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Convention wisdom: What about Philly schools and teachers?

Inquirer Editorial Board members and other contributors will be blogging about the people and events, and sights and sounds, of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week.

Ruth Garcia, holds up a sign written in Spanish that reads, "I am with her" at Philadelphia Federation of Teachers headquarters.
Ruth Garcia, holds up a sign written in Spanish that reads, "I am with her" at Philadelphia Federation of Teachers headquarters.Read moreAaron Ricketts / Staff Photographer

Amy Roat is seriously upset by the Democratic National Convention. She's been protesting in the streets almost every day, and watching on TV almost every night.

Roat is a public school teacher at the Feltonville School of Arts and Science in North Philadelphia, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators, a left-wing faction within the Philadelphia Teachers Union.  Roat doesn't hear anyone at the DNC speaking for her or her students.

"I'm pretty annoyed that the Democrats came to my hometown and they didn't talk about local issues," says Roat. "Nobody brought up the fact that teachers in Philly have gone 1,000 days without a contract. … The only person who said anything positive about teachers was Joe Biden." The vice president spoke to the convention Wednesday night.

Many Democratic politicians, including (at various times) Hillary Clinton and President Obama, have embraced the education reform movement. But it's not just politicians who Roat faults for ignoring the issues she cares about.

"My own AFT [American Federation of Teachers] president had three minutes on the podium and she couldn't give us three seconds," says Roat.

Not only has Roat been protesting this week, she was also involved in activist work leading up to the convention. She participated in actions led by Reclaim Philadelphia, a group largely comprised of former Bernie Sanders campaign workers who were demanding that the Democratic National Committee reveal the finances for the convention planning.

Roat isn't a huge fan of Clinton, but she'll swallow hard and vote for her in November because Donald Trump clearly seems to be a worse option for her and her students. The Green Party's Jill Stein seems like a nice person, but Roat doesn't consider her a serious politician.

"I have teachers telling me they can't afford to buy a house or get married," says Roat. "I'm a middle-class teacher with two master's degrees and I haven't had a raise in four years. I'm at the point where I'm struggling to get by now. If I'm a middle-class person struggling to get by, what does that say about how my students are doing?"


Lucky Kentucky

By Jake Blumgart

The Kentucky delegation got a plum placement, right next to City Hall at the Windsor Suites. At the last Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, they were exiled to the exurbs and a hellacious commute. This time, as compensation, they are a five-minute walk to the subway to the main events at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hotel is decked out for the Kentuckians, and even features two jars of candy (Peanut Chews in one, Twizzlers in the other) fronted by a sign reading "Enjoy a Taste of Philly." (Twizzlers are an odd choice, but the hosts couldn't very well put a pot of Cheez Whiz and steak on the table.)  There are 60 delegates from the Bluegrass state, split almost evenly between Hilary Clinton (28) and Bernie Sanders (27). (The five super delegates all voted for Clinton.)

Although there have been some complaints by convention-goers this week about the Wells Fargo Center being all the way down in South Philly, the Kentuckians say it's been easy to get to and from the floor. In general, they are impressed with what they've seen of Philly and how easy it is to walk and take transit to so many sights. Maneuvering an automobile through the congested streets, on the other hand, is not their idea of a good time.

"It's not drivable and I feel bad for anyone who has a car here," says Jacob Drake, a Sanders delegate wearing a "Bluegrass for Bernie" button. "It's a very old city and it is obvious from the way the streets are designed. It seems so confusing to get around [in a car]. Everything is a one-way street!"

Drake is more familiar with Chicago, but he seems to think Philly measures up pretty well to the Windy City.

"I was walking around with a friend who was in town for the protests and we ended up in Chinatown," says Drake.  "The Chinatown is huge here. … I think it's bigger than the one in Chicago and definitely bigger than the one in D.C."

