If the forecast we’re seeing is 💯, then you’re in for a glorious day around the region, with temperatures expected to hit the 50s under sunny skies.

Today we place ourselves under the microscope with the first installment of our new series, A More Perfect Union, which examines systemic racism in Philadelphia and its institutions — starting with The Inquirer itself.

And after official introductions of James Harden as a Sixer and Ben Simmons as a Net, we have a roundup of their best soundbites. Side note: Ben Simmons is a huge Pilates fan.

— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The Inquirer has grappled with racism for decades. Is it too late to change?

The first chapter of A More Perfect Union, a series about Philadelphia institutions and their roles in perpetuating systemic racism, examined The Inquirer itself.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery reported that newspaper has perpetuated systemic racism by writing for a white audience and maintaining a mostly white newsroom. Lowery interviewed current and former Inquirer staffers and leaders to document the paper’s internal culture and the experiences of journalists of color. He also examined our current efforts to become an anti-racist newsroom.

Lowery’s piece is the first in a series examining the institutions that have defined this city — but also played a role in segregating it. The goal is best summed up in the preamble by editor Errin Haines: “Together as Philadelphians, we must reconcile the inequity of our origins as inconsistent with who we say we are and want to be.”

Make some time to read Wesley’s full story here. My colleague Patricia Madej has some key takeaways from the first chapter. And sign up to get notified when the next chapter drops.

What you should know today

  • An Inquirer investigation revealed that police response times to 911 calls have gotten a lot slower since March 2020.

  • Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican candidate for governor, was subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

  • A YouTuber pleaded guilty in one of the largest cable piracy scams ever prosecuted.

  • COVID has even ruined our feet.

  • Jean-Georges is reopening – and it’s primed to be the most expensive restaurant in the city.

  • And the Roots Picnic will return to the Mann Music Center in June featuring Mary J. Bilge as the headliner. Also coming this summer to the Mann and Atlantic City? Phish.

  • Local Coronavirus Numbers: Here’s your daily look at the latest COVID-19 data.

What James Harden and Ben Simmons had to say

Former Sixers star Ben Simmons spoke for the first time in months yesterday about the saga that caused him to sit out most of the season.

But the bigger news was perennial NBA All-Star James Harden being introduced during an introductory news conference yesterday, after he was at the trade deadline in exchange for Simmons.

Here’s what they had to say:

🏀 Harden on landing in Philly, his third team in 14 months: “I’m in a place where I can be the best James Harden I can be on the court. … That’s in the past, I’m excited, I’m healthy. And it is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

🏀 Harden on his plans for once he gets on the court after the All-Star break: “After the break it’s just go-time. As much as I can incorporate and figure things out fast, which probably won’t be long, the better things will be. But it shouldn’t take long at all. I pretty much fit anywhere.”

🏀 Simmons on why things got so bad in Philly: “If I knew I would tell you everything. But there’s just a lot of things internally that had happened over time and it just got to a place where I don’t think it was good for me mentally, so it is what it is.”

🏀 Simmons on people skeptical of his mental health issues: “They should be happy I’m smiling. I’ve had some dark times over these last six months. … People are going to say what they want, they’ve said it the last six months, and it is what it is.”

🏀 Harden on whether the Sixers are can win the NBA Finals this year: “Hell yeah!”

A team of our reporters and columnists have reactions from both news conferences, as well as a look at what’s next for the new-look Sixers.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

As we continue to use trivia this month to highlight Black history, here’s today’s question: Which one of these Black history sites is not in Philadelphia? Take a guess and find the answer here.

a. Harriet Tubman Museum

b. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

c. Underground Railroad Museum

What we’re …

🦗 Reading: Apparently climate-conscious cooking means tapping into the joy of cooking insects.

💻 Registering: For the next Inquirer Live, featuring our Sixers writers talking from the NBA All-Star Game on Friday at 3 p.m.

👀 Watching: This interview with Philly teacher Joyce Abbott, the real-life namesake for ABC’s new hit mockumentary, Abbott Elementary.

Photo of the day

Enjoy today, Philly. I’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow. ✌️