The Founding of Media Fellowship House
Dorothy Biddle James was the right person at the right time to take positive action after such an incident. She was the great, great-granddaughter of Thomas Garrett, an abolitionist and staunch defender of civil rights in the first half of the 1800s. Dorothy, a practicing Quaker, was raised with the spirit of social justice, and understood there was a time to listen, and a time to act. Marie and her husband, Bill, Sr. were “predisposed to social activism” said their daughter, Gail. “The encounter at the restaurant, while troubling, was fortuitous in that it gave my parents the opportunity to work with Dorothy James and others on matters in which they believed.”
Media Fellowship House grew through the vision, hard work and integrity of people like the Whitakers, Dorothy James and the dozens of others committed to “building a community free of injustice.”
Then and now, programs continue to meet the needs of and foster understanding between people of all ethnic, religious and cultural groups; bring together neighbors, young and old; and respond to today’s ongoing challenges.
Sister Mary Scullion, RSM, is a Philadelphia-based American Roman Catholic religious sister and activist. In 2009 TIME Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in the company of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Scullion joined the Sisters of Mercy and began working on behalf of the homeless in 1976. She has been involved in service work and advocacy for homeless and mentally ill persons since 1978. In 1985 she co-founded Woman of Hope, which provides permanent residences and support services for homeless mentally ill women. Three years later Scullion established the Outreach Coordination Center, the nation’s first program that coordinated city private and public agencies to create a more systematic way to assist homeless, special needs individuals in finding housing and shelter.
In 1988, she and her associate, Joan Dawson McConnon, co-founded Project HOME, a nationally recognized organization provides supportive housing, employment, education and health care. These services are designed to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for those under their grip in Philadelphia. The organization’s guiding vision recognizes, “None of us are home until all of us are home.” Project HOME’s commitment has led to its growth from an emergency winter shelter to more than 600 units of housing, with 200 units in development. Project HOME has also established enterprises that provide employment to formerly homeless persons: the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, a state-of-the-art technology facility in North Central Philadelphia offering students after-school enrichment opportunities; a college access program; and educational and occupational programming for adults. In 2015, Project HOME opened the Stephen Klein Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center providing integrated healthcare including primary care, behavioral health, dental, a YMCA, pharmacy and wellness services.
Sister Mary is also a powerful voice on political issues affecting homelessness and mentally ill persons. Her advocacy efforts resulted in the right of homeless persons to vote as well as a landmark federal court decision that affects fair housing rights of persons with disabilities.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908 of African American descent, Thurgood Marshall graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1933. Upon receiving his degree, Marshall opened a private legal practice in his home town. At 32, he established the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and served as executive director. At the same age, Marshall won the U.S. Supreme Court case Chambers v. Florida. His most famous and victorious case was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The landmark decision by the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education as it could never be truly equal.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as the United States Solicitor General. In 1967, Johnson successfully nominated Marshall to succeed retiring Associate Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark.
Marshall once bluntly described his legal philosophy as this: “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” His conservative detractors argued that statement was a sign of his embracing judicial activism.
In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech on the occasion of the United States Constitution’s bicentennial. Marshall stated, “The government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.
“Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.”
Marshall died in 1993 at the age of 84.
Born in 1912, Bayard Rustin was a leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights in America. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania; in 1936 he moved to Harlem, New York City, where he earned a living as a nightclub and stage singer.
Through the pacifist groups “Fellowship of Reconciliation” and “War Resisters League,” Rustin adopted and practiced nonviolence.
A member of the Communist Party before 1941, he collaborated with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement to press for an end to employment discrimination. He was a leading activist for the 1947 “Freedom Ride” initiative which challenged – using civil disobedience – racial segregation as it related to interstate busing. Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practice of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi’s movement in India. Rustin is credited with helping to teach Martin Luther King, Jr. about the positive effects of nonviolent protest.
In the early 1960s Rustin focused attention on the economic problems of working-class and unemployed African Americans. He suggested that the civil-rights movement had left its period of “protest,” and had entered an era of “politics” in which the black community had to ally with the labor movement. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia.
As a gay man, Ruskin was often attacked as a “pervert” or “immoral influence” by political opponents from segregationists to conservative black leaders. His pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation as a young man was controversial, having attracted the attention of the FBI. To avoid scrutiny, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson. Rather, he usually served as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders behind the scenes. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.
President Ronald Reagan issued a statement on Rustin’s death in 1987, praising his work for civil rights and his shift toward neoconservative politics over the years. On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Morris Seligman Dees Jr., an American attorney, is co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Dees and his colleagues at the SPLC have been “credited with devising innovative ways to cripple hate groups” such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Dees was born in 1936 in Shorter, Alabama. His family was Baptist, but his father was named “Morris Seligman” after a Jewish friend of Dees’ grandfather. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1960, he returned to Montgomery, Alabama and opened a law office.