Drake has been to Philadelphia a couple times before. But after this trip, he's convinced that it deserves another, longer visit, one where he doesn't have to attend quite so many protests and listen to so many political speeches.


The view from the new Comcast tower

By Jake Blumgart

There hasn't been any hippies vs. hard hats action at this political convention. From where Mo Shuster is standing, the DNC thus far seems calm, orderly, and quiet. Dressed in a hard hat and safety gear, smoking a cigarette under the Comcast skyscraper he's working on, this sheet metal worker describes his corner of the city as totally unaffected by the week's political events.

Although there are still scattered pockets of Bernie diehards and Black Lives Matter activists, most are posted up at City Hall. Shuster hasn't seen any protesters, or motorcades, or phalanxes of police ready for action. Not even a celebrity (political or otherwise).

"We haven't seen a thing, not anybody, not even Bob Brady," says Shuster with a chuckle, about the congressman and Democratic Party chairman from Philadelphia. "We've been totally unaffected."

Shuster was in Philadelphia for the Republican convention in 2000 and remembers a very different scene and a far more expansive presence.

"They had a lot more protesters during the RNC," says Shuster. "It was majorly different. There were streets shut down, traffic choked up."

Shuster. a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 who lives in West Chester, has been watching the conventions at night after work and seems extremely unenthusiastic about what he's seen from Republicans and Democrats.

"It's like night and day, from one extreme to the other," he says. "But it's interesting enough that I'll keep watching."


Philly's Dumpster Divers

By Jake Blumgart

Neal Benson has a problem with the cops. Not actual cops. Just the ones he calls "trash cops."

Benson is a member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers, a collective that makes art out of found materials. The West Philly resident and his comrades had set up a tent in the courtyard of City Hall -- surely a first -- and catered to the swarms of protesters and school kids who came through the area.

Asked how he got started, he mentions the "trash cops" who have foiled his group's trash-collection schemes on a number of occasions.

"You'll go into a Dumpster and a guard will come out after they see you on closed-circuit TV," says Benson. "They say, 'Hey, get out of here, That's our trash.' But we always ask, to those who will talk to us, why are they protecting a landfill?"

The answer, as it turns out, is that they don't want to be liable if someone gets hurt in the Dumpster. So the Dumpster Divers got together and tried applying for group health insurance. That didn't work, but they've been together ever since.

For the DNC, the group helped people make buttons and fans. As Benson cleaned up from their day of activity on Wednesday, a glittery mass of materials in his arms, he asked -- politely -- to be allowed to rid himself of the burden.

"Will you follow me to the trash?"


Shapiro notes Trump-Rafferty connection

By Jake Blumgart

Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, was feted Wednesday afternoon by the National Democratic County Officials. The event on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel seemed to be a celebration of county politicians – Shapiro is a Montgomery County commissioner -- who were moving on to higher office.

Asked if that meant he was the favorite in the race, Shapiro demurred. But he did have a comment on his opponent, Republican John Rafferty, who said yesterday he would campaign with Donald Trump.

"I'm running my own race … that being said I do think Donald Trump is an albatross around the neck of John Rafferty," Shapiro told me before he gave a speech to his fellow county officials. "I think it will hurt him in the suburbs. Donald Trump is very effective at making people feel that they are 'the other' and John Rafferty has fully invested in that."

As attendees nibbled on coconut shrimp and slabs of beef, Shapiro regaled them with tales of his exploits. He won a huge cheer with a line about being part of the first Democratic-controlled board of commissioners in Montgomery County since the 1860s.

Warren County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said Shapiro was a model for other young politicians in the state like himself, and he eagerly reeled off policies of Shapiro's that he's studied to emphasize his point. Eggleston was particularly impressed that, during this year's Democratic primary, Shapiro trekked up to Warren County, which is at least six hours from Philadelphia and only has about 41,000 residents.

"We don't get a lot of statewide candidates up there," says Eggleston. "It's been really easy to pitch him to my community. With the other Democratic candidates it was hard to say what they were for or against. With Josh it was really clear."

