed to hear to revive the idea of opening up Wild Mutation. By March 2014, the first incarnation of Wild Mutation Records opened in Northampton, MA.

“In the past five-six years, sales of vinyl records have really turned around where sales are okay, It’s nothing like it used to be back in the heyday of records but there are enough people that want stuff.”

In March 2016, Chamberlain and Wild Mutation Records found a new home in the Fishtown borough of Philadelphia. It was time a change of scenery for both him and his wife Rachel, they wanted to live in a city again. The transition came with ease as he had already established a unique collection of vinyls, tapes, and CD’s from his own personal record collection. Many years, of attending punk concerts, record hunting, and of course trading with patrons have shaped what the collection has become today.

“I wanted to start the best record store I’ve ever been in as far as punk and hardcore goes and I think I have done that while also offering a wide range of genres.”

Wild Mutation Records in its current Philadelphia location.

While Punk is certainly the centerpiece of Wild Mutation, Chamberlain prides himself in offering almost 100 years of music in every genre you can imagine. Expect the unexpected with titles spanning anywhere from an 80’s classic album like Robert Palmer’s “Riptide,” to a more obscure Psych-Garage album like Johnny River’s “Realization.” His collection of LPs and 45s also includes: classic rock, pop, soul, metal, country, garage, hip hop, jazz, folk, blues, reggae, and much more. In addition to a diverse selection of records, Chamberlain also specializes in selling, new and used turntables, CDs, cassettes, and music memorabilia.

A wall of memorabilia CDs and vinyls.

It is perhaps Chamberlain’s open-minded approach to music that makes his record collection so versatile. Looking at album artwork as an art form is what has urged Chamberlain to pick up whatever looks interesting, thus making a huge impact on his musical tastes. As for his personal favourites, he enjoys punk bands like Black Flag, The Modern Lovers as well as British bands and musicians like The Kinks and David Bowie.

Various cassettes from Wild Mutation’s collection.

As a true master of his craft, Bill Chamberlain’s dedication and passion for music and vinyl records is what makes Wild Mutation Records the perfect place to buy, sell, and trade records and other music memorabilia. He stands out in the vinyl community as a true patriot of punk. Whether you are an avid collector of vinyl or simply a music lover, Wild Mutation is a must visit. For more information you can visit their website at Wildmutation.com

Busy Stage Screen Printing opens on Germantown Ave.

Four friends come together to start a screen printing business in North Philadelphia East.

Ikeam Simmons, left, and Tarqiq Buckner design a prototype for an order of shirts.

Tariq Buckner, one of the four owners of Busy Stage Screen Printing on Germantown Ave., maneuvered between a sea of screen printing presses on his paint-splattered hover-board.

“Does this look straight?” business partner Ikeam Simmons asked as he looked down at a design he just pressed onto a black t-shirt.

“Yeah, I think so,” Buckner said as he examined the test shirt, which would work as a prototype for a large order.

Busy Stage Screen Printing held its grand-opening on June 4, and since then the orders have been keeping the four owners busy.

Busy Stage Screen Printing held its grand opening on June 4.

Before Buckner, Simmons, Marty Geez, and Chad Black were business partners, they were friends. And that friendship is still at the forefront of their business.

The name of the company was part of that, Buckner explained. The four each had their own business before coming together. The idea was to combine all the different business names of their old companies, and form it into a new one.

Buckner, Geez, and Black ran their own individual screen printing businesses. Simmons owned a real estate company called Get Busy LLC, which is where “Busy” in the store name comes from.

“It’s really a together, team type thing,” Buckner said.

Orders – which are primarily apparel – come in from store walk-ins and email, but most commonly from Instagram direct message and their personal cell phones.

“Even though we have a shop number, [our clientele] still call our personal numbers,” Buckner said.

The shop hasn’t done any promotions yet, but is running on word-of-mouth and the combined clientele from their old businesses.

The process starts with the design. Some clients have a design, and others “need help forming their vision,” Simmons said. They work on designs using Adobe Photoshop.

Marty Geez looks at a design for a shirt on Adobe Photoshop.

From there, the designs get printed and burned onto a screen.

Ikeam Simmons burns a design into a screen.

The screens then go onto a screen printing press, where the design will be pressed onto a shirt.

Both Buckner and Geez taught themselves the process by watching YouTube videos and a lot of trial and error.

Before opening Busy Stage, Buckner was making music and selling shirts that he outsourced from other screen printers.

