Philadelphia Council of Leaders holds first conference

Posted: May 18, 2014

NOTICEABLY ABSENT from a news conference held yesterday by the Philadelphia Community of Leaders - a nonprofit group of black citizens dedicated to addressing poverty in Philadelphia - were any black politicians.

And there's a good reason for that, according to Rahim Islam Sr., head of the Philadelphia Community of Leaders (PCOL).

"We need a long-term plan and unfortunately politicians have a short-term window, you know, two years or four years," said Islam, an official with the local chapter of the NAACP and president and CEO of Universal Companies. "Our plan has to be long-term."

Spurred by Philadelphia's "dubious distinction" of having the worst poverty rate of any large city in America, more than 400 black community members gathered in January to form PCOL, said music mogul Kenny Gamble, co-chairman for PCOL's Council of Elders.

The organization, which seeks to address poverty and the issues surrounding it such as violence, education and family structure, will hold its first conference, "Getting Our Voice Back," at 7:30 a.m. today at Universal Audenried High School, on Tasker Street near 32nd in Grays Ferry.

Workshop topics at the conference include civic engagement, black business development, strategies on reducing poverty and the state of education.

Gamble said PCOL is an umbrella group that encompasses "pretty much every group and organization in the African-American community."

"For once, we are uniting, putting all of our energies together in order to establish some freedom, justice and more equality in the African-American community," he said.

Ryan Boyer, conference chairman, put it another way.

"No one will fix our problem until we move to fix our problem ourselves," said Boyer, business manager for Laborer's District Council. "Gone are the days where the politicians control the agenda of the community. The community is beginning to control the agenda of the politicians."

Former City Councilman George Burrell, chairman of PCOL's Government Relations Committee, said the group plans to reduce poverty by improving public education, growing black businesses, dealing with violence and redefining the black community's leadership with the public and the government.

"We want to become a public-sector power center that can hold people accountable," he said.

Retired public relations guru Bill Miller, co-chairman for PCOL's Council of Elders, said many the members of the Council of Elders worked as organizers in the civil-rights movement. He hopes PCOL can be the type of grass-roots movement that can bring change from the bottom up.

"It is through that process you will influence elected officials," Miller said. "We have gone full circle and we're back to where we're comfortable, and that is working from the ground up."

Information about PCOL and the conference can be found at philadelphiacommunityofleaders.

org or by calling 215-732-6518.

On Twitter: @FarFarrAway



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