Shapiro plans to campaign with Hillary Clinton in the coming months, adding to the 30,000 miles he said he's put on his car since the campaign for attorney general began. In the meantime, atop the Loews, he refrained from indulging in the hearty offerings of beef and fried shrimp.


On protests, Hillary, and voting

By Taylor Hosking

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and a former mayor of New Orleans, is in Philadelphia this week to talk up his organization's policy agenda with party members and leaders. He shared some thoughts on the new generation of protests, police-community relations, Hillary Clinton, and voting

Protest and millennials:  "The new empowerment movement, epitomized by Black Lives Matter, reflects the rise of the voice of a new generation. That generation, prior to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, had mostly been silent. These tragedies have spurred a level of engagement that is positive and good. … I don't see it as people coming to disrupt. I see it as people finally joining the fight in whatever fashion they choose to be active on the issues. …

"For a very long time, baby boomers were front and center and now millennials are a large portion of the movement. Every generation brings its own swagger, sensibilities, sense of hopes, aspirations, and fears. Millennials today are shaped in many respects by the forces of the Great Recession and have a more distinct social justice lens on many issues."

Police-community relations: "What I learned when I was mayor of New Orleans is that you had a group of officers that were involved in most of the incidents. And they typically produced many small complaints. If we got two complaints about Officer X being discourteous, and another officer on the same beat isn't getting any complaints, that's where the early warning system would come in. The idea of the early warning system is to intervene on the small things. It would lead to a counseling session, where someone would ask the officer what's going on, not assuming that they did anything wrong.

"The problem comes in when you don't know the community. … I always thought it was problematic to have these suburban guys living outside the city and coming in to police. Their world is too different. I made the residency rule work when I was in office. After I left office, they got rid of it, saying it was too hard to hire in the city. But even after they got rid of it they still couldn't hire."

Hillary vs. Bernie: "I think people need to be for whoever they want to be for, but the important thing for people to recognize is that Hillary has a long record and has been on the front lines of issue after issue after issue.

"Bernie Sanders has not been involved with the African American leadership of this country over the past 30 years. He supported Jesse Jackson in the '80s. He's had a good voting record. But he hasn't had the relationships with civil rights organizations and civil rights leaders over the last 30 years he's been in Congress. I've been here and I've never seen him before. Just like John Lewis said, 'I like you. But I haven't seen you.' Bernie says he was at the march in 1963. There were about a million people at the March on Washington in 1963. That's not a distinguishing characteristic. Mitch McConnell [the Senate Republican leader] says he was at the March on Washington."

On minorities who threaten to abstain from voting this year: "I vigorously and vehemently reject the notion that anyone is promoting that people should not vote. I think that's an absurd, self-destructive point of view. It solves nothing. It achieves nothing. What's the effect of that?"


Showing up is half the battle

By Jake Blumgart

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, 10 activists with Philly Showing up for Racial Justice walked onto the bridge at 18th and Vine. As cars sped along the Vine Street Expressway below, they hung an enormous, billowing banner from the bridge reading "#White People Say: Black Lives Matter!!!"

The banner occupies about a third of the bridge and, to the activists' surprise, it remained up for hours. The group posted sentries to watch the inevitable police action against the illegal sign. But no officers arrived and, a little after 10, the group dispersed and left the fluttering message over the freeway.

"We were marveling about that," said Rebecca Subar, one of the 10 activists. "Of course the police have a lot to do today."

The action was unusual for Philly Showing up for Racial Justice. Usually its members just show up to provide warm bodies for events or protests that are being led by people of color. They see themselves as allies who want to play a supportive role, not hog the spotlight.

This action, though, was for white people and by white people (all 10 are white).

"We don't want to hate on anyone, we care about the lives of police officers," said Subar. "But it seems obvious to the American people that police officers' lives matter and it's not obvious to all police officers that black lives matter."

