The rain you may be waking up to this morning is forecast to end midmorning, returning the sun and temperatures once again in the 80s.

We’re excited to tell you about a collective of fourth graders from a North Philly school who didn’t quit until the change they wished to see for their school’s blacktop became a reality.

It’s the type of inspiring story from future leaders I think we could all use right now.

Also, we examine how Philly became the birthplace of prisons, solitary confinement, and disproportionately punishing Black people from the start. It’s the latest examination of Philly’s roots in systemic racism as part of The Inquirer’s A More Perfect Union series.

If you see this 🔒 in today’s newsletter, that means we’re highlighting our exclusive journalism. You need to be a subscriber to read these stories.

— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr,

Philly students spark the change they wished to see – on their playground

Picture playing on an all-concrete yard with no play equipment. Now imagine much of that concrete being busted up, surrounded by a fence that is crumbling.

Finally, imagine yourself playing on that — as a kindergartner.

This was life at Sheridan Elementary, a K-4 school in Kensington that educates about 400 students. According to the staff at the school, at least 40 students were injured in the yard. Soccer games were stopped because too many kids were getting hurt.

A group of fourth graders 👆had enough and went to the school board lobbying for a remodel of the play area. District officials arrived the next day to assess the yard and begin work.

The fact that these students, known as the “Change Makers,” took their plea to a cash-strapped school district — that has roughly 300 buildings, many of which are 70-plus years old and in need of significant repairs — and inspired true change is remarkable.

“We made that happen,” said Devyn Smith, 10, a student at Sheridan. “We just asked for it.”

Our reporter Kristen Graham has more on this story of young Philly leaders making a difference.

What you should know today

The American prison? Its roots are here in Philly

In 1790, America’s first penitentiary opened on a stone-paved Philadelphia street. Built in the shadow of Independence Hall, Walnut Street jail served as a prototype for the nation: a place to test a new and uniquely American approach to punishment.

Today, the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. Ideas about punishment and solitary confinement first tested on Walnut Street and then at Eastern State Penitentiary continue to shape the nation.

The story that began inside the thick walls of these early prisons “is a history of social control in America — one contaminated by racism at the outset,” writes Samantha Melamed in this latest installment of A More Perfect Union.

You can also check out earlier works in this yearlong series, including an inward look at The Inquirer right here.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

The tradition of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia returns this summer and will be held in a location to be named on Aug. 18. It will also celebrate a milestone that is today’s question: What will be the significance of this year’s event? Take a guess and then find the answer here.

a. 10-year anniversary

b. 20-year anniversary

c. The location returns to its inaugural spot

d. Patrons don’t need to bring their own food

What we’re …

Liking: Former Phillies All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins will manage the American League prospects in the MLB Futures Game on July 17.

😲 Sharing: You know “that guy” who always has a small role in every Adam Sandler movie? He’s from Philly.

📚 Reading: About the gymnasts who were sexually molested by former doctor Larry Nassar and are suing the FBI for $1 billion.

🧩 Unscramble the Anagram 🧩

Philly is home to this first hospital in the Western Hemisphere devoted to one particular practice.


Think you know? Send your guess our way at We’ll give a shoutout to a reader at random who answers correctly. Today’s shoutout goes to Linda Bross, of Philadelphia, who correctly guessed the ROOTS PICNIC as Wednesday’s answer. Also, offering a mea culpa to Marie Ruddell, of West Mount Airy, who correctly guessed Tuesday’s answer but we attributed the wrong location.

Photo of the day

Get after it today. I’ll catch you tomorrow. ✌️