Strawberry Mansion: How Neighborhood Friends With Brotherly Bonds Remember And Create Community

Terry Little, Stacey Dowling and Guy Lang all grew up in the Philadelphia area, and now stay connected through their weekly podcast.

Tracey Little, Stacey Dowling, and Guy Lang on their Podcast "Real Brothers Live." (Terry Little/Real Brothers Live)

Terry Little and Stacey Dowling texted their friends in a group chat last year with an idea to start a podcast as a way to stay in touch. 

There were six other friends in the group chat — all of whom went to Strawberry Mansion High School with Dowling and Little. As time went on, some friends stayed in the Philadelphia area. Others, like Little who now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, have left the area.

Little and Dowling discussed the podcast idea for months, thinking it would be interesting to discuss different topics from the Black male perspective, which can get misinterpreted or misconstrued, Little said. 

Although not every friend could do the podcast, Little, Dowling, Anthony Mosley, and Reynald Williams were the first four to get Real Brothers Live podcast off the ground. 

Mosley and William were unable to continue to do the podcast due to work, so Guy Lang, a North Philadelphia native, joined Little and Dowling for the weekly show.  

“When we first started in January, they’re a lot different than what they are today and that’s not on purpose,” Little said about the podcast’s episodes. “That’s because of all the social stuff that’s been going on, all of the political stuff that’s been going on — it kind of morphed into its own.”

The three would have open conversations on topics like police reform and gentrification, their opinions shaped through the lens of the world they grew up around.  

Little and Dowling have known each other since elementary school and while growing up they didn’t have video games, when the school day was over the two were either outside playing basketball or football with the neighborhood kids. 

“We made up games in the street,” Little said. “Like we would take a broken brick off of one of these dilapidated houses, draw like a something like a hopscotch thing in the street, and then we had the top of milk cartons, and we would fill it with the tar from the street, when it was hot in the summertime, fill the tops, and then you would play tops. That was a game we played that we made up.” 

Little remembers a vacant lot on Patton Street, across from where he lived. He and some of the other kids wanted to play baseball, so they piled all the glass bottles left in the lot to make bases and used a patch of cement as home base. 

“I remember running around and myself sliding to get to second base cause I’m not getting out and my leg slid into a whole patch of glass,” Little said. “I’m running home, my grandma, she hollered at me because it was so stupid for me to try to play baseball in piles of glass.” 

The two made do with what they had around them because they knew their neighborhood was a low-income area, but it helped build their community culture, Little said. 

“There was a lot of crime, so it wasn’t the best,” Little said. “It wasn’t considered the best neighborhood, but of course, like any other neighborhood, if you’re from the area you find love there, so you learn how to navigate and make the most of it.”

Little noted he had a run-in with the law growing up, but his goal with the podcast is to tell the younger guys about his own experience, so others can steer away from that path.  

The three believe the community connection has progressively gotten worse over the years, and part of the reason is due to oppressed people trying to survive in one area and the lack of awareness toward the opportunities they could have, Lang said. 

“It’s harder for Black men out here,” he added. “And that’s just what it is, but you can’t keep saying that the system is holding me down or I can’t do this, or I can’t do that. It may be a little harder, but you have to go and do what you have to do to get where you need to be.”  

However, the three also credit the lack of resources, like not having a Strawberry Mansion Community Center, within the area as part of the reason for the community struggles.

“These are all topics that we like to discuss on the podcast,” Little said. “We like to get, you know, comments from our listeners or viewers and build on that and try to identify ways to correct those issues in our community.” 

Little, Dowling, and Lang are passionate about reform, criminal justice reform, and supporting the young people in their communities.  

Some conversations are sparked from national news like the George Floyd murder or allegations of voting fraud during the 2020 presidential election. 

“I think what makes it interesting is that you have three men, three Black men, with similar experiences,” Little said. “Then also different experiences and different perspectives.”

Dowling is considered the conservative one of the group, while Little will speak up on subjects and Lang is described as the lawyer and peacemaker. 

Although the three may have different views on certain subjects, they embrace different opinions and take it as an opportunity to understand someone’s viewpoint, Lang said. 

“The healthy debates that we have on the podcast allow others to understand the dynamics of good communication,” Lang added.

On top of using the Real Brothers Live Podcast as a tool to reach the community, Little, Lang, and Dowling are in the early stages of looking into putting together a community center in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. 

“We still have to get our 501c completed, then after we do that, we’ll be trying to, you know, establish some funding,” Little said. “But right now, it’s an assessment.”

The three want to use the center to lean toward fixing the tight-knit community they once knew, which would provide a safe space for neighbors to congregate and get information.

“When you see a hole in the wall a lot of people are like, ‘Man, look at that nasty hole in the wall,’ and they’ll walk past, talk shit about the hole, but nobody wants to fix the wall,” Little said. “Our thing is, let’s go fix that wall, let’s go fix that hole. We’ll make it nice and get it to where it needs to be.” 

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