As for the banner hang, she says it took about five minutes. "The experience was so easy."


White people to the back of the march

By Taylor Hosking

Walking up to the Black Resistance March in North Philadelphia at Broad and Diamond Tuesday, you might have thought you were at the wrong protest.

Crowds of white people were gearing up, many of whom are Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein supporters or part of various socialist groups. White allies from around the country appeared to outnumber the black, mostly Philadelphian, protesters. For some, this was just another element of their week of DNC protesting. Others used it as a platform to express their socialist or even anarchist views, and a lesser number had been engaged in grassroots organizing for racial justice long before the convention.

As the group entered the street and started to assemble for the march, organizers became frustrated.  Finally, Erica, a Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L. Justice leader, yelled over the loud speaker, "I need all white people to move to the back. This is a Black Resistance March. And get that anarchist [stuff] out of here. We are not afraid to kick people out.  Whites, take your rightful place in the back of the march. That includes media."

Amid confused stares and a slow reluctance to move, a couple people shouted things like "We're all here for the same cause" and "We're all in this together." One white man said, "What is this, Rosa Parks?" His comment sparked a verbal altercation with the black women around him. Although the media didn't move much, most non-black members of the crowd did go to the back and there didn't appear to be a noticeable group leaving the march.

Samantha Goldman, from World Can't Wait of the Arch Street United Church, said, "I think the best thing for progress would be to walk side by side, but to not recognize where the outrage comes from is to fall short." Her sentiment was largely shared by others who either had no problem with it, felt it wasn't their place to contest, or weren't sure what they thought.

But the crowd united again soon enough over chants like "People-power over police," "No justice, no peace," and "Power to the people. No power to the pigs."


Bernie or bust vs. who's on the ballot

By Jake Blumgart

Katie and Nathan Troutman trekked all the way from Orange County, Calif., to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. They are diehard Bernie Sanders supporters who absolutely refuse to support Hillary Clinton. And they were eager to let everyone else on the corner of Arch and 16th Tuesday known how they feel.

As the couple stood on the corner waving signs with other Bernie fans, they were approached by Philly resident Deone Stallworth, supporting herself on a cane. When she asked why they wouldn't get in line with Clinton, who happened to be her candidate as well, Katie Troutman explained at great volume.

"She stole the election and I'm not going to vote for someone who steals the election," Troutman said. "Don't even say anything to me. She's a Republican."

As Stallworth tried to argue, Troutman interrupted. "If it's a lecture, we don't want to hear it!"

After snapping, she immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. But you can't reward someone for stealing an election. Jill Stein, Jill Stein. Vote for Jill."

Then the two women walked east together along Arch, Troutman arguing volubly all the while.

Her husband lagged behind to denounce the one percent, the military industrial complex, and other assorted evils.

"I can't vote for Hillary Clinton and the lesser of two evils because now I know too much," he said.  "Thank God for the Internet."

He paused.

"I get to this point in the conversation and I realize I sound like a raving lunatic," he sighs.

The two Californians wandered off, to chants of "Jill Not Hill" from a nearby Bernie or Bust rally.

"I think they have some legitimate points," said Stallworth. "I don't particularly care for Mrs. Clinton. But they're trying to take a lot of it back i.e. the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So we still have to go with whoever is on the damn ballot."


After hours, at Cherry Street Tavern

By Jake Blumgart

The Cherry Street Tavern is hidden away in Center City's Logan neighborhood, far from the convention action.

But the DNC is still making itself felt. One old-timer, sitting at the bar and nursing a before noon beer, discourses to the wait staff on the convention action of the previous night. He was particularly taken by Michelle Obama (as seems to be the general consensus). "She's a class act. I'm no Democrat, but that was a great speech."

