Historic Peacetown (Sharswood), the home of the North Philly Peace Park, was an African American hub of arts, theater and activism. Printmaker Dox Thrash and painter Henry Owassa Tanner settled in the community to live and work. Entertainers Pearl Bailey, Duke Ellington, and the Nichols Brothers played the now extant Pearl Theater and socialized among themselves at the private Pyramid Club, founded by Thrash and others in the 1930’s. During the 1950’s and 1960s African American social justice movements defined the neighborhood, activists such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Cecil B Moore, Sheik Muhammad and Leon Sullivan organized, marched, lived, delivered speeches and led rallies in the fight for Black freedom.
Despite this, the Peacetown neighborhood today is one of the most distressed communities in the city, with a poverty rate of 52.5% (double the city average). With a 94.6 % African American population and widespread vacancy, 80% of the community is unemployed, and over 45% of residents are youth under the age of 18.
As the North Philly Peace Park and its community supporters gear up for the groundbreaking on Phase 1 construction of the Sala Keturah Center For Peace and Social Innovation, we will draw strength, inspiration and guidance for our revolutionary efforts from the remembrance of our dear Ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand on today.
Please join the North Philly Peace Park on Sunday April 14th for the Ancestor Walk in Peacetown. We call on all concerned African-Americans, residents of North Philly and other gentrifying neighborhoods, progressive activists and all allies and friends of the African American community to join us for a tour of the sacred neighborhood of Peacetown (Sharswood), immersing ourselves in the Black past, present and future. After the Walk we will return to the North Philly Peace Park for lunch and a panel discussion.