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The Eagles win it all

in Sports by

Usually when a quarterback passes for over 500 yards, shattering his own Super Bowl record in the process, you expect his team to win. Alas, it was not to be for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles secured their first world championship in team history. Defense was at a premium in the game as the teams combined for an NFL-record 1,155 total yards of offense. But in the end, it was a monstrous defensive play that sealed the game for the Eagles.

The narratives leading into this game certainly built up much of the hype around it. It was Philadelphia’s third shot at a Super Bowl, their most recent loss being at the hands of the Patriots in 2005. On the other side, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were seeking their record-breaking sixth Super Bowl championship . The Eagles had lost their seeming franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, near the end of the regular season, and were forced to turn to former starter Nick Foles, who struggled in the regular season before stunning spectators and opposing teams in the playoffs. Wentz had been putting up MVP-caliber numbers while healthy. Tom Brady, meanwhile, won his third MVP award on Saturday night and was leading the defending Super Bowl champs, who had completed a 13-3 regular season. Both teams had featured high-flying offenses during the regular season, the Eagles being the highest and Patriots the second-highest scoring offenses. Both teams featured top 10 scoring defenses, though the Eagles were consistently more highly regarded as there were concerns of the Patriots giving up big plays.

The game began in rather slow fashion as both teams traded field goals during the opening frame. But it was on the Eagles’ next drive that they set the tone for the game, with quarterback Nick Foles delivering a perfect bomb to Alshon Jeffrey in the endzone. Jeffrey, who had Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe all over him, managed to extend to make a beautiful catch and held onto the ball for an Eagles touchdown. Such big plays became commonplace as neither defense could maintain consistent coverage. Patriots starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, best known for his heroic goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX, did not play a single defensive snap for reasons that remain unclear. Neither team’s pass rush could generate consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.

A scary moment for the Patriots came near the beginning of the second quarter, as Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks looked to extend his run through the open field. Malcolm Jenkins delivered an absolutely massive blindside to Cooks, after which he immediately crumpled to the ground and remained motionless. Thankfully Cooks was able to make it off the field under his own power, but he was ruled out of the game with a head injury.

The Eagles took over after a fourth down stop, and their next drive saw a couple of highlight reel plays. The first was a perfect lob from Foles to Jeffrey again, which Jeffrey managed to track down while falling towards the sideline. From there, former Patriot LeGarrette Blount, more known for his power running than his speed, burst through the Patriots secondary to give the Eagles a 12-point lead.

New England’s next drive ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, and the Eagles saw a chance to break the 20 point mark and put up a 16-point lead on the Patriots. Foles once again went deep down the sideline looking for Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffrey almost pulled off an insane one-handed catch but instead batted the ball into the hands of New England safety Duron Harmon, thus averting a potential crisis for the New England defense. It was time for some Patriots big plays as Tom Brady delivered a beautiful 40+ yard strike to Chris Hogan and James White broke a number of tackles on a rousing 26-yard run to the endzone.

With two minutes left in the half, the Eagles had plenty of time to march down the field, and they capped the final drive of the half with a trick play that got every Eagles fan on their feets. Quarterback Nick Foles lined up as a receiver and, completely unmarked, caught a two yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead going into the half. Tom Brady had been slightly overthrown on a similar trick play earlier in the half. At halftime, Brady had already thrown for 276 yards and the offenses had combined for 673 yards.

The Patriots started the second half with possession, looking to cut it to a one possession game. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski had been quiet during the first half, but he came out with a vengeance on this drive, catching five passes for 68 yards, including the five yard touchdown strike from Brady.

The Patriots defense looked to get a stop and put the ball back in the hands of Brady to potentially take their first lead of the game on the next drive. Instead, the Eagles were unstoppable, marching easily down the field, before Foles delivered on a controversial touchdown with another perfect pass. Eagles running back Corey Clement appeared to juggle the ball after the catch, thus preventing him from getting two feet down while in control of the ball. However, the touchdown call stood after review.

Once again, Brady faced a ten point deficit, but he led the Patriots offense calmly down the field, capping the drive off with another strike to former college lacrosse player Chris Hogan. The Eagles got the ball back, and the Patriots defense managed to get a stop of sorts, holding the Birds to a field goal. Brady was presented with an opportunity to deliver the Patriots their first lead of the game and he delivered, throwing a beautiful back corner fade to Rob Gronkowski who had been unstoppable on such routes all year.

The Eagles, now facing their first deficit of the gain, marched down to their own 45, before the Patriots managed to force a 4th-and-1. The Eagles went for it and, in one of the most crucial plays of the game, Foles managed to convert with a pass to tight end Zach Ertz right at the first down marker in spite of the Patriots bringing blitz. The Eagles then continued their march down the field before Foles delivered another controversial touchdown. Tight end Zach Ertz caught the ball about five yards short of the endzone and then dove in as he crossed the goal line to avoid a tackle. He lost possession of the ball when he hit the ground but managed to regain possession while the ball was still in the air. The play was reviewed for almost five minutes by the officiating crew before the touchdown call was confirmed. The Eagles failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt, thus giving them only a five point lead.

Brady got the ball back with over two minutes to play, which he has traditionally demonstrated is plenty of time for him to orchestrate a game-winning drive. Instead, it was the Eagles who delivered possibly the signature play of the game. With Brady dropping back to pass on second down, the Eagles brought a four-man rush. Defensive end Brandon Graham beat his blocker and stripped Brady of the ball as he attempted to clutch the ball. Eagles rookie Derek Barnett recovered and the Eagles kicked a field goal to seemingly clinch the victory. Brady got the ball back with under a minute left with a touchdown and two-point conversion being required to tie the game. The Patriots drove down to around the 50 before a last gasp Hail Mary in the vicinity of Gronkowski fell harmlessly to the ground. Victory Eagles.

But perhaps the most notable occurrence of the night was the celebration that occurred in Philadelphia afterwards. Hundreds of thousands of fans took to the streets to raucously celebrate, celebrations that included the climbing and tearing down of lampposts and even the destruction of the awning outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel. In a more organized celebration, the Eagles victory parade will be held this Thursday.

In one of the most exciting and record-setting Super Bowls ever, the Philadelphia Eagles held on to win with a clutch defensive play in a game where defense was an afterthought. It was a fitting cap to a season of great resiliency for the Eagles, as they faced a slew of high-profile injuries. Ultimately, it will be a game remembered in Philadelphia sports folklore for years to come.

Arts in the City: The Institute of Contemporary Art

in Arts by

This weekend I decided to explore Philadelphia. I was in University City after an event at UPenn and I wasn’t quite ready to leave. I had no plans as to where I wanted to go or how long it would take me to get there, but I knew I wanted to see something new. With my lack of organization and camera in hand, I began my trip through the city.

I stopped in random stores and coffee shops, where the drinks were frighteningly overpriced and not particularly good, until I walked by a large building covered in windows. I started to walk by it when I changed my mind and walked inside. I was enticed by the photo opportunities the site offered and by the building’s simplistic beauty. I didn’t really know what it was but I figured it was worth a look. I was greeted by a smiling face explaining to me that I had entered the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), a free art museum in Philadelphia. There were three exhibits at the ICA this weekend: “Tag: Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward,” “Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show,” and “Broadcasting: EAI at ICA.”

The first thing I walked through was the “Tag” exhibit organized by artist Nayland Blake. The works consist of powerful images and films that highlight the experiences of queer folks. In one corner of the room there is a game table where people are invited to create stories together inspired by suggestions on playing cards.

According to the ICA, the exhibition “… explores how the expanding influence of digital and online technologies, fandom subcultures, and artistic discourse has created new possibilities for queer identification, changing how personal roles and forms of expression are defined in contemporary society.” The works featured allowed the artists and viewers to consider and explore themes of interracial and same-sex relationships, along with issues of bigotry.

As I moved to to the second level of the ICA I reached an entrance blocked by a black curtain. I passed through the curtain into a pitch-black room where screens are all over the walls throughout the room. This is the “Broadcasting: EAI at ICA” exhibit. It is a combination of works from intergenerational artists that have created pieces that are based on specific time periods. It is meant to foster communications between artists who have been “early innovators and contemporary practitioners” according to the ICA. The exhibit highlights the developments and changes of broadcasting over time.

After I moved to the next exhibit I was hit by a stark contrast between rooms. As I moved from the almost eerie darkness I immediately entered a room with bright pink walls. This is titled “Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show,” which features almost three hundred and fifty of  Leibowitz’s never-before-seen works. In his work he tackles social issues through a gay and Jewish perspective. In his art he “…explores his own anxieties, neuroses, and insecurities as he attempts to expose truths about contemporary society…” His art serves as a powerful end to the exhibits currently showing at the ICA because of its deeply emotional and personal nature. His work inspires the viewer to examine themselves and their own lives, making it the perfect ending.

Leibowitz’s work certainly left a mark on me, giving me something incredibly beautiful to ponder while sitting through a twenty minute train delay. I was so glad that I decided to wander into that building this weekend. Though it’s often hard to find the time or the money to explore the city of Philadelphia, the Institute of Contemporary Art provides a great (free!) way to learn something new off campus while also gaining a new perspective on how others see the world.


The Morning After: A Post-Eagle Walk in Philly

in Campus Journal/Uncategorized by


Philadelphia had the air of a city recovering from a natural disaster on Monday morning – the shuttered businesses, the detritus, the ubiquitous sense of fellowship and renewed appreciation for life among those on the mostly empty streets.

Newscasters and cameramen walked around City Hall trying to capture remnants of the joyful storm. Finding interviews wasn’t hard – the verdant uniform worn by nearly all pedestrians announced that everyone had “been there,” and they were happy to talk despite their clearly potent hangovers.

“I had some beers, had some wings, it was great,” said a serene, if drained, young woman in full regalia to CBS as I passed by. “Go Eagles!”

Walking south on Broad Street, green objects in the cityscape seemed to shine with a particular and meaningful brightness, from the beer bottles tossed into planters to the teal street-sweeping vehicle driven by a man who gave me a slow nod. The sheer variety of Eagles apparel on display (hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, sweatshirts, and jerseys in a profusion of different fonts and shades of green) gave a sense not of conformity but creative cohesion – a celebratory mosaic. An impromptu economy of Super Bowl LII shirts had sprung up, with men hawking their wares on all four street corners at the busiest intersections.

Some of the aftermath of the post-Eagles celebration

As a football dilettante and New Yorker who has never really devoted the time to get to know Philly as well as it deserves, I had a limited claim to Eagles joy, but the sense of community was infectious. I had come into the city with the vague goal of visiting Hardena Waroeng Surabaya, an Indonesian restaurant in Passyunk, but mostly because I wanted to look around and it was a destination that allowed for a good long walk.

As I got further south, regretting my lack of scarf and gloves, Eagles-decorated or otherwise, the streets emptied out even more, the silence interrupted only by the scrape of Yuengling and Bud Lite cans blowing across the sidewalk and the occasional group of men chanting E-A-G-L-E-S with a certain mechanical exhaustion.

On S. 9th Street, seeking shelter from the wind, I stopped into Dasani’s Market, a family-owned business somewhere between a convenience store and a cafe. After the man in front of me tried to buy a newspaper (they had been sold out for hours despite it being 1 p.m.) I ordered a chai, and the proprietor, who I later learned was Mr. Dasani himself, assured me he would make one fresh.

“Have you had our chai before?” he asked. “I hope it will be a pleasant surprise.”

Waiting at a small red table in the corner and taking advantage of the magical conversational circumstances that made striking up a chat with any stranger a positive breeze, I asked how being in the city had been last night.

Mr. Dasani had watched the game with his family near Temple, and said the crowds were raucous until about 1 a.m., when everyone had headed to City Hall.

“The police helicopters were so loud it felt like “Apocalypse Now,” he said.

We discussed the game, agreeing that the announcers had seemed very pro-Patriot before I felt compelled to admit that I was from New York and thus not a true Eagle. Mr. Dasani assured me that this was acceptable because the Giants had defeated the Patriots in two Super Bowls.

“I think it was Chairman Mao who said, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’,” he noted as I burned the roof of my mouth on the scaldingly hot but transcendently gingery chai.

We parted and I walked through the Italian Market, which was deserted except for two outdoor grocers keeping warm by trash can fires. I bought some grapes (green of course) and kept heading south. In front of the South Philly Bar & Grill a couple prepared to depart in an Uber as if they were just then wrapping up their night and heading home, but not before a passerby asked them for a light. In a fit of wearied generosity, the woman offered him her lighter to keep.

“Are you sure?” he asked. She gave him an extra cigarette.

Pat’s was a relative hub of activity in the otherwise abandoned streets, a cheesesteak clearly being the only appropriate meal for the occasion, as a sort of Eagleswear for the stomach. I rested for a moment at an outdoor table next to a huge man in a Nick Foles jersey, eating my grapes and consulting Google Maps with numb hands.

Watching passersby, it seemed like the usually impenetrable barriers preventing city dwellers from acknowledging each other had been taken down for a day, and any person in a car could feel confident that if he or she chose to yell “Go Eagles” at a brawny stranger, he would call back, “Yeah, baby. World Champs!” without even looking up.

Feeling not so much refreshed as further chilled, I walked down E. Passyunk Ave, past closed coffee shops and dog boutiques, then turned right into a more residential area. Hardena Waroeng Surabaya seemed to have darkened windows as I approached, and my hopes of finding a meal sunk.

However, to my surprise the door opened, and I was immediately blinded by a cloud of steam fogging over my glasses. The drastic increase in warmth and humidity made me feel that I had entered a new weather system, and when my eyes adjusted to the relative darkness of the restaurant enough to take in the Indonesian art covering the warm brown walls and the asymmetrical haircuts of the young post-grads seated at the tables, it seemed that I had left the world of the Eagles far behind.

Inside of Hardena

Hardena serves Indonesian specialities cafeteria-style, with a plate of rice and a generous helping of any two items for $8. The woman behind the counter offered to give me a rundown of what was being offered that day, and I settled on thick chunks of eggplant sauteed in a homemade citrusy hot sauce and a tofu and egg yellow curry replete with whole boiled eggs.

The food was hearty and delicious, and I relaxed in the peace of the small restaurant, its only soundtrack the gentle clanking of pots and a quiet debate between two young women about the feasibility of polyamory.

An Indonesian woman with two small daughters came in, and the elder tried to assuage her case of stroller jealousy by sitting on top of her younger sister as her mother ordered. The entire clientele became invested in the small drama, and an inter-table discussion of childrearing began.

I wondered if Eaglesism was actually so different from the everyday spirit of Philadelphia, or if it was merely a heightened form of the communal feeling that is made possible by Philly’s small size and rootedness. I always bristle when people describe New York as unfriendly, simultaneously insisting that New Yorkers are perfectly friendly and that the demand that a city be “friendly” seems both dweeby and a trifle totalitarian, but there is something about Philly that makes me reconsider. It would be going too far to call Philadelphians “friendly” or “warm,” but from limited observation they have an unpretentiousness that makes true engagement easier.

A man with dangling earrings got up and prepared to depart on a penny board, but not before putting on his Eagles hat.

As he left, the conversation turned to the game.


The joy of letting things go

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

I am easily stressed. I always feel the need to accomplish something even though I do not have to. Whenever I see people cranking out essays furiously in McCabe or complaining (read: humblebragging) about how sleep-deprived they are, I psych myself out, questioning whether I have worked enough. Even though I have the pass-fail cushion this semester, I have bailed out of social events on several occasions for fear of not studying enough. At a high-pressure institution like Swarthmore, it is sometimes difficult to relax, even for just a moment. An unexpected event changed my mindset. How? Here’s my story.

Three weeks ago, I received an e-mail about SwatDeck, offering $15, a one-day Independence Pass to Philadelphia, and an opportunity to travel with three Swarthmore students. I signed up without hesitation, even though I did not totally understand how the event worked. However, as the day for SwatDeck approached and work started piling up, ambivalence struck my mind: would it be alright if I took a break? Soon, the day came; I deviated from my study-Sunday for the first time by joining SwatDeck. I did not regret my decision.

When I arrived at the Swarthmore Station, there were many Swatties chatting with one another while waiting for the train to arrive. After checking in with the organizers of SwatDeck, I introduced myself to the other three members in my group, two of whom I had come across but never talked to. The group’s diversity was impressive. In terms of academics, there was an interest in classics, economics, computer science, and foreign languages. In terms of extracurriculars, we had lacrosse, badminton, and softball athletes, as well as a columnist for the Phoenix (me, apparently). None of us live in the same dormitory or take the same classes. Indeed, the event provides an escape from the “Swarthmore bubble.”

Soon after, the organizers handed us a list of recommended places, such as the popular restaurants in Chinatown, historic sites within Philadelphia, etc. Fortunately, the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a free entrance on the first Sunday of every month, and because this coincided with SwatDeck, my group paid a visit to the museum to see the art exhibition. Having never visited any art museum before, I was thrilled to see such famous works of art as Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.” Thanks to the fact that one of the members in my SwatDeck group was knowledgeable in art history, I could see the art and appreciate the background behind some of the works as well. Moreover, the museum trip introduced me to many controversial debates, such as whether a work of art could be made of non-art structures and what the essence of art is. After our museum trip concluded, my group dined at a delicious Chinese restaurant nearby and had a great conversation.

What do I make of this experience? First of all, after reflecting upon SwatDeck, I realized that, counterintuitive as this claim sounds, I learn more from “learning” less. During the past few months, I have focused on the classes I am taking to an extreme degree. As each class intensifies in its difficulty, I find it progressively more difficult to explore other subjects with which I am unfamiliar. However, SwatDeck made me realize that doing random activities can be educational, as well. Thanks to my visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I understand more when my friends debate such topics as what qualifies as a work of art or whether one should, when interpreting art, take the artist’s history into account. Had I decided to finish my homework that day, I would not have found my interest in art or art history. The joy of letting the pressure to work go led me to somewhere unexpected.

What I also appreciated about SwatDeck is that the event helps people who are unlikely to meet to socialize with one another. Although the small size of the Swarthmore community can help foster close relationships, such relationships may not necessarily occur. In my case, because I am not heavily involved in sports and usually take STEM classes, I would never have met an athlete who enjoys studying classics had it not been for SwatDeck. This situation applies to every person across our institution. It is unrealistic to take the size of Swarthmore for granted and expect to meet new people automatically. To break out of the “Swarthmore bubble,” one must take the initiative to meet and build relationships with those outside of one’s social circle.  

Lastly, when I let go of the work-first mindset, I experienced the joy of living in the moment. The thought “I must work” does not cloud my mind as it used to. I realized how unrealistic it is to tell myself I must finish every piece of work before I can relax; no matter what day of the year it is, I still have some tasks to finish or some activities I want to do. In other words, one will never truly have free time; work always exists, no matter what. Sometimes, work can wait, and we can focus on some events that cannot.

All in all, by deviating from my habits, I discovered an unexpected joy from meeting new people and visiting places I had never been. The joy of living in the moment comes from freeing oneself from the binding pressure to always work and differentiating between what needs to be done and what needs to be done now. And this joy is invaluable, indeed.