“I got tired of paying people to [make my shirts] so I bought the equipment for screen printing not knowing how to do it . . . I destroyed a lot of my own clothes figuring out how to do it. I was destroying everything for months, like thousands of dollars,” Buckner said. “But I finally got it.”

Ikeam Simmons exposes a burned design on a screen.

Geez went through a similar process. He worked as a DJ and got fed up with the prices of making shirts.

“‘That’s too much money,’ I said to myself. So I went online to figure out how to get the price down. I ended up buying a whole screen printing set up not knowing anything,” Geez said.

The process of learning is ongoing for the whole team.

Tariq Buckner presses a design onto a shirt using a screen printing press.

“I’ve been doing it for a while, so I really put my all into it. There are still some things I need to learn, but I basically got everything down pat,” Geez said.

Simmons – who knew nothing coming into the business – has learned the entire process.  “Tariq taught me everything. I’ve been here learning ever since, and I’m still learning,” he said.

Tariq Buckner taught himself the process of screen printing with YouTube videos and trial and error.

The shop is open from 10am to 7pm, but at least one of them is there till midnight, usually Chad Black – who works another job during the day. The work hours are flexible, which still feels new to Buckner who left a job with the city to start Busy Stage.

“I’m excited every day I come in, the best part is pulling up. I don’t have to clock in or clock out,” he said.

Buckner had his doubts when he left his job with the city.

Tariq Buckner presses designs in the Busy Stage warehouse on Germantown Ave.

“It was really the unknown for me. I was like, ‘Is this gonna work?’ but it’s trial and error and I believe that’s the best way.”

The self-taught start-up is what Buckner wants his business to be a model of. Buckner grew up in North Philadelphia, which he described as his biggest motivator.

“I always wanted to do something different. A lot of people do the same thing to get out. I got into this not knowing anything about business and I’m still not that sharp, but I’m learning,” Buckner said. “But that’s all this was ever about – showing people that you can do something different. You don’t have to do what everybody else is doing. You just gotta make you cool,” he said.

Piles of shirts sit inside the Busy Stage warehouse.

Surrounded by orders for shirts, three of the owners – Simmons, Geez, and Buckner – ate water ice and laughed as they pressed designs for another day of work.

 

Tree House Books: Bearing Fruit In the North Philadelphia Community

Program Director Jessica Beaver discusses the mission of Tree House Books, and why she is so passionate about her job.

 

    In 2005, Tree House Books started off as a small nonprofit organization located at 1430 Susquehanna Avenue in Northern Philadelphia. It was a small space packed with used books, and a few kids coming in after school for homework assistance. At the start of 2017 Tree House Books adopted a very ambitious plan. The goal was to distribute 50,000 books to Philadelphia homes. The hope is that over the next few years they can distribute 200,000 books annually to families throughout the city. Since its doors opened twelve years ago, 80,000 books have been distributed to local families Today, the enterprise is not just a neighborhood bookstore, but an instrument of social change in the Philadelphia community. Tree House Books has blossomed into a literacy center that bears abundant fruit: it is a beacon of hope dedicated to fostering a community of readers, writers and thinkers.
   Tree House Books offers opportunity not just for kids and families, but for career seekers looking to add value to, and make a difference in the Philadelphia community. “I was really interested in Tree House, mainly because it was the intersection of both education and literacy, and non-profit,” Program Director Jessica Beaver said. She started her career at Tree House Books in December 2016, and is passionate about her career path.“It is something that I was really passionate about...the way to both be involved with kids, but also be involved with literacy in the city,” said Beaver. 
   As a non-profit Giving Library and Literacy Center, Tree House Books follows a two-pronged approach: it offers access to books as well as literacy programs. Theirobjective is to create a community that is rich in literacy, where kids and their familiespursue a passion for reading throughout their lives."Our mission is to grow and sustain a community of readers, writers and thinkers...we do that through two main things: we do that through Access To Books and Literacy Programs,” Beaver explained.The Access To Books program is the core of their work in the community. The Tree House mission is to ensure that all kids and families in Philadelphia have access to books. The Words on Wheels program distributes books to homes,  neighboring community centers and daycare centers.
  “We focus on getting books into the hands and homes of folks all over Philadelphia, through our Giving Library, Words-on- Wheels and Visits to the Tree House,” Beaver said.The Giving Library is the bookstore that offers new and used donated books. Kids and families are able to pick up books of their choice six days a week. Tree House recently launched Visits to the Tree House, a program where local schools can bring kids on field trips. At the end of the trip, each child goes home with books for their family.
   Through the Words-on- Wheels summer program, volunteers on bikes deliver books to homes. In December of 2016, Tree House Books launched the Books in Every Home campaign. During the week before the holidays, free books are given to cash-strapped families.Literacy Programs form the other major part of the Tree House Books mission. Their aim is to nurture readers, writers and thinkers from preschool, through high school andinto adulthood. The Early Learning programs target literacy skills, and the whole family is involved in activities such as discussions, games and songs. Tree House Sprouts focuses on the very young readers and writers. While After School and Summer Workshops cater for teens pursuing advanced education, volunteer opportunities and careers.The objective is to create a literacy continuum for kids to learn, grow and develop as strong readers and writers. The idea is that as their literacy grows, they will become better students who are better prepared for higher education and a career.
“I started volunteering in March of 2017...because I was looking for somewhere to volunteer...when I got there I just fell in love with it. I love books! I love sharing my love of books with people, so this was a hidden gem that I had no idea existed,” said volunteer Melissa Walker, a Temple University sophomore.The mission of Tree House Books is to make a difference in the North Philadelphia community, and staff are focused on that goal.“People around here don’t have the same access to books that most kids do,” volunteer Walker added.“Developing strong readers and writers is so huge when it comes to self-advocacy and agency...if you know how to read and write, you know how to connect to the world.These are just some of the reasons why I love this work and we do it here at Tree House Books,” Beaver said in closing.

By Sydney Dorner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temple’s Community Garden is sprouting with potential and positivity

When it comes to growing a plant, it takes patience, perseverance, and hard work. The E-board of the Temple Community Garden understand this and embrace the challenge head on.

The Temple Community Garden sign.

Starting in 2009, the Temple Community Garden got underway. TCG President Elliot Wilson said, “We were first located near the train station, then we moved up on Norris, and now we’re lucky enough to have this beautiful location on Diamond.”

The organization prides themselves on being chemical and pesticide free, as well as serving the community. Directly across the street from the Community Garden is the Sunny Sanchez Garden, which primarily houses flowers, and has a mural of Sanchez adorning the wall.

Temple Garden E-board
(from L to R; President Elliot Wilson; Garden manager Nina Taylor; former VP Shea Pilot, Treasurer Alyssa Betrago, Secretary Kaitlyn Bias)

The new garden on Diamond St. has many components to it, composts, flowering pots, and raised mulch beds, where they grow their produce. “We grow mostly vegetables. A lot of collards,” said Secretary Kaitlin Bias, “Also Kale, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, golden beans, cauliflower, garlic. You name it, and we probably grow it.”

An issue the club has run into is making sure to utilize their raised beds, due to the contaminated soil left from a previous building that was on that plot of land.

The garden grows all their vegetables on raised mulch beds.

A large big factor in deciding what they grow is what the community requires. Since it is a community garden, the majority of the produce harvested goes to the community.

Garden Manager Nina Taylor said, “We grew collards, specifically so many of them, because neighborhood residents were asking for them, and we wanted to help them out because that’s what this is all about.” In addition to growing produce for the community, every Friday from 4-5p.m. they garden holds a “garden stand”, which is donation based and open to everyone.

Their garden stand takes place weekly and welcomes all members of the community to join.

One of the biggest problems the clubfaces is consistency. “We are a student run organization, and while students are here to help during the school year, the bulk of our work takes place in the summer,” said Treasurer Alyssa Betrago.

Another issue is an overall lack of knowledge, according to Nina Taylor. She stated, “Most of us came into this knowing nothing, and I’ve learned so much just from experience. This is the culmination of three years’ worth of trying and failing and seeing what works.”

The Garden is located on the corner of Diamond and Carlisle.

The Executive Board does most of the planning for the garden, but it takes more than five college students to maintain a garden. The garden relies on volunteer input, many of which come from Green vs. Grey, an Urban Ecology class offered at Temple University. The class uses Philadelphia as a “living laboratory,” teaching students about the work necessary for cultivating a plant.

That isn’t the only way Temple assists the club, however. The organization receives funding from the office of sustainability, which played a significant role in snagging the plot of land now designated for the garden. In addition to the money from Temple, the clubs hold multiple fundraisers to raise funds to either donate or put towards a particular project, depending on the situation. The group’s largest income of money is the Owl Crowd, an annual crowd-funding event open to only Temple alum, in which only five organizations are chosen. Last fall, the Community Garden was tabbed to present at the event and was able to raise $1500, much more than the money Temple provides. Betrago said, “We’re hoping to get back into Owl Crowd next year. There are a lot of things Temple doesn’t help us cover, so it’s a huge help.”

The Garden has came a long way since moving to Diamond, now growing over 16 different vegetables.

In the future, the E-board came to a consensus agreement that they hope the park can keep growing their garden and become an open, highly used community area, even aside from the garden. “There aren’t many large grassy areas like this in Philadelphia,” Taylor said, “I just want it to be a place that people can come and enjoy a nice day.”

All in all, the Temple Community Garden hopes to continue to grow, and the only way to get there is through patience, perseverance, and hard work.

The badlands- Enterprise II

Taking a look at the drug scene in Kensington, By : Kate Crilly

Going to Kensington Ave, and E Somerset Street underneath of the train tracks on a humid summer day, there are crowds of people hanging around the famous drug corner.

To the left a young woman hurriedly crosses the street to the convenient store where a man greets her with a small baggy. The young woman seemed to be in her mid-to early twenties, with track marks covering her neck and arms, and a look of dismay and anxiety.

After a few moments I began to speak with the woman, after explaining to her my field of study. “This is my life now, you know, I spend every moment worrying about my next fix because if I don’t…then I get sick. I’m from northeast originally but my mom kicked me out so I do what I can to make sure I make ends meet. This is no way to live, but this is where I’m at,” said Kailee Coyle, 23-year-old heroin addict.

This disease creeps through the streets of Kensington. Walking around the neighborhoods is like taking a stroll through a ghost town.. Some blocks have children outside playing innocently, but most are filled with litter and lifeless, lost souls.

“Kensington is a place where addicts can go and not feel judged, but it is definitely not a safe place by any means”, said Jessica Merrigan, recovering heroin addict.

“It’s really just a human wasteland, there is so much pain and suffering,” said Merrigan. “Being homeless down there is dangerous because no one cares. Some dealers will purposely put bad batches of heroin on their blocks because they know the addicts are coming for it. Being a woman is even more dangerous, because everyone assumes you are selling yourself”.

Jess was recently released from a rehab facility in Philadelphia, but in her past spent a lot of time on the streets of Kensington to get her drug fix.

“There wasn’t any hope or joy in that lifestyle, and you know, everyone does something to take away from their pain. Some people just go down their and pick their drugs up and leave, but it’s the people that have been stuck down there for so long that you have to watch out for, because its their territory, in the badlands of Kensington”, said Jess.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the numbers of overdose deaths in Philadelphia have drastically spiked in the last few years, with nearly 700 overdose deaths since 2015. Just this past December there was a massive widespread of overdoses in Kensington from a bad batch of heroin being released to users and addicts. Statistics show that Philadelphia is the second largest heroin consuming city in America, and majority of the heroin being sold is coming from Mexico and South America, according to information listed on the Malvern institute for recovery center’s website. The majority of heroin sold is Kensington is by Dominican criminal organizations, and that heroin being sold is also being spread in surrounding suburbs, such as Allentown, Scranton and Baltimore. An even more shocking statistic shows that the purity range of Philadelphia heroin fluctuates between 40% and 95% with an average of around 70%.

A young man had approached me, curious of why I was in the area, and I explained what I was doing. He wanted to talk more, “Are you here to talk about the bad batch the other day? Yeah, there was another bad batch that went out and people were dipping out left and right. There was a bunch of overdoses, but that happens all the time around here”, said Mike Knox, a Kensington local.

Stepping further down each block the tensions began to rise, andmany of the local residents looked in my direction with hostility. The sun was beginning to set, and more cars began to roll up on the corners.

“I spent a lot of time in Kensington, when I was wrapped up in some of that scene. I wasn’t an addict or even a user, but I was wrapped up in it, I’ll leave it at that,” said Jay Rollin, former Kensington Native.

“People don’t want to realize that this is a health issue, its not a criminal issue, addiction is a disease that affects people on different levels. People become completely dependent on these drugs once they are addicted, and its almost impossible for them to lead normal lives. The government needs to step in and start caring more about the people with these diseases, provide clean needles, provide more outlets for help”, said Jay. “It’s a health issue and, its really almost a political issue”, he exclaimed.

“Finding a solution to this drug epidemic is definitely necessary. It was hell but it definitely made me so strong, and if you can pull yourself out of there you can literally do anything in the world, “ said Jessica.