Tavern owner Bill Loughery enthuses about the boon the convention brought to the bar's late-night business. He's keeping the kitchen open until 1 a.m. to feed hungry delegates who report not being able to get anything but bun-less hot dogs at the Wells Fargo Center.

It's a stark contrast to what he remembers of the Republican convention in 2000. At that heavily policed event, the tavern's only customers were members of the Hash House Harries — "a drinking club with a running problem" — who planned to route through the city during George W. Bush's fete. Instead of a nice jog, they were arrested on 16th and JFK.

"We didn't get anything at the RNC," says Loughery. "Afterwards there was a big ACLU party though. They [the police] had locked up like 500 or 400 people. And when they got their settlements … one of them had their party here."

This time around, Democrats from Michigan, California, and Alabama have been trickling into his bar. He hasn't been able to follow what's actually going on at the convention because the tavern has been so packed.

But he did notice when a couple of Alabama delegates, drinking top-shelf liquor, asked him to call a cab for them. They were headed back to their hotel – more than 26 miles away.

"We got them a cab to Phoenixville," says Loughery, in awe.  "Have you ever heard of that? I don't like to imagine what it cost."


Cornel West and "dear brother Bernie"

By Taylor Hosking

Author and activist Cornel West mingled with Bernie Sanders supporters at their rally outside City Hall on Monday. He said he's voting for Jill Stein and referred to Sanders as his "dear brother Bernie." Later in the day, he sang and chanted with protesters.

"I'm not convinced by Hillary's arguments," he said. "You have to follow your own judgment and conscience. If she wins, she wins because she made enough cases to people that they're convinced. If she doesn't win, she didn't make the case. That's what democracy's all about."

When asked if his refusal to support Hillary is aiding Trump, he shrugged his shoulders saying, "[Trump] might win whether I vote or not."

Crowds flocked for pictures and conversation with the West, who stayed at the rally for hours.


 Why can't the days be like the nights?

By Cynthia Burton

"Bridge over Troubled Water" may have been a touchingly appropriate theme song for Monday's Democratic National Convention opener, but the soundtrack for the trip to the center should have been "Summer in the City."

Sweaty delegates waited in the searing afternoon heat on Arch near 13th for buses to take them to the Wells Fargo Center. When buses stopped, delegates rushed the doors, pressing up against each other and making each other hotter and crankier.

Upon arriving at the stadium complex, delegates went through an air conditioned security checkpoint tent and back outside into the oven. They trudged through a parking lot that was (forgive me) hotter than a match head.

In the distance, just outside the center, were misters offering the hope of relief. But the misters were pointed into the hot wind and blowing back on themselves.

Inside the center, hundreds waited in lines to buy bottled water. Those who couldn't wait and tried the water fountains got a taste of Philly H2O, served slightly warmer than perspiration.

Here's hoping the rest of the week is better.


Allyson Schwartz's advice for Hillary

By Cynthia Burton

Here's some advice for the Democrats' nominee-to-be, Hillary Clinton, from someone who's bucked conventional politics.

Allyson Schwartz was a state senator, U.S. representative, and statewide candidate for governor and U.S. Senate. She started her career with some party backing but, behind her back, some of the middle schoolers in the political class referred to her as "Senator Scarf." (In her defense, it was the 1990s. Serious women wore serious scarfs.)

While in the state Senate, the party chopped up her district, moving her from one part of Philadelphia to another. When she got to Congress, they moved her around too. But they couldn't get rid of her. "I just worked it," she says.

Schwartz left elective politics on her own terms. When she ran for Pennsylvania governor in 2015, she made the principled choice to give up her House seat rather than hold it in reserve if she lost the governor's race. She did lose in the Democratic primary, to Tom Wolf. She also gave up her super delegate status and had to run to become a delegate to the DNC.

So, Schwartz's advice from one woman who's met, let's say, a little resistance, to another who's met a lot more, is pertinent.

Schwartz says Clinton should explain the roots of her passion for public service. She must describe the struggles and the choices she made even before she got into politics, back when she was helping children and fighting to advance voters' rights.

