A Letter from President & CEO Catherine M. Cahill
It has been two weeks since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. Since then, a reckoning has dawned here in Philadelphia and across the country, a reckoning that demands us to say, “Enough!” The time is long overdue to end the systemic racism that is experienced every day by Black people everywhere, including our own Black colleagues, neighbors, and friends. The fact that it took the loss of another Black life – one of so many, too many – is reprehensible. Our only choice is change.
As many of you know, the Mann has long been part of the Parkside neighborhood in West Philadelphia. Parkside is one of Philadelphia’s most underserved neighborhoods and predominantly Black. It is a neighborhood of advocates, champions, and leaders who continually work to advance a better way forward, a better way of life for the community. I have had the privilege of developing many meaningful relationships with members of the business district in Parkside; I count them among my colleagues and friends as we have served on each other’s boards for many years. I called on and visited with a number of those community leaders and friends last week in the days following the destruction of the ParkWest Town Center at 52nd and Jefferson Streets. Looters had decimated the ShopRite, Lowe’s, and other retailers there. Before the ShopRite opened in 2008, Parkside was a designated food desert. The ParkWest Town Center provided a much-needed oasis and is, as its name suggests, a centerpiece of the community.
You might think that during those conversations I would have heard anger and anguish. What I heard was impassioned resiliency and dogged perseverance. To be sure and understandably, there were some tears and deep sadness over what was lost, over the fact that things are still so hard. But mostly they were conversations about restarting, cleaning up, and making sure the community has what it needs. They were the kind of conversations that inspire.
By virtue of serving on the Business Association of West Parkside board of directors, I have seen first-hand what resources and access can do to help a neighborhood advance. Now is not the time to diminish those resources nor to stop progress. I was thrilled to learn that ShopRite would be reopening as soon as today and that Lowe’s is committed to reopening, as well. The Mann has been a part of the Parkside community since 1976, and in Parkside is where we will stay. I hope other businesses and organizations that have already been here and those looking for new places to locate will become part of Parkside’s forward momentum, too.
This is a time of reckoning. Marchers and protestors have shone a bright light on the issue, and no one should turn away. Black lives matter. Black communities matter. On behalf of the Mann, I recommit us to continuing the work that is needed to achieve meaningful change, including progress within our own organization, and to continuing to elevate the role of the arts in advancing a more just and equitable society.