Ben Franklin’s Favorite Brewery

The Brewery and Taproom Named After the Famous Philadelphian

 

St. Benjamin Brewing Company garage is located next to their Taproom at 5th and Cecil

When it comes to breweries and craft beer, Philadelphia has always been backward. Breweries and brewpubs can usually be found in urban areas, but most of the brewing in Philadelphia has been done outside of the city. Until recently, there has been a lack of brewing within city limits. There was almost an anti-city bias, but things are starting to change.

“The urban core of Philadelphia has been underrepresented in the manufacturing side of these various types of craft alcohols,” said Tim Patton, the founder of St. Benjamin Brewery. “A lot of the action had been in the suburbs which is exactly the opposite of every other major urban area.”

The microbrew scene is becoming more apparent in the city, especially towards the eastern neighborhoods like Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Kensington. Microbreweries are taking back the city and delivering great craft beer straight to the beer fanatics in the neighborhood.

St. Benjamin Taproom located at 5th and Cecil B. Moore in the Kensington section of Philadelphia

St. Benjamin Brewery is a part of the changing beer scene in Philadelphia. They are located at 5th and Cecil B. Moore in Kensington. Their location might be familiar to beer historians. The building once served as the carriage house and warehouse for the Theo Finkenauer brewery in the late 1800’s. Besides the relevancy of their location, they are conveniently located just around the corner from Fishtown and a few blocks away from Temple University.

Tim Patton, St. Benjamin’s founding father, double checks that everything is running smoothly for the night of June 15th

Tim Patton is the former brewmaster at St. Benjamin Brewing Company and the founder of the brewery. After a few years of success, Patton is now focused on the daily operations and management of the brewery. Patton is pleased with the success of his business, but he admits that it wasn’t always a smooth process.

“Nothing about this business has turned out the way it was supposed to turn out,” said Patton. “But I’d say we are in a pretty good spot.”

St. Benjamin Brewing Company takes pride in their taproom which sits right next to their brewery. Customers can even watch the brewing process through windows looking into the back of the brewery

The clientele is fairly diverse according to the bartenders at St. Benjamin Brewery. They get a good mix of neighborhood locals, craft-beer-craving hipsters, and Temple students out looking for a few beers. Patton was proud to say that his brewery has also become a regular spot for the people in the neighborhood.

“During the week, we pull a lot from the neighborhood, we are a lot of people’s regular spot,” said Patton. “It really makes me happy that we are the regular spot for industry people, and on the weekend, it does seem like we get a lot of tourists from the suburbs, which I’m really thrilled about.”

The brewery also gets visitors from much further away than the outlying suburbs around Philadelphia. They also get visitors from much further away. This is something that Patton always finds exciting because he appreciates reaching out to visitors from all over the country just as much as reaching out to people in the city of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia craft beer scene is growing larger and larger every year, and breweries like St. Benjamin are the reason why. They are expanding the boundaries of brewing in Philadelphia and creating an ever-expanding community. Craft beer communities tend to be friendly and non-competitive; beer usually makes people happy, right? The beer community in Philadelphia is especially strong. St. Benjamin recently got together with other microbreweries in the area for Philly Beer Week. This week of events kicked off on June 2nd and ended on June 11th and featured beer from all over the Philadelphia area. Many bars, brewpubs, and breweries in the Philadelphia area participated in the week-long event, including St. Benjamin.

“It’s a pretty tight-knit community, but not one that I ever felt was in any way exclusive,” said Patton. “Almost all of us who have breweries, we all started out home-brewing or interning at another small brewery, so we’ve all cobbled together our garage systems.”

Patton also mentions how brewers in the city don’t turn up their nose to the competition, instead they try to bond and work together to make the Philadelphia craft beer scene stronger, “Among the brewers and the brewery owners, I’ve picked up very little snobbery, which is one of the things I really like.”

Customer enjoys a Parley IPA in a Saint Benjamin glass at the taproom

Instead of creating a hostile environment between businesses, the Philadelphia brewery owners and brewers can sometimes be found at the bar drinking beers, or in a backroom at a brewery drinking whiskey and talking shop.

St. Benjamin Brewing Company is currently thriving in Philadelphia. Even with all the early success in the city, Patton hopes that the neighborhood will continue to populate to get more new faces into the brewery. Eventually, he hopes to expand the taproom and get more cans out in circulation to draw more visitors in.

The taproom bar at 4 pm on a Thursday afternoon

St. Benjamin Brewing Company is a great addition to the Philadelphia craft beer family. Patton and crew love the city, and the city loves them back. Their name even carries a homage to one of the most famous Philadelphians of all time, Benjamin Franklin. With a name like that, the people of Philadelphia will be drawn in to visit the taproom or take a tour of the brewery.

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