Local activist drives charge for a new home for creatives

Mike Prince

One local community leader is trying to provide a new safe space for creatives of Philadelphia to feel at home.

Brandon Washington, a Philadelphia resident and high school and college educator, is raising money to turn the South of South Neighborhood Association in South Philly into a co-op workspace with the main goal of benefiting the local community. 

Washington has degrees in technology, business, and education and has been using his voice and efforts to start a GoFundMe for this cause. The new space will be dubbed 1901 and the campaign to raise money for the venue will run until the end of the month on Dec. 30.

Brandon Washington. Mike Prince

“Due to the pandemic, access to the internet has become a necessity now more than ever,” said Washington in a statement. “As a result, the ability to create and manipulate digital content is in high demand. The pandemic has also shifted the job market, leading to a rise in demand for jobs that require digital skill sets. Additionally, there are a variety of community issues impacted by poverty that I believe can be addressed with instruction, mentorship, and programming through collaborative efforts that can be facilitated within this new space.”

All in all, Washington is hoping to raise $5,000 by his initial end of the year date to secure the space, then another $15,000 for the complete transformation of the space while also outfitting it with COVID-friendly equipment, technology and programs. Being the driving force behind this new venue is in his blood as well—his father was the late Ron Washington, community leader, activist, and owner of the former neighborhood staple Ron’s Ribs. 

There are a number of organizations that could benefit from this new use of space. Washington pointed out a few himself, which include the Philadelphia Chapter Frontiers International, Young Chances Foundation, The Kiwanis Club of South Philadelphia, UIF-Technology Mentorship Program and Favor International Inc., with many others undoubtedly also falling into that category.

Another main source of motivation for this new venue comes from a topic that is plaguing the city due to the pandemic—poverty. The release even cited findings reported from the Philadelphia Inquirer: The poverty rate within Philadelphia has shifted, and numbers will continue to climb as the pandemic continues. Studies conducted by Northeastern University suggests that gun violence has a direct connection to poverty as well, suggesting an increase is likely. And according to Wharton Online, technology adoption has accelerated due to COVID-19. Years of digital transformation has occurred in a matter of months dating back to the start of the pandemic. This means jobs, old and new, will require more digital skills, exacerbating what was already a widening skills gap.

“By providing training of more usable skills for the current workplace, I aim to reduce poverty and all that comes with it,” continued Washington in his statement. “I want to use my skill set to bring jobs to our community. All of these organizations who need a home aspire to provide opportunities which involve a variety of objectives such as youth programs, activities focused on at-risk populations, and outreach events to increase access to employment opportunities. Considering who my father was, I have always been aware of the issues my city has faced throughout my life.”

1901 is meant to mirror a WeWork building or other establishments that have recently opened up in the City of Brotherly Love, such as REC Philly. The latter opened last year as a premier resource center and space for creative entrepreneurs in Philly. That space, which called the also newly opened Fashion District home offered members 24/7 access to their creative amenities, a space to build a linked community and overall much-needed inspiration. However, with current restrictions from the city, REC is closed until at least Jan. 2, 2021. 

Mike Prince

With the harsh reality of the pandemic still holding onto to all of our minds and realities, the realization is that the world around us will continue to change. In making that realization, the probability that jobs will need more and more digital advancement and reinforcement has become accelerated now more than ever. This exact notion is what also fueled Washington, but he’s up for the task. Washington teaches tech education at the high school level, entrepreneurship, business, and technology at the university level, and is an affiliate of the Uncommon Individual Foundation’s Technology Mentorship Program. He also  sits on the board of SOSNA, is the President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Frontiers International Organization, and is an academic advisor for the Pete and Jameer Nelson Foundation.

“Drawing on my experience in teaching, I am proud to serve as an instructor while being joined by great volunteers and colleagues to serve our community,” finished Washington in his statement. “I believe the best way to address poverty and issues within our community is through education.”

Donations for 1901 can be made by visiting gofundme.com, and to learn more about SOSNA, visit southofsouth.org

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