The Peoplehood Parade: Back After the Flood

More than 25 groups paraded through West Philadelphia in support of different social and political causes.

Jennifer Turnbull, co-director of Spiral Q, stands at the front of the Peoplehood Parade before the group begins down the parade route on Nov. 6. | NOEL CHACKO / TEMPLE NEWS

Members of the West Philadelphia community performed poems and songs from the steps of the Paul Robeson house as people prepared their props and signs and waited for the Peoplehood Parade to begin. 

Spiral Q, a puppet theater that works with reclaimed and recycled materials, held their 21st Annual Peoplehood Parade in West Philadelphia on Saturday, Nov. 6. A crowd of participants and organizers began the parade at the Paul Robeson House on Walnut Street near 50th. 

Spiral Q hosts the parade annually to allow the Philadelphia community to petition for causes like the Free Palestine Movement, the right for Amazon workers to unionize and more, by chanting, holding signs and passing out flyers.

“Paul Robeson, if you don’t know, [was a] kickass director, movie star, boxer, community activist, in West Philadelphia,” said Jennifer Turnbull, co-director of Spiral Q. “When we began the parade, this whole neighborhood was very Black, so it’s important for us to honor the people who are in the peoplehood.”

The parade began at 1 p.m. and took time to recognize the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida in September. Much of Spiral Q’s collection of puppets and props is made of paper mache and many items were destroyed or damaged during the floods.

The Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Philadelphia held bamboo poles with large strips of blue, green and orange fabric attached to them to represent the flood waters that caused damage to both Spiral Q’s property and to Philadelphia. 

Julie Woodard, a career development advisor at the University of the Arts who lives in South Philadelphia, has been attending the Peoplehood Parade for more than 10 years. 

“Spiral Q has my heart and the energy around this event,” Woodard said. “The idea that so much has been lost due to the flooding from Hurricane Ida, to Spiral Q’s collection and that people came together to build new materials, new puppets, is just so incredible and exciting.”

The parade ended in Clark Park, where attendees put down their signs and sat to watch performances from West Powelton Steppers & Drum Squad and other performances in the center of the park. 

Turnbull explained how there’s a place for everyone in a parade. It takes many different skills from a lot of people to organize a parade and run it successfully. 

“So much of the struggle that people are dealing with is really interconnected,” said Malcolm Miller, a Philadelphia highschooler who attended with the Youth Volunteer Corps. “To see that people can come together is really helpful to know that your community is behind you.”

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