January 25, 2011; Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Music songwriter and producer (remember "Love Train" and "Me and Mrs. Jones"?), and nonprofit urban developer Kenny Gamble is always in the mix of things in Philadelphia.
Gamble's nonprofit CDC, Universal Companies, has landed one of the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods $500,000 planning grants for a 200 block area of the Point Breeze and Grays Ferry neighborhoods (he raised $500,000 to match the federal grant, including $250,000 from the William Penn Foundation).
“The bottom line is this,” Gamble told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “How do you create a community of people to get up off their knees so that they can become independent? You change their whole community."
About 50,000 people live in the two largely African American neighborhoods. Seventy percent of the 7,000 school-aged children in the area live in poverty and most of the ninth and 10th graders cannot read or perform math, according to the Inquirer.
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Without a doubt, Gamble's Promise Neighborhoods plan will be interesting. It might be the only one to be written with its own sheet music. In the mid-1970s, he wrote a song for the Philadelphia International All Stars and Lou Rawls, called "Let's Clean Up the Ghetto," with these lyrics:
Get some paint, fetch your hammer, your nails
If you broomed, you mop and you pails
We're gonna wash it, polish
And make it all clean
Let's wash away all of the sins
Time for a new life to begin
In the ghetto
I said (Clean it up, clean it up)
I said we're gonna (Clean it up, clean it up)
Because the (Ghetto)
I said the (Ghetto)
(Ghetto is our home)
That's where we live, where we live
Let's paint the signs everybody can read
Let's get rid of everything we don't need
Pushers, the dealers
The pot, crook, snatchers and thieves, aha
Let's make the streets safe for women to walk
Whatever one thinks of Gamble (his career has not been without controversy), his Universal group, motivated by his "clean up the ghetto" orientation, has rehabilitated over 1,000 homes and provided educational and human services for a neighborhood that some think of as a part of Philadelphia that rivals Detroit's economic conditions.—Rick Cohen