PASCEP is community

Working boring nights in Anderson Hall has shown me there are still community outreach programs that are actually successful. Like clockwork, the lobby of the building transforms into a bustling marketplace of kinship each night.

picture-17.pngWorking boring nights in Anderson Hall has shown me there are still community outreach programs that are actually successful. Like clockwork, the lobby of the building transforms into a bustling marketplace of kinship each night.

After 6 p.m., Dottie Jewels begins selling jewelry and other unique figurines, down the hall from Noah Nature, who will give you a bag of popcorn that will change your life. From the tantalizing fragrances and shea butters to the photos and CDs, no one need leave empty handed.

But the camaraderie in the lobby is just the tip of the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program iceberg. Monday through Thursday nights, 1,100 students are enrolled in 85 classes.

“Almost anything you can think of, we offer something that’s linked to it,” Director Yumy Odom said.

Boxing, yoga, health and diet, wing chun kung fu, mathematics, GED programs and religion are all here.

“There is a great age range coming from all over the city. There are even folks coming [to Philly] from New York to D.C. just for one class,” Odom says.

And although trying to rummage through the waves of kids after a long day is tiring, I admit that PASCEP’s youth program is arguably one of the best today.
Some wonder how Odom does it.

“It’s not even a secret. I got a call from someone trying to do some rites-of-passage programs with youth, and wanted to know why our youth programs are so different. Not that others are not good, but you can tell our youth from anyone else’s youth in the city,” he said. “I like to tell people that we create students and scholars, while other programs create clients and cattle.”

When the founder, Annie D. Hyman, created PASCEP as a grassroots organization in 1975, she founded this unique philosophy of relations, which is still a cornerstone of the program and gives it the zest to stand out.

Without even mentioning the outreach work PASCEP is doing in the community, the program as a whole is an amazing feat, considering there are only two paid employees and about 10 volunteers who are doing the work of a full-time staff. But a lack of people isn’t the problem. It’s the location.

“With the faculty, volunteers and the staff, there are a hundred of us, so really we don’t have enough space,” Odom says humbly. “But it works out because they sit in here [at their eighth-floor office], or they sit out in the hallway, or in the lobby.”

This doesn’t seem right.

PASCEP is Temple’s premiere community outreach program, which it ought to take a lot of pride in and give abundant resources to. But still there is talk of downsizing.
After downsizing once in 1995, the administration wants to move the program yet again into two offices off campus. So, it’s no wonder that there have been a lot of concerns about the future of the program.

“They might mean well,” Odom said. “But the issue is what it looks like to the community.”

Jena Williams can be reached at jena.williams@temple.edu. 

4 Comments

  1. The PASCEP program has been an inspiration and a self-improvement for me and several people I know. This program offers the community a sense of hope and a feeling that self worth can be improved, just by being able to afford a class on self-worth, improving personal finance, or even learning a trade or two to help you in this game called “life.” To learn that Temple would like to move this program off their property and offer them a building that is more then half the size, is baffling.
    Why would Temple want to give off a message to the community, a community that Temple practically owns all the buildings, that there moving the PASCEP program that’s dedicated to the community into a small building that can not house half the program size???? How does Temple continue to say, they’re for the community and considering actions like this???

  2. Broad Street & Beyond: The Devolution of Community Education
    By Ari S. Merretazon, M.S.CED
    PASCEP Faculty Member

    Since being hired in May 2006 as the ninth president of Temple University, Ann Weaver Hart, the first female president in the University’s 123 year history has initiated the devolution of its flagship community education program, the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP), a world class model of community education over the last 33 years, under a national eminent domain education movement, some call Community-based Learning.

    Community-based Learning is a community engagement model presented as a national education movement in which universities expand their campuses into low and moderate income communities. This movement is presented as a collaborative approach to upgrading community infrastructure, businesses, housing conditions and community collaboration.

    Within this model Temple is able to leverage massive amounts of development dollars based on research and socio-economic and housing data collected by professionals, most of whom are white and don’t live in North Philadelphia. This is how Temple has entered the Community-based Learning movement, much like other urban-based universities.