Gallery-Hopping in Old City

in Arts by

For this week’s piece, I tried venturing outside my regular streak of museum exhibitions and visited a few galleries on North Second Street in Old City. Maybe you already know about this Philadelphia neighborhood, a lively trove of art, food, and history, but it was my first time visiting. To be perfectly honest, I always feel slightly out of place in neighborhoods like Old City, namely because of the bougie parts. A Roche Bobois (a high-end French designer furniture store), farm-to-table restaurants, and Yoga studios attended almost exclusively by white women are just a few things that tune me into this. Last Saturday, however, when I visited the galleries, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved by the cordial nature with which I was received. Everyone I met in the galleries, whether they were an artist or curator, was excited to talk about the art with me.

I’ve gone gallery-hopping in Chelsea, Manhattan, and you can always make a day out of it. The best part about these smaller galleries in Chelsea and Old City is that they are not only concentrated in one area, but they also do not charge for admission! Visiting these galleries is an excellent way to expose yourself to new artists you have never heard of, or see new work by artists you do know. It’s always ever so slightly draining, mentally and physically, but you can look at so, so much art in one day without paying a dime. It is, of course, difficult to forget about money entirely with the occasional price tag in commercial galleries artists have to make a living too!

This week, I chose to focus on two galleries that are actually located right across the street from one another: Muse Gallery and Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery. Right now, both galleries have contemporary abstract paintings on view, which might make them worthwhile to visit in tandem.

Founded in 1978, Muse Gallery is actually an artists’ cooperative, meaning it is run by and exhibits the same practicing artists without ties to a larger institution or corporation (like a museum). The cooperative was initially established with feminist underpinnings, which persist to this day with 18 of the 19 artists in the cooperative identifying as women. Currently on view until April 30th is “Disturbance in the Color Field,” a solo exhibition of Diane Lachman’s new paintings.

Lachman works in oil, watercolor, and acrylic, with some of her wooden panel paintings bordering on sculpture. Her paintings focus on color and explore it as a means of communication through abstract and geometric shapes. These shapes bear few if any ties to observable realities. The wonderful thing about color is that you don’t need to study art for years to appreciate it, so shows like this have the potential to be enjoyable for a lot of visitors. My personal favorites of the show were her watercolors; there’s something about the soft, ethereal fields of different hues that pleases my eye (and heart, honestly), something that’s innate to the medium of watercolor itself.

But others may find Lachman’s acrylic or oil on wood paintings more interesting, which, for me, evoke nostalgic memories of colorful wooden toy blocks. These oil on wood paintings, likely from her Color Chords series, apply concepts of musical expression and composition to painting and color. On her artist website, she writes about this series and the application of music theory.

“Like musical chords, where tension between different tones is resolved by their participation in the whole, I strive to compose harmonious paintings by carefully selecting color notes. I search for an exquisite chord that transcends the individual notes until I find the visual perfect pitch,” writes Lachman.

Muse Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 5pm. If you are interested, the gallery will also be holding a reception celebrating the show on April 23 from 2p.m to 5p.m during which you can meet Lachman and the other artists in the cooperative!

Across the street from Muse Gallery is Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery. I was drawn to this gallery by the colorful Thornton Willis painting, “Stepover,” hanging near the window, having just looked at Lachman’s show. Upon entering, I was pleasantly surprised by the worn wooden floor (most galleries have this austere sterility to them, but not this one) and the gallery owners’ cat. The gallery’s current show “18: Six Artists [Some Paintings]” exhibits the work of Willis, John Zinsser, Peter Tollens, Tim Schwartz, Steve Riedell, and Marcia Hafif. There are 18 paintings, three per artist. This show will be up until May 6, and the gallery is always open Friday and Saturday from 11a.m to 5p.m.

I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted looking at the art, yet I distinctly remember each of these 18 paintings, which speaks to how memorable these works were. Willis and Hafif have been painting since the 1960s, with the other artists having worked for at least thirty to forty years, so in their newer work exhibited here, I felt I could see the honing of each artist’s style of investigation. Some artists are more concerned with color, like Hafif, while others seem to focus more on the materiality of paint, like Zinsser. The juxtaposition of these works with slightly different foci, however, allows us to compare what the various artists have done with the paint, and prod at the question of why they each did what they did. In sum, while this show exhibits artists some people may never have seen or heard of before, it also allows for individuals more familiar with the artists and their work to engage with the show as well. It’s fun for newcomers, but not boring for connoisseurs, in other words.

There are so many other little galleries to check out on North Second Street that I haven’t covered here, like Twelve Gates Art Gallery, 3rd Street Gallery, The Clay Studio Gallery, Pentimenti Gallery, and many more. I definitely recommend making a trip to Old City for these fun little art galleries. Go see this!

Students join with North Philadelphia’s green economy initiative Serenity Soular

in Around Campus/News/Regional News by

On Friday, March 31st, members of Serenity Soular, the initiative to address social and climate justice issues and to make solar power affordable in North Philadelphia, met in the Intercultural Center to update the Swarthmore community on their recent actions and new aims, including a project to outfit Morris Chapel Baptist Church in North Philadelphia with solar panels.

Serenity Soular, spelled as such to ensure that people, relationships, and their inherent worth are acknowledged in the work being done, is a project of Sustainable Serenity, a larger program in North Philadelphia that also maintains the Peoples’ Garden at Serenity House and its co-op. The initiative began in 2012 when Professor of environmental studies Giovanna Di Chiro founded the group with O, the caregiver and a leader in Serenity House, which is an old United Methodist Church that now offers “Spirituality and Holistic Healing Ministries such as women’s and men’s support groups, Bible studies, book and film discussions, exercise and stress management sessions, and the development of a Serenity Garden in partnership with students from Swarthmore College,” according to the group’s website.

Since the group’s inception, Swarthmore students, although neither the founders or the drivers, have been important members in the process of different programs through Serenity House. Di Chiro notes how students have become involved since the partnership was made through different academic programs on campus.

“Serenity Soular is a campus-community collaborative that developed out of my environmental studies course, Sustainable Community Action, which was first offered as a Directed Reading course in Spring of 2013 [and] is now offered in the environmental studies major as ENVS 004: “Urban Environmental Community Action” recognizing its focus on community-based sustainability in inner-city, urban contexts,” Di Chiro said. “In the course, students work in action-based research clusters to address issues of concern to local urban communities, including urban agriculture and food sovereignty, renewable energy and community solar, environmental justice organizing for public health, community arts, and social change.”

This semester, the group has added many new members including attendees of the launching party, as the Facebook event titled it. Students that hosted the event with Di Chiro and O were Allie Naganuma ’20, Tessa Hannigan ’20, Nathan Anderson ’19, and Katherine Zavez ’17, as well as alum Nora Kerrich ’16.

Naganuma recounted how Serenity Soular and the issues it engages with are in dialogue with the curricula here at Swat.

“As students, we constantly notice parallels between our involvement with Serenity Soular and our academic lives when we learn about climate change in biology courses, when we discuss racial inequality in peace and conflict classes, and when we read about the importance of hearing underrepresented or erased voices and histories in my environmental studies classes,” Naganuma said. “Swarthmore engineering professors, like Carr Everbach, and students have also contributed to this project by sharing information about solar panels with the North Philadelphia community. This project also revolves around the ideas of the green economy, the creation of green jobs and the combating of gentrification, all of which have ties to Swarthmore’s economics and political science departments.”

Di Chiro spoke on Serenity Soular’s developments this year, particularly how the program and its partners collaborated in the growth of the green economy and training of community members in it.

“In the fall of 2016, a group of Serenity Soular members (students, alums, and North Philly community members) were selected as a part of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance’s (PACA) program to support the development of worker-owned cooperatives in Philadelphia,” Di Chiro said. “This group is now working on developing a business model to launch a solar installation co-op in North Philadelphia that would be staffed by local youth trained in the green economy. Other members of our collaborative (including first-year students) are looking into working with North Philly residents to develop a local food co-op and a local bike sharing and bike repair business. Others are allying with local initiatives including the Earth Quaker Action Team’s campaign to demand that Philadelphia’s energy utility, PECO, source its electricity from local rooftop solar.”

The launching party focused on reintroducing the group and its efforts in North Philadelphia to the Swarthmore community members gathered in the IC. An essential part of that meeting was the announcement of a $30,000 campaign to equip Morris Chapel Baptist Church, across the street from Serenity House, with solar panels and to train two North Philadelphians in the growing green economy in the city.

Anderson highlighted how Serenity Soular has partnered with groups beyond Swarthmore students, including “people-funded renewable energy” nonprofit RE-volv and a renewable energy systems supplier Solar States.

“Serenity Soular’s connections to RE-volv and Solar States are important for the communities of North Philadelphia not only in that they provide the platforms and support for Serenity Soular to succeed, but in that these organizations are committed, and have been committed, to supporting the project in the long term,” Naganuma said. “Our collaboration with Solar States has lasted for two years now, and they have committed to the project for much longer into the future to help us realize our goals. We are also currently in our second year of working with RE-volv, with a third year anticipated, and so we see these stable collaborations as beneficial to working towards our success and our goals of promoting environmental justice in North Philadelphia.”

Di Chiro expanded this point by noting the green economy Sustainable Serenity hopes to bring to North Philadelphia.

“Collaborating with a national solar-financing organization such as RE-volv and with a successful solar installation business such as Solar States, encourages communities in North Philadelphia to see themselves as being part of the growing ‘solar energy revolution,’” she said. “The opportunity to gain skills, training, and living-wage jobs in the solar industry means that residents of North Philly can imagine what ‘sustainability’ can look like in their communities.”

By developing a green economy, Serenity Soular hopes to “launch a triple bottom line worker-owned solar installation company” and combat issues from food deserts and gentrification to climate change. This effort, although running along each level of society, is rooted in the local community and the growth of North Philadelphia. Anderson stated some proximate goals as those long-term ones come into view.

“Some of the current and upcoming projects in addition to helping support apprenticeships are the RE-volv solar installation projects at Morris Chapel and hopefully New Visions, as well as our continued collaboration with the People’s Garden, located a couple streets down from Serenity House,” she said. “The People’s Garden is a neighborhood garden that is managed and maintained by members of the North Philadelphia community, and the Serenity Soular team partly overlaps with the team managing the garden. By the end of this summer there is the goal of installing a more permanent structure with a solar feature that would be coordinated with help of Serenity Soular.”

Naganuma went on to describe the major milestone that Serenity Soular wants to reach: growing Philadelphia into a place of innovation for green energy and the protection and advancement of workers’ rights.

“If the installations and our other collaborations prove successful, then we anticipate that our goals won’t exactly change, but instead get broader and more grand in scope. Serenity Soular sees its ultimate goal as creating a worker-owned solar installation co-op that would train and hire members of the North Philadelphia community and also serve North Philadelphia by installing solar panels,” Naganuma said. “We see the installations and collaborations we are involved in currently and in the near future as important stepping stones to promoting environmental justice and making North Philadelphia into a ‘Solar Hub’ to eventually see our goal of a solar co-op become a reality.”

The establishment of these programs was through partnerships and community participation throughout the region. Di Chiro listed how Swarthmore students have participated in the program.

“[Students] have applied for and been selected as Solar Ambassadors from RE-volv and successfully crowdfunded one solar array on Serenity House and one current project on Morris Chapel Baptist Church to support local nonprofits to go solar. They have helped a block of 20 longtime, low-income, African American homeowners in North Philly to enter and win the city’s ‘coolest block’ contest, which provided homeowners with a host of home retrofits and energy saving benefits — weatherization, insulation, windows, white roofs, energy star appliances,” Di Chiro said. “They have applied for and received grants and awards to support local sustainability projects including a three-year Lang Center Pericles Grant, and a Penn State EnergyPath Award for building the People’s Garden and designing a solar-powered gazebo to provide lighting for community events and gatherings in the new garden. Students are now working with community members to envision a local food and community arts co-op to support ‘place-making’ activities in North Philadelphia neighborhoods to challenge ongoing displacement and gentrification in the city. There are many ways that students can contribute to these important efforts to advance social, racial, and environmental justice in North Philadelphia.”

Naganuma emphasized that Swatties were not the center of the project and that members of communities in North Philadelphia that are the drivers of Serenity Soular.

“As a recent Swarthmore alum and current Soular Serenity member has said, ‘Serenity Soular has been a partnership of really diverse individuals coming together at a table. There have been students, faculty, and staff from Swarthmore, and now from University of Pennsylvania, sitting alongside residents from North Philadelphia, seeing each other as equally valuable, and co-creating an alternative vision of the future,’” Naganuma cited. “We think this speaks to student involvement in its purest sense: we have acted as collaborators and community members first and foremost.”

Serenity Soular works to create a greener North Philadelphia while fighting systemic and interpersonal problems in the region, and their newest projects aim to build a green economy with the workers with whom they partner. Swarthmore community members have been a part of this initiative since its inception, and the group is collaborating with the people of North Philadelphia and partners across the operation to work against systems of oppression and to work towards the generation of new opportunities in the green economy. If you are interested in getting involved, contact kzavez1@swarthmore.edu, and to contribution to the Morris Chapel project, the crowdfunding campaign can be found through RE-volv at https://re-volv.org/project/morrischapel/.

Philly beat springs forward

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

If i’m not mistaken, this will be my third to last CJ piece this semester, which means the year is wrapping up. It’s kind of crazy how simultaneously fast and slow time moves here. So with only a few weeks left and the finals period about to kick in, here are some possibilities to blow off some steam, or just treat yourself.

The other night, I went to Hibachi Japanese Steak House and Sushi bar, which is just up the road. Unless you’re in a large group, it makes for an intimate experience dining with total strangers, embarrassing yourselves as the chef insists on flipping shrimp off the grill and into your mouths. In my case, the family sitting next to us had an extra coupon for 50 percent off your second entree, so I can’t complain.

After that, if you feel like walking, it’s only a five minute walk to the AMC Marple theater, and while I waited for the movie to start, I wandered in and out of Five Below, Marshalls and DSW.

Kong: Skull Island is in theaters now, which if you’re a fan, I would recommend. It’s a good dose of monsters and anxiety and Samuel L. Jackson blowing things up. But if that’s not your thing, Beauty and the Beast is showing, and Get Out is still in theatres, which if you haven’t already seen, you MUST.

If you are a sushi lover and haven’t tried Poké, there is a place nearby in Ardmore called Poké Ono. It’s a Hawaiian rice bowl with cubed raw fish and tons of other good stuff from edamame to kimchi. You can either build your own or order their specials. There’s also a place in Philly called Poké Bowl on 958 N 2nd St that is smaller than the one in Ardmore, but not by much. The one in Philly has better specials, but the one in Ardmore gives you more toppings if you build your bowl.

A great place to unwind and catch a quick exhibit is UPenn’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), located on 36th and Sansom. The museum is entirely free and often hosts artists events and workshops. Their most recent exhibition, The Freedom Principle, offered a survey of the visual culture that accompanied South Side Chicago’s avant-garde, post-1965 jazz movement, complete with interactive and sonic installations. Unfortunately, the exhibit ended last week, but the museum will be reopening April 28, so in the meantime, follow them on social media if you want up-to-date info on exhibits and events.

If you feel bold enough to venture out of University City, hit up Bluestone Lane Coffee for a late brunch. They have two Philly locations, one in Rittenhouse, and another right next to City Hall. Be sure to try their avocado toast or coconut oatmeal — both are good as hell.

On the flip side, while I’m reticent to mention this to all you future gentrifiers, 52nd street is the heart of West Philly and also poppin’. But since I know a lot of you will be moving there, I’m gonna push you to at least try to be patrons of some local business, so you don’t mess it up like ya’ll did Brooklyn. For great juices, love, and Caribbean food, hit up Brown Sugar Bakery. Get yourself some oxtail with the green callaloo, or curry goat roti. Get a fresh detox juice with that, stop playing yourself.

Overall, there are countless new events, activities, and spots to check out before the semester ends. Some are closer to Swarthmore, and others are further away – but all of them are worth it.

Philly Beat: treat yo self edition

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

Hello friends, spring break is coming up. It’s so crazy to me how simultaneously fast and slow time passes here. Another few weeks, another spring break, another few weeks, another Worthstock, another finals period, another graduating class, and the cycle repeats itself (give or take a few bitterly cold months).

Excuse my half-hearted, semi-bitter sentimentality — spring break is EXCITING because it means the SUN is coming back. If you know me, you know that the return to constant sunshine is the pinnacle of my year. It’s time to treat yourself — believe me you deserve it. This is perhaps geared more towards those staying on campus, but there are some things in here you can indulge in from afar, or later on after you return.

  1. COLOURPOP.com (or Colorpop, honestly don’t even start) – For all you lipstick lovers, colourpop is discontinuing some of their products and so they are selling at reduced prices right now for $4. Just go (but also hurry because they’re selling out.)
  2. On 212 Arch street in the Old City, there is a little pink stand alone bakery called Tartes. It’s cute, ~aesthetically pleasing for the ‘gram~, and has the best key lime pie I have ever tasted. Honestly treat yourself to this one, it’s a good find.
  3. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – Please please please take yourself, take your family, take your friends, your partners and go watch this. It is so incredibly VITAL whether you’re familiar with James Baldwin or a generally decent person. There is no shortage of conversations to be had on the subjects that plague our society.
  4. The Faimount Park Horticultural Center – I could spend all day in here. Humble, open space, calming greenery, all the dappled sunlight and none of the cold. There are benches for you to sit on, and you can read, take pictures, or walk around. I find it very soul-soothing. I’ve also decided I could/probably should, live in a greenhouse.
  5. Take a day trip to Baltimore! A $15 bus will get you there. I love this city, it reminds me of Atlanta in so many ways. For those of you who don’t know me, my dad is half American and from there, so I visit often. Go to Maryland Institute of the Arts (MICA) campus and walk around. The art and architecture, bookstores, and the abandoned railway station are beautiful. There is also a place I discovered called R House. It’s an “industrial-chic” food court in an old warehouse and is run by 10 chefs who are looking to start restaurants. The space is for them to try their hand at it and, honestly, it’s so incredible. There’s Korean food, Arepas, Poke, smoothies, vegetarian and vegan options and desserts. I’m still dreaming about it.
  6. Back to Philly now: Menagerie Coffee — is a hip little place on 18 S 3rd St, also in the Old City. The tea is good; the vibes are better. The front of the shop has communal tables against a red brick wall, which are ideal for doing work. The last time I was in there, they were playing Solange’s album and it was warm and quiet. Get off campus, even if you feel drowned in work. You definitely don’t have to stay on campus to get it done.
  7. Take a trip to the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philly. I haven’t personally been here yet but it’s the top of my list, and I’ve been dying to go. Admissions is by donation and there are tours every 45 minutes (I believe). The gift store also has beautiful prints, many of which decorate my walls.

So friends, that is all I have for you today before we head into our well-deserved spring break. I hope your weekend is restful and next week passes fast. Happy spring (and maybe a passive aggressive reminder that global warming is not a myth).

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