Wow. It’s been a year. In the face of immense struggle, austerity and adversity, we banded together, stayed resilient, and demanded a new vision for Philadelphia.
When the first cases of COVID-19 reached Philadelphia and we prepared for a lockdown, together we advocated for the communities that were impacted hardest by the pandemic. We demanded expanded workers’ protections, an eviction moratorium and relief for renters, expanded free internet access for students and families, and for a release of people from packed jails to prevent the spread of COVID inside them. Together we called for a People’s Budget that was built based on the needs of communities, not corporations and the wealthy elite. At Philly We Rise, our incredible intern, documented these movements in our Power Series, highlighting the groups that were leading these fights and sharing clear ways to support. Our team created a massive catalog of the mutual aid efforts in the city, breaking down how to access aid and how to offer support.
After the death of George Floyd, thousands across Philadelphia took to the street to demand justice for George, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and the many others who have lost their lives to police brutality. We called for nationwide police accountability, and accountability in our city where we’ve seen first-hand the horror that police can inflict. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of dollars put towards policing while our neighborhoods suffered, our communities called for a reallocation of that money into programs that actually support us; schools, housing, libraries, parks and arts. At Philly We Rise, our team built a tool that allowed residents to email all of the City Councilmembers and their legislative aides at once, to demand that they defund the police and invest in community services. Together, we stopped a $19 million budget increase for the police, and caused our elected officials to rethink how our city budgets are crafted.
During this time of uprising, our team of incredible volunteers took to the streets and documented what was happening. Using livestreams, photos, videos and tweets, we invited more people to join in resistance and we spread awareness of the harmful impact of police in Philadelphia. With this powerful documentation, together we have created a visual archive of this moment that we can look back on. Then, in response to thousands of people looking for ways to continue to be part of the movement for liberation, we created a guide highlighting local organizations to join in Philadelphia and become a part of the movement for the long haul.
When the pain touched home more deeply, with the murder of Walter Wallace, our communities demanded justice. We joined with Amistad Law Project to demand Mayor Kenney fire the cops who were present, refuse to spend one more dime on failed police reforms, and officially ban police from answering mental health calls. Thousands of petitions were sent to Mayor Kenney’s doorstep. When activists were targeted for taking a stand, we took to the streets to demand their immediate release. We stood together.
And when November came, we were ready for the election of our lifetimes. Our volunteers created a series of graphics explaining how the voting process worked and dispelling the rampant misinformation. Our city turned out en masse on election day, with the highest voter turnout in recent history. Our city voted to condemn the policies of the outgoing administration and call for change. In preparation for the legal fights we knew were ahead, Philly We Rise partnered with the organizations across the city who were fighting to ensure every single vote was counted. We launched a collective pledge, inviting our communities to vow they would not rest until all the votes were in and recorded. Then together, in the days following the election we took to the streets to demand a full and fair count. Our team and our volunteers captured the powerful and joyous moment with photos and videos—and millions tuned in. Our messages reached beyond our city walls, showing the entire nation the strength and determination of Philly.
Now, as we end the year, and prepare for 2021. We reflect on this past year with awe and gratitude for our communities. We look towards the next year with strength and readiness.
Mariam, Clarise, Hannah, Bryan, Jenessa, Helyx, Shari, our Rapid Response team and all of us at Philly We Rise