Peace Scientists work for peace

Youssef Kromah aka Seff Al-Afriqui

Inspirational rap to celebrate Black History in Camden, New Jersey. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2015 v9n1 p0301

The Mayor of Camden, the Honorable Dana Redd, invited residents to the jewel of Camden, the Adventure Aquarium, to watch a dance group, Dare to Dance, listen to a rising rap star, Seff Al-Afriqui, listen to a singer, Susan Hall and recognize the achievements of a former mayor, a school principal, a barber and a community activist. Remarkable stories: all honorees stayed in Camden and worked with the community when the population and resources ran away.

We were treated to small hotdogs and other meats in pastries, and salads. Flashed through my brain that it was Friday, and it was Lent, and meat was served. Oh. Aquarium. They are not going to serve fish when the sharks are watching. Lent is a horrible time to be a fish, but not at the Adventure Aquarium.

Camden is a jewel on the Delaware, as Mayor Redd said, the City Invincible. Walt Whitman talked about the City Invincible; he is buried in a Camden graveyard and his words are engraved in huge letters in stones at the top of City Hall. They were there when His Masters Voice, later RCA,  and Campbell's Soups were part of a thriving economy; they were there during the flight in the early 1970s, they are there now as businesses are returning.

In 1988, I was getting up at 6am on Sunday mornings  to drive into Camden to work with cheerful volunteers making free breakfasts for anyone who showed up at St Paul's Episcopal Church on Market Street. I started when I was pregnant with my third son, and continued until he could no longer be restrained by a stroller or a playpen. During that time Campbell's still had a small presence as did the successor to RCA, which may have been Martin Marietta.  I remember being shocked on learning that Campbell's jobs had been reduced, and that New Jersey was building a prison on the edge of Camden, on the waterfront.
The Obama girls come to Camden click here
Free at last!!! click here

And then, in 1992, an aquarium was built. I was excited, and still working in research at the University of Pennsylvania. I visited scientists employed there to talk about their mission of only having fish that came from New Jersey waters, and bought an annual membership for my 3 sons and myself. We all loved the fish, especially the huge tank with sharks.

In the years since 1992, Camden has been slowly regaining its former glory. Rutgers University has expanded, as has Cooper Hospital, and Rowan University and Camden County College have a presence. And my congressman lives across from the waterfront in the old His Masters Voice factory.

In 2000 I became a member of Newton Friends Monthly Meeting, a Quaker worship group on Haddon Avenue, less than a mile down Cooper St from the water front. When I joined a major effort from other Quakers had just ended: for a few years, I am not sure how many, Frank Goodfellow Jones and Alan Nelson ran an after-school tutoring service out of the Meeting House. That ended when some idiots broke in and stole all the computers, and after that, Frank and Alan ran out of energy, and Newton Meeting limped along.

Now we are back, with a biweekly feeding program, the neighboring charter school uses our grounds for a playground, and Dan Dougherty has turned half the property into an urban farm. In Camden, institutions and organizations do better when they are focused on helping others, and Newton Monthly Meeting is in full helping mode.

Which mode the 4 honorees at the aquarium has been in for decades.

This page shows pictures of the evening's star performer. A young family man from Philadelphia with a father from Guinea and mother from Liberia. He warmed our hearts right away with his excuse for being late because he was talking with young men in prison. I told him after his show that the fish stopped swimming when he was rapping, just hung there in the water blowing bubbles. Yeah.
Newton Friends Meeting click here