Black leaders discuss unrest, path to economic recovery for Philly

Row home facades on a residential street off Germantown Avenue in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Jamyra Perry

PHILADELPHIA — Almost a dozen of Philadelphia’s Black civic, religious, business and political leaders gathered on a Zoom call Friday afternoon in response to the economic impact of looting and rioting following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

Congressman Dwight Evans lead the discussion with state Sen. Vincent Hughes, Urban League of Philadelphia CEO Andrea Custis, Urban Affairs Coalition CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner, Black Clergy of Philadelphia President the Rev. Robert Collier, African American Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Steven Bradley and others.

Custis stressed the importance and the economic impact of cities like Philadelphia: “Urban cities are jewels. And yet, we are not treated as such. We are the economic drivers for this nation.”

The Urban League is looking to the past to inspire future economic growth. The organization has come up with a blueprint for recovery inspired by Great Society initiatives, which, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, included $145 billion in spending over 10 years.

“If you look at the plan that was put together, and it was the plan, that’s probably the fastest growth plan that has ever happened,” Custis said.

The new plan called, the Main Street Marshall Plan, builds on the original with increases in funding over a shorter period of time.

“It calls for $4 trillion to be spent over four years, and the breakdown on the $4 trillion is $2 trillion for infrastructure, roads, highways, buildings, and then $2 trillion for human development, which includes things like education, training and other areas,” the Urban League president said.

The human development component of the plan covers six areas including jobs and economy, small business and entrepreneurship, education and children, affordable housing, homeownership and asset building, health, justice, voting, and civic engagement.

Vincent said plans are great but lose steam without the right people backing them. He said that’s why voting is so important.

“Whether it’s racism, whether it’s police misconduct, whether it’s jobs and opportunity, whether it’s education. We cannot take our eyes off the prize of voting. If we don’t have people who really value what it is that we do, if we don’t have the House of Representatives and we don’t have the United States Senate, really focused in on the issues that we care about.

“Then we ultimately end up coming up with really great plans, but not having the power to bring the public resources and private support to the work that we really need to get done,” he said.

Wallace, 27, died Monday during a confrontation with two police officers in West Philadelphia. Family members said he was going through a mental crisis at the time. His death sparked a wave of protests and unrest across the city.

Jamyra Perry is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared