Jones, a former resident of South Philadelphia, was involved in the city's Playstreets program as a child. For more than 50 years, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation have blocked off select streets in every neighborhood to provide resources to children in the summertime. Whether it is free food or free activities, city children can know they have a safe place to beat the heat.
"I remember as a kid growing up, it was so impactful for us intercity kids because it gave us something to do and somewhere to go," said Jones. "It was a really safe environment, so Playstreets meant a lot and still do mean a lot to me today."
Jones took the time to visit the Playstreet at 36th and Olive in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia today. It was the last stop on this month's tour by Spiral Q and West Powelton Drummers, two organizations that harness the power of the arts to inspire positive change.
"We're hoping that, with our performance, our marching, our beats, that it will touch someone's heart," said Antoine Mapp, the director of West Powelton Entertainment.
Since day one, Mapp has been involved with the ensemble his grandmother founded in 1991. In the last 30 years, they have succeeded in helping kids make positive life choices, attend college, and even became the official drumline of the Philadelphia 76ers.
"We march January to January. There's no offseason," said Mapp. "We try to save lives every day. Step by step, block by block, and we're encouraging them to put down the gun and pick up a drum."
Mapp and his drummers led a parade around the block, which is located squarely inside of West Philadelphia's Promise Neighborhood. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide "cradle-to-career" opportunities for neighborhood children.
"Every Friday during the summer, we actually promote what we call, 'Super Friday,' so we bring in organizations to make exciting opportunities for young people to get out and have fun and create with your hands and do fun things," said Rachel Viddy, Project Director with the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood.
One of those organizations is Spiral Q, which has been advocating for social justice in creative ways for 25 years.
"We bring recycled materials and accessible art-making practices to our neighborhoods and our people to be able to say, 'Look, these are activities that you can recreate and do this at home'," said Jennifer Turnbull, Spiral Q's Co-Director of Programs and Finance.
To learn more about Playstreets, West Powelton Drummers, West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood, or Spiral Q, visit their websites.
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