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Burning Spear News

The city of Philadelphia must stop poisoning our students and teachers

Feb 23, 2020

Ali, sales and operations manager at Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles - Philadelphia, makes a press statement on the asbestos and lead contamination plaguing Philadelphia schools in the African community


Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles, an economic development project of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF), led a community speak-out and press conference to protest the asbestos and lead contamination in the Philadelphia schools.

The group demanded the city government and school board immediately clean up the schools which expose our children to poison every day.

As always the most toxic conditions are in the impoverished African and Puerto Rican communities. The drinking fountains at Mastery Frederick Douglass Elementary school measured 350 times the “allowable level” of lead for over 15 years and the school never told the parents!

Children in Philadelphia have higher blood lead levels than children in Flint, Michigan. Our schools are contaminated with mold, standing water, and asthma triggers like roaches, mice and rats.

These known toxins affect our children’s ability to learn, and trigger asthma. Twenty-seven percent of children in Philly have asthma—twice the national average.

Asthma is the leading cause of emergency room visits and of missing school. They also lead to allergies, cancer, brain tumors, and auto-immune disorders.

This is not a new issue

Ninety percent of Philadelphia’s public schools are over 90-years old and insulated with asbestos and painted with lead paint.

Philadelphia has the highest rate of poverty and deep poverty of the 10 largest U.S. cities. It is a majority African and Puerto Rican city yet only 2.5 percent of all businesses are black owned.

There is a 23 year disparity in the life expectancy of a black baby born in Strawberry Mansion and a white baby born in Fairmont.

For decades, schools in Philly have been systematically under-funded. Underpaid teachers often buy their students school supplies.

Text books are antiquated or non-existent. Only seven of the 215 schools have a librarian, the lowest rate in the U.S.

Students and their families have been speaking out about these issues since the 1970s. Franklin Learning Center students walked out in the 1990s.

The city ignored 9,000 complaints about toxic conditions filed between 2015 and 2018. Teachers complained of shoddy clean up work and said workers hired to remove the asbestos left piles of toxic dust all over the children’s desks.

We must come together to build institutions for ourselves to serve the needs of our community. It was the black community who initiated free public education in the U.S.

Uhuru Furniture, the African People’s Education and Defense Fund and our many community partners are building African self-determination programs and organizing to determine the quality and the content of our children’s education.

APEDF Philadelphia has been developing our own health and education programs such as the Uhuru Book Fairs, Uhuru Health Festivals and the Children’s Circles as well as other projects throughout the U.S.

This is only the beginning and we call on everyone to get involved in uplifting our community.

Join APEDF, shop, donate and volunteer at Uhuru Furniture!

For more info, come to our physical location at Uhuru Furniture 832 N. Broad St. or reach us at / 215-546-9616.


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