News / Media

With Diversity Comes POWER

Convention crowd shot2From the Philadelphia Daily News

IT'S NOT OFTEN that you hear a rendition of James Brown's "I Feel Good" in a church.

But it happened last night, during a lively founding convention of an interfaith organization, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, or POWER, when singers had attendees on their feet and moving to the beat, with revised lyrics tailored to the event.

Mayor Nutter, Councilman Bill Green and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey joined more than 1,000 supporters who packed the pews at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church on Broad Street near Fitzwater for POWER's inaugural event. Members from about 40 congregation of myriad faiths that span the city attended.

The organization's mission is to help communities struggling with unemployment, illiteracy, crime and other issues by focusing on improved public safety, education, accessible health care, job training and placement and housing across the city.

We intend to transform

"As a pastor in a community marginalized and struggling, it's one thing to pray, but we need to do something tangible," said the Rev. Dwayne Royster, of North Philadelphia's Living Water United Church of Christ, who will serve as POWER's executive director. "We intend to do something to transform."

POWER leaders presented statistics showing that unemployment and poverty are at an all-time high in the city and called for local politicians and labor leaders to commit to putting the unemployed back to work.

In his address to the congregation, Nutter said he was up to the challenge but cautioned that it cannot solely be the responsibility of city government to fix the system's "brokenness," as POWER founders refer to it.

"We're not the only government in town," Nutter said, calling on the state and federal governments to create more jobs.

"I look forward to having thousands of you . . . knocking down the barriers that have held many of our Philadelphians back for a long, long time," he said, to thunderous cheers and applause.

Rev. DuBouse & Councilman GreenGreen has sponsored a bill that would require all publicly funded projects in Philadelphia - like the upcoming $6.5 billion expansion of the airport - to have 50 percent of worker hours performed by Philadelphians. He assured the gathering that he was dedicated to the task as well.

Several POWER leaders and members said that what separates it from other initiatives working to combat problems in the city is its interfaith, inter-ethnicity and citywide reach.

"It brings a cross-section of people together, every opposite you can imagine," said Royster.

The Rev. Tom Higgins, entering his eighth year at Juniata's Holy Innocents Catholic Church, said he sees the value in various communities uniting.

"As one church, we can't fix everything we need to fix," said Higgins, who served as co-chairman of last night's convention.

"We're all different churches, synagogues and mosques, but the main belief is that we can make this city a better place."

BY MORGAN ZALOT,  Philadelphia Daily News