It is no wonder that the neighborhoods of East and West Mt Airy in Northwest area of Philadelphia are homes for not one, not two, but three active Black Lives Matter vigils. Each of them has a unique story. Two began on the streets in front of neighborhood churches with savvy organizers, one on the corners by neighbors needing to voice outrage and sorrow in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. They have one thing in common: they bear witness as a reminder to all who pass by to both the tragedies of police brutality and to victories that enable us to celebrate.
The 50,000 residents who live in these diverse neighborhoods meet and greet each other in food coops, supermarkets and small corner stores; coffee houses and bookstores; at Rita’s Ice, in small green spaces, and walking through the vast expanse of Fairmount Park . Neighbors are connected by faith through membership in longstanding stone churches and synagogues as well as by social action in the many civic associations. Above all, there is great pride in our history as door to door activists, solid voters, organizers and doers. Given that Philadelphia has 2 elections every year, you are likely to be greeted at your door by enthusiastic canvassers promoting everything from State Representative to United States President.
The stories on these three pages are continually updated with photos, interviews, video, and writings as a tribute to this persistence . These are the faces and voices of neighbors who became friends on the sidewalks by doing one simple act of visibility: Standing up.
BLM Vigils of Mt. Airy
To scroll through the photo gallery, click on the photos below to display fuller versions of the photos.
Emlen Street Crew
This vigil began as a neighborhood gathering on the 300 block of Mt. Airy Avenue soon after the murder of George Floyd in spring of 2020. The group moved to the corners of Emlen St. and Mt. Airy Ave, meeting every night at 8:46 pm for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the original length of the video that showed George Floyd under the knees of a police officer. This vigil evolved to include a night of Black Joy with music. The intersection of Mt. Airy and Emlen became a meeting place for other momentous events such as the results of the 2020 election, Juneteenth and MLK, Jr Holiday celebrations as well as spontaneous eruptions at the news of the conviction of the officer who killed George Floyd. As members began to return to our lives after the worst of the pandemic, the group decided to meet twice a week.
Unitarian Society of Germantown
USG has been in Mt Airy for over 150 years and promotes social justice through its programs and worship. The Black Lives Matter vigil has met in front of the church during the evening rush hour on Lincoln Drive since the murder of George Floyd. There have been many special events here in collaboration with P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation, local politicians. POWER intefaith and Memorial to the Lost. In addition, the group began to stand for Ukraine after the start of the war in 2022.