Rosemare Bryant can juggle. Not balls, but multiple roles that embed her in Mill Creek, a neighborhood west of Belmont.
Bryant oversees programming for the Lucien E. Blackwell Community Center and is president of the resident council for the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes, a Philadelphia Housing Authority property across the street from the center. As the president of the homes’ resident council, she’s a liaison between the PHA and residents.
The center has only been open to the public since October. Some maintenance is necessary to finish in the center before it can offer a full schedule of programs, she said, but she’s anticipating its completion.
Bryant’s work in Mill Creek began eight years ago when she moved to 46th Street and Fairmount Avenue from the Northeast, where she also worked with the PHA. Since coming to the neighborhood, she’s opened her home up for an annual summer camp that entertains up to 30 kids at a time, she said.
At the center, she hopes to offer resources life skills classes for children and a monthly food bank at the center.
Can you talk about the work you do at the center?
I mainly focus on the kids here. And I also work with the youth to make sure we employ all the children we can in the neighborhood in the summertime. And of course, the…Mill Creek Recreation Center. I work closely with them. I volunteer there on Thursday and on Tuesday. We have a program where we have a brass band. The kids are learning to play music instruments. The Kimmel Center sponsors it, and they performed in public three times so far, and they’re really awesome. I go there every Tuesday to make sure the kids get everything that they can get out of these lessons.
How does your role at the center and at the homes relate to one another?
Over at the homes, I’m the president of the tenant council. What that means is I’m the voice for the people and it’s like, I think we got about 300 or something residents over there. So I go to the board meeting, the pre-board meeting, I go to the round table and I bring back all the information.
What are some events you’ve been able to hold since the center opened in October?
We just had a Martin Luther King Day of Service. The theme of it was Black entrepreneurs. Everybody that owned a business would come here and tell people that want to open a business how they got started and what was they ups and downs, the middle, the end. It went very well because you know it was so cold out there and everybody was cancelling they stuff, I wouldn’t cancel. We had to reorder more lunch and then the thing that was so cool about it, I brought all the partners together. I notified the Nation of Islam. We have a heavy population of Muslims in West Philly. And then we had the Bangladesh.
Now that the things are changing in the neighborhood, we have a group of them from India and we don’t say nothing to them, they don’t say nothing to us. We just coexist and walk past each other. We don’t know nothing about them, they don’t know nothing about us. I got tired of seeing that. I reached out to them and said, “Look, we all live around here together. Y’all could be being harassed by people in the neighborhood. We don’t know y’all being harassed but if we don’t ever sit down at the table together and talk, I don’t know what your issue is.” But we live in the same neighborhood but I brought them in and they showed up. When I tell you it was awesome, it was awesome, and we had so many kids and teenagers.
What are other programs or events you’re excited to host here?
The only event we had here was the Martin Luther King Day of Service because the center has to be put back into order before we can officially open. We can’t have nothing that can be a safety hazard to people or kids. I had my first official board meeting and it was really exciting. The city will be using this building three days a week which is Tuesday, Wednesday maybe, Thursday and Saturday. The city will use it, and then the other days it’s the housing authority so it’s a joint project.
Are you planning for this center to be involved with the Promise Zone/Promise Neighborhood?
Yeah, I’m involved with them now. I usually attend the Mill Creek Advisory Planning Committee meeting and try to stay as well-versed as I can on what’s going on throughout the whole community. Not just the part that I govern over there by bringing all the partners to the table and doing what we do for the love of the neighborhood, the love of the people in the neighborhood and certainly, for me, the love of the children.
What’s your responsibility when outside organizations are investing in your neighborhood?
To gather as many resources we can and to let the people know what’s out there to help them reach their goal. We help wherever we can help. We’re servants to the community, not to ourselves, long as you remember that you were put here to serve others and not yourself and your own personal interests. Somebody asked me recently, what do I get out of doing this. I couldn’t even answer because I don’t get nothing out of it but the satisfaction that I will be able to help someone. The work we do is rewarding and I just hope we have more hands on deck.
What’s your main goal for the center and its programs?
Educational and cultural enrichment with everything they do, even if we have that beautiful, beautiful basketball court and that million dollar floor. But the group that comes in here to teach basketball? It has to be the whole nine yards. It has to be education, they have to teach them how if they do make it to the NBA, how to spend their money. Give them classes that will teach them about banking, financing, and if they don’t make it how they can be a news commentator. They can talk about this or be a doctor that takes care of the athletes. I want the whole brown package. Don’t just run them up and down the floor and then they get a trophy or a T-shirt. That’s not going to fly here. It has to be a curriculum and there has to be guidelines and there has to be follow-up. That will impact them, empower them and get them ready. We want anything that comes out of this center to be ready for the world so I take a lot of pride in that. Won’t have it any other way.
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