    Granted, the concept of this movement is marketable in terms of expanding entrepreneurship, new capital improvements, and strengthening ties to its surrounding neighborhoods. Its process of implementation, however, is likened to an apartheid state or plantation administration.

    Here is how it operates within well used principles of apartheid and plantation rule. A new president/administration comes in with a deceptive public relationship strategy of community engagement, collaboration, and promises of community inclusion. The vision of development is done with a standard community impact assessment; department heads are treated as 3/5ths of a human with no rights the administration is bound to respect; successful community education programs are dismantled or downsized beyond recognition under memoranda and news releases from the office of the president indicating a grand university/community vision such as “Broad Street and Beyond.”

    The clearest case of this approach is the relocation/downsizing of the Temple University Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP). This started only months after Temple’s first women president took office. She, without involving any of the current PASCEP staff in any collaborative discussion and decision-making, decided to relocate PASCEP off the main campus into a much smaller and unaccommodating facility with the distracting name of Community “Entertainment” Center. This suggests that Temple has no intention to continue PASCEP as a quality community education program.

    With this apartheid and plantation handling of the director and program, the faculty, alumni association, and supporters are seeking to meet with Pres. Weaver Hart to discuss the negative impact of the relocation and downsizing with goal of keeping PASCEP on campus in Anderson Hall.

    Pres. Weaver Hart has yet to give basic recognition, respect to the highly successful program or to its director. She has not responded directly to his letters and information packet about PASCEP which provided her with milestones achieved by PASCEP at its current capacity. To date supporters have received the same boiler-plate form letter response to each of their distinctly different letters of support for the program.

    If the relocation proceeds in this apartheid/plantation process, the following successful programs will be terminated: The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. This is Philadelphia’s premiere comic book and literacy initiative; The PASCEP Black Male Development Symposium Rites of Passage Program; The PASCEP Prison Outreach; The PASCEP Community Consortiums; and the PASCEP Vendors Association. All of these vital community engagement programs with great exponential positive impact will leave Temple because of the apartheid and plantation incursion of Pres. Weaver Hart.

    A vetting of Pres. Weaver Hart reveals, among other things, that she previously served as president of the University of New Hampshire and provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Claremont Graduate University, neither similar to the Pan-African community in which Temple sets. Her prior education at every higher education level has been from the University of Utah, not nearly the multicultural environment of Temple.

    Well, which way forward from here? Do the North Philadelphia community leaders know that PASCEP will never be the same if relocated? Will Pres. Weaver Hart open talks with the PASCEP director and the PASCEP faculty? When will the appropriate City Council and State Representatives intervene in this local disruption of a successful education program with a grand legacy of community-based learning and engagement for more than 33 years?
    PASCEP is at a critical junction. The date set for this unjustified relocation has been set, un-officially, for fall 2008. Why must one successful community-based learning program be displaced by any new ones without a collaborative community process?

    To collaborate in theory and practice is when at least two entities with similar interests come together to do something neither could do alone. As a faculty member of PASCEP, I know firsthand that Pres. Weaver Hart has not met with the director of PASCEP as a collaborative partner.
    If PASCEP’s director had been included in the decision-making process, perhaps there would have been a relatively seamless transition and supporters of PASCEP would not have to write such commentary and continue to oppose such apartheid/plantation approach to community-based learning.

  3. I, for one am appalled at Temples blatant disrespect for not only PASCEP and it’s current director, Mr. Odom but also for the residents of North Philadelphia and the students and volunteers who lovingly share their time and energy. There is now way that President Hart and the rest of Temples administration and staff could allow this to happen if they truly understood what a gem PASCEP truly is.

    In the words of Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University, “I say to you that you have “acres of diamonds” in Philadelphia right where you now live.” The “Family” of PASCEP and the residents of North Philadelphia represent those “acres of diamonds” but it seems Temple University is willing to throw them all away.

    In the years since I first became involved with PASCEP I have come to understand how vitally important its presence is in and to the community of Philadelphia. PASCEP provides a resource for those who have little or nothing. PASCEP provides a voice for the disenfranchised, an outlet for those who wish to share their knowledge and abundance for those who are in need. PASCEP provides love, hope and opportunity.

    PASCEP IS COMMUNITY!

    Thank you
    Eric Marsh Sr

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