"She has to talk about where that passion and commitment comes from," Schwartz says.

That's good advice. Let's see what happens Thursday night when Clinton gives her speech at the Wells Fargo Center.


'We won't vote for Hillary'

By Taylor Hosking

There was a mixture of emotions at this morning's Bernie Sanders rally outside of City Hall as his supporters used each other's frustrations, excitement, and witty sign-making skills to get their energy up for an almost four-mile walk to the Convention Center in the scorching heat. Some came to Philadelphia hoping they could get super delegates to change their votes; others want to demonstrate against what they see as an undemocratic primary season.

On one thing they are united:  They are opposed to Hillary Clinton's candidacy, despite Sanders' pleas that they should be uniting to stop GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Monday morning, Sanders' supporters toted the same "Hillary for Prison" signs that were seen last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. A popular chant in Philly was, "Hell no, DNC, we won't vote for Hillary." Other signs read "The Grinch who stole the candidacy" and "Bernie or Jill, never Hill." (Jill Stein is the Green party candidate for president.)

Despite Sanders' attempts to rally his troops for Clinton, the sentiment among many interviewed Monday was, "Hill no."  One longtime Sanders supporter from New Hampshire, Genara Clay, said, "We can't be guilted into feeling like we've caused anything to happen. It's the corporations and the big money in this country that brought us to where we are with these two choices."

Many expressed their distrust of the two-party system, adding that they're not convinced Hillary is much different than Trump, especially now that e-mail evidence bolsters her corrupt establishment image.

It will be hard for many to support Clinton, because the Sanders movement wasn't solely about him.  Michael, 27, from Arlington, Va.,  said,  "Bernie never really made it about himself. It was about the ideas. If he's throwing in the towel, then we're parting ways."

Premilla Dixitnag, 66, an urban farmer from upstate New York said, "I do agree Trump has to be defeated but I don't think Hillary is the person to defeat him. I would love to be able to take Bernie's lead on [whom to vote for now], but at this point the bulk of millennials aren't looking for leaders, they're trying to get their agenda passed."

As one of the older rally participants, Premilla expressed how important it is that the younger generations are given a say in what happens to their future. "To leave millennials with the politics of corporate power is to give them a war without end," she said.


Arm candy

By Cynthia Burton

There are a lot of celebrities in Philadelphia this week but probably the easiest to find in a crowd is John Fetterman.

He's 6-foot-8 and often sports the black shirt and work pants look, along with tattooed arms, a shaved head, a goatee, and kind eyes. Braddock Mayor Fetterman ran in the Democratic Senate primary last spring and lost to Katie McGinty.  Since then he has started building his statewide rep. Maybe for another run, maybe not.

Asked what he's up to this week, he says he is in Philadelphia with his wife, Gisele, who is a convention delegate. He says some people have asked him if he was her bodyguard and he quips, "I'm just arm candy."

That's a pretty strong entry in the understatement of the week contest.


Cats and Dogs or is it Dogs and Cats?

By Cynthia Burton

Democrats like to talk about forging unity from diversity so it is kind of odd that campaign buttons on sale in hotel lobbies where Democratic National Convention delegates are staying separate the dog lovers from the cat lovers. Sure, cats and dogs are different. Cats are independent and wise. Dogs are floppy and given to wiggly displays of affection. But each species mostly brings out the best in humans. That's common ground, isn't it?

Where's the button that brings them together? Or just says cats and dogs and their humans are going to have to work together if they want Hillary Clinton to win? They don't have to merge. That could almost be as awful as the cartoon series CatDog.

But visiting Democrats are going to have to figure it out. Otherwise, they're going to go home to their dogs and cats with nothing new to offer.


