Mt. Airy man turns around life, pledges to promote peace with T-shirt campaign

Mt. Airy’s Will Little isn’t oblivious of violence in Philadelphia, but he doesn’t accept it either. His determination is peace.

He’s a community activist, poet, motivational speaker and founder of the movement, Peace, Live In It.

Little sells shirts — making almost no profit from them — to create a visual message that people can see, question and, maybe, even relate to.

Buying his shirts has one “catch” — supporters need to take the pledge to promote peace, and to live in it.

What it could mean for an entire city to see the word “peace” dashed across their chest?

“I think everyone wants peace… eventually,” Little said. “If it’s just buying a shirt, it’s helping.”

Little uses social media to promote his shirts and his message. Through Instagram and Facebook, he’s drawn an audience topping 5,000 that see his posts on their feed, and, he believes, this spreads the message even further.

Community meetings are accessible, but not always convenient. Work schedules, babysitters for the kids or the list of hundreds of reasons to pass on driving a few miles to listen to a few activists preach their very important message. Little asked himself if seeing violence but hosting less convenient community meetings can reach a wide enough audience to really change the world.

Stacey Wright, Chief of Staff of state Representative Stephen Kinsey, took the pledge to promote Peace, Live In It because he said he wondered the same thing.

“I’ve been lucky, I’ve never had a violent experience,” Wright said. “However, friends and family have. His shirt — it’s visual. People like to see smell and touch stuff. For me, I’ve always been about peace and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Kinsey’s office reaches more than 4,000 constituents in Germantown, Logan, West Oak Lane and the surrounding neighborhoods. Little’s movement was born in a barbershop in South Philly, where he works, but he lives in Mt. Airy. It’s another neighborhood he can impact, but he said he needs officials on his side.

“Elected officials are out on the forefront, they are our community leaders” Wright said. “It’s important for elected officials to promote positive movements like this so it can become infectious. This is the stuff that needs to go viral, and elected officials are the folks to do that.”

Little isn’t shy about his past. He’s been to jail himself, and said the experience changed him.

“I took a self-reflection and started thinking about my environment. A drug dealer, a gun-toter and a violent criminal — and I realized I was in a hostile environment. Even in jail, I was in a hostile environment,” Little said. “When I came home, I realized I needed to be a father. If I can make it out of prison, [my son] needs a father out of prison. I didn’t want my son to be in jail or growing up to be a mess, a drug dealer or something like that.”

He doesn’t hide this experience, and believes it could change the mind of a few who are close to choosing that path. He said all he wants is for them to hold onto that mindset.

“I want people to get excited when they see Peace, Live In It,” Little said. “One young man told me the shirts stopped a feud between two young guys.”

“I think the message is universal to live in harmony,” Wright said, “So I think that message is universal for every age bracket.”

Originally posted on

Venice Island art installation designed to attract visitors

The Philadelphia Water Department has teamed up with Mural Arts to unveil a renewed Venice Island in Manayunk. They are hoping to inspire those looking for the greener side of things in Philadelphia.

Starting at Pretzel Park, a cascade of small, vinyl mural pieces serve as a path down to Venice Island. The shockingly-blue bubble-shaped images of fish and turtles sprawl across the neighborhood’s blocks and invite people to follow the murals like breadcrumbs to the recently renovated recreation space.

Eurhi Jones with one piece of the mural that represents a time when mules would carry boats along the canal. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

Eurhi Jones with one piece of the mural that represents a time when mules would carry boats along the canal. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

Eurhi Jones  was selected from a group of mural artists to create the piece that she said tells a story of the canal’s history dating back to the early 1800s.

“I don’t really have the human element here [at Venice Island],” Jones said. “But, as we go up the street, what’s mixed in with the natural element is the human impact of how people have been in consort with the river.”

The mural pieces end at Venice Island, where large steps are covered in images of native wildlife, particularly the American Shad, which naturally inhabit the Schuylkill.

“What was here before was not very sophisticated and it wasn’t as welcoming. So this is a huge transformation for the community,” said Tiffany Ledesma, a manager at the Philadelphia Water Department.

The formerly dilapidated space on the edge of Manayunk holds more than 4 million gallons of sewage and storm water runoff that gets pumped into a local water treatment plant.

“This is the kick-off of using this site for recreational purposes,” Ledesma said. “People aren’t used to the idea of coming down here with their kids because of the old site.”

The mural ends at the pavement above the water basin. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

The mural ends at the pavement above the water basin. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

The Parks and Recreation Department has taken control of the basin to create a welcoming recreation center where they can freely host events and performances for the community.

“There were many community meetings, and this was the ultimate reflection of what the Parks and Recreation wanted and what the community wanted,” Ledesma said. “They really wanted to see theater here. This is something that we’re very fortunate to make work here. This is very, very unique.”

For Jones, the project was “a dream come true.”

“I personally do public work about environmental consciousness raising and sustainable issues and conservation,” Jones said. “I do a certain amount of teaching and I try to make it about art.”

While people see art along the streets and start using the space for sunbathing along the river, treading alongside the canal or playing a game of basketball, Ledesma hopes they will choose their favorite pieces and promote the art with social media by using #PhillyWaterArt.

originally posted on

Northwest Philly’s Repair Cafe encourages people to think twice before trashing broken items

Despite its name, Repair Café is not a coffee shop.

It’s an international organization that helps community leaders sponsor free events to fix people’s broken knick-knacks — from lamps to lawn mowers, from clothes to electronics — with the ultimate mission to reduce waste. In Northwest Philly, it was sponsored in Chestnut Hill in September 2014, the second Repair Café on May 17 will be hosted in Germantown at 5572 Greene St.

Repair Café, was founded in the Netherlands in 2009 and has since expanded worldwide. In 2014, volunteers from Time4Time Community Exchange, a group serving the Northwest Philadelphia region, held a Repair Café to support their community and promote the mission’s slogan: “Toss it? No way!”

“I love to see people coming in who wouldn’t normally think about where their trash goes and get them thinking about that,” Time4Time’s Repair Café coordinator Betsy Wallace said.

Wallace clarified that they prefer to bring in local business owners from Northwest Philadelphia to give them the chance to promote their skills and draw in new customers. Rather than digging endlessly through other regions of Philadelphia for their “fix it” event, the group canvassed and promoted the Repair Cafe throughout their own neighborhood.

The first café was held at the Center on the Hill, a sector of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, in September and attracted more than 100 residents from neighborhoods throughout Northwest Philly, Wallace explained.

To keep a record of their event’s success, volunteers kept track of the number of participants and the number of repaired or partially repaired items. The group managed to draw in 104 people with 174 items. Of those broken items, 76 were completely repaired and another 48 were partially fixed. The most common broken items were lamps, Wallace said.

“I actually have a broken lamp that’s been sitting around for a while,” said Leslie Lefner, director of the Center on the Hill. “I’m excited to bring it in and be a participant instead of a volunteer this year.”

The next local Repair Café will be held in Germantown at the Germantown Life Enrichment Center on Greene Street.

Wallace has scheduled 17 “fixers” and 13 volunteers for the May Repair Café, but believes more people will show up on the day of to offer a helping hand

“You can try to prepare ahead if time, but most people decide to show up the day of,” Wallace said. “People just show up and that determines how many people will come.”

Repair Café volunteers have been canvassing Northwest Philly for weeks, dropping off fliers and coaxing business owners to join the event. Wallace said she anticipates about 50 to 75 participants this year because of a few changes they’ve made to this year’s event: no clothing swap, no refreshments and, most importantly, everyone is restricted to only bringing one item.