Scrambled eggs

By Cynthia Burton

Pennsylvania Democrats didn't seem to mind that their headline speaker, recently deposed party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, wasn't at their breakfast this morning. They were busy scooping scrambled eggs and mystery meat onto white plates and shuffling into the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel at Broad and Locust.

Inside they murmured and murmured as speakers went on about, well who knows, the murmuring was kind of loud.

But they did stop for Chairman Marcel L. Groen who asked the Bernie Sanders delegates to stand. The crowd applauded them and Groen said, "We're going to hug you."

They better.

Outside, Bernie delegate Jonathan Paul Fox of Lancaster said the party needs more of the hug talk and noted that at a recent state party meeting, the tone was a scolding to the Sanders people as in "You better..."

Wasserman Schultz "stepped down" following a leak of internal Democratic National Committee emails that detailed how the party was going to undermine the Sanders' candidacy, including a shot at how he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve.

Philly activist will bring message of unity to delegates

"They've been going back and forth for a while and each side has lost family and friends, but we're trying to build relationships," said Moore, 30, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Unity in the Community. "It's tough, a process, a one day at a time thing, but the violence has got to stop. Right now."

Tuesday, Moore will be one of the featured speakers during the second night of the Democratic National Convention. The theme is "Families and Children," and Moore will have 21/2 minutes to make his case before tens of thousands of people gathered at the Wells Fargo Center and the millions watching on television. While he's still crafting his speech, he plans to stress the need for unity - across neighborhoods and the nation.

"When you see the mothers cry, you know something needs to be done," he said.

Moore founded his organization in 2009. It uses a multi-pronged approach to stopping violence, offering some handouts, like school supplies in September and feeding the hungry at Thanksgiving, but also hand-ups, like job fairs and criminal record expungement clinics so those who want to work can find a job.

"When you have kids to feed, you'll do anything to feed them," he said. Even something illegal.

Moore's group is a boots-on-the-ground organization. While there is a reactionary element - for example, he visits grieving families whose loved ones have died violently - it's also forward thinking, taking action before a threat emerges. In 2014, for example, he was part of a group of citizens who worked to ban the sale, possession, and use of BB guns in the city. City Council passed the new law two weeks before a 12-year-old Cleveland boy, Tamir Rice, was shot and killed by police who thought he was carrying a handgun. Rice's "weapon" was actually a toy.

Moore may seem an unlikely advocate: He's young. He hasn't run the streets like so many others who start advocacy groups as a way of giving back to the communities they've harmed. He left a job as a producer at Black Entertainment Television in New York after almost eight years to return to South Philadelphia, where he makes less money as a freelancer. But he couldn't be happier.

"I always said I wanted to give back," he said. "It's not just about taking."

Moore said he was surprised when members of Hillary Clinton's team reached out to him. He told them his story of growing up with in the Tasker Homes development, of a mother who worked two jobs to support him and his siblings, of a neighborhood without hope. He talked about getting his first job bagging groceries at age 10, graduating from Bartram High, doing internships at a local radio station and BET. He shared his passion for using politics to promote change, his role in recruiting voters for Obama's presidential runs, his election to Democratic committeeman in 2014.

"We need to be leaders," Moore said.

And he is a leader, something the DNC recognized. He is a mentor, reaching out to young people in need, as he did a few months ago when a concerned parent asked him to speak to her son. Moore did. The teenager is now working at Walmart. His mother sent Moore a text recently that just said, "Anton Moore. Thank you."

He is a listener. In March, he listened when seventh and eighth graders at World Communications Charter School told him about the loved ones they'd lost to gun violence. He was there one day after the city posted six homicides.

Unity's showcase annual event is Peace Week, which includes community softball and basketball games, a street festival, and the rally that Moore hopes will bring some calm to two troubled neighborhoods. In 2014, Moore organized a similar meeting between neighborhood leaders from South and Southwest Philadelphia.

"The more we see other and know each other," he said, "the better we relate to each other."

Natalie Pompilio is a Philadelphia writer.