In 1969, prior to the founding of the SPLC, Dees sued the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Montgomery at the request of civil rights activist Mary Louise Smith, whose son Vincent and nephew Edward had been refused admission to attend a YMCA summer camp. The YMCA, being a private organization, was presumptively not bound by the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, Dees discovered that, in order to avoid desegregating its recreational facilities, the city of Montgomery had signed a secret agreement with the YMCA to operate as a private establishment, but on the city's behalf. The trial court ruled that the YMCA had a “municipal charter,” and was therefore bound by the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment to desegregate its facilities. Dees’s legal actions against racial nationalist groups have made him a target of many organizations. He has received numerous death threats from some of these groups. In 2007, Dees said that more than 30 people had been jailed in connection with plots to either kill him or blow up the Center.
In 2006, the law firm of Skadden Arps partnered with the University of Alabama School of Law to create the Morris Dees Justice Award in honor of Dees, an Alabama graduate. The award is given annually to a lawyer who has “devoted his or her career to serving the public interest and pursuing justice, and whose work has brought positive change in the community, state or nation.”
The American Bar Association awarded Dees the ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor, during a meeting of the ABA House of Delegates on August 7, 2012. On March 4, 2016, Dees received the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. It is the highest award given by the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and recognized Dees’ achievements in fighting racism and his commitment to nonviolence.
Cesar Chavez was born in 1927 to a Mexican-American family of six children. Chavez worked in the fields until 1952, when he became an organizer for the Community Service Organization (CSO), a Latino civil rights group. In 1962, established as a leader in labor and civil rights issues, Chavez left the CSO and co-founded the National Farm Workers Union with Dolores Huerta. This later became the United Farm Workers (UFW.)
During this period, Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement, then eager to enroll Hispanic members. His public relations approach to unionism, and aggressive but nonviolent tactics, made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his strategies had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida.
Colegio Cesar Chavez was one of the few institutions named in his honor during his lifetime. After his death, many schools, streets, and parks were name for him, recognizing his status as a major historical figure for the Latino community. He has since become an icon for organized labor and leftist politics, symbolizing support for workers and Hispanic empowerment based on grass roots organizing. Coined by Huerta, Chavez famously popularized the UFW motto "Sí, se puede" (Spanish for “Yes, one can” or “Yes, it can be done”), which was adopted as Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan.
Chavez’s supporters say his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers. Although the UFW faltered shortly after Chavez died in 1993, he became a “folk saint” in the pantheon of Mexican Americans. His birthday, March 31, has become Cesar Chavez Day, a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas. Among many other honors and accolades, received both while still living and after his death, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
To be invited to Washington, D. C. to meet Eleanor Roosevelt was a highly coveted honor—an honor bestowed upon Ruth L. Bennett, of Chester, PA—a pioneer who worked tirelessly in her community, on behalf of women and children.
Ruth L. Bennett's vision and hard work supported the needs of young women and families in the early 1900s during the great migration of blacks to the North. In 1914 she founded the The Ruth L. Bennett Improvement Club with fourteen other civic-minded women. During the fifty years of existence of the Club, it has purchased and operated a home for Women and Girls, a Nursery for children and a community playground.
The now historic 1880-era Queen Anne house was from its inception a safe haven; a home that provided protection and care for young women and their children. It can also boast of hosting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on multiple occasions when King served as an assistant pastor and Sunday school teacher at Calvary Baptist Church where Bennett's husband was a pastor.
In 2008 the site was established as the permanent home for The Nia Center, a nonprofit organization, founded in 2004 by Delores Freeman-Clybourn. Although the two buildings were still fixtures of pride in the community, they eventually fell into disrepair. In 2012 PennDOT committed to a painstaking architectural restoration of both buildings.
“Nia,” the center’s namesake, draws strength from the past while building hope for the future. Carrying on Ruth L. Bennett’s legacy, Nia provides children and youth with educational, artistic, and cultural enrichment opportunities year round, in the form of pre-school outreach, after-school programs, the Will Trippley Tutoring Program, summer camps, internships for high school and college students, as well as senior services.
Her legacy is passed on through the 261 unit affordable housing community on Concord Avenue in Chester that is named for her.
Ruth Bennett passed away in 1947.
James Earl Carter Jr. served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. Carter’s earlier public service included two terms in the Georgia State Senate, 1963-1967, followed by his election as 76th Governor of Georgia, 1971-1975.
Carter has remained active in public life in the years since his presidency. Most notably, in 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his co-founding of and work with the Carter Center.
Raised in a wealthy family of peanut farmers in Plains, Georgia, Carter inherited comparatively little due to his father's forgiveness of debts, as well as the division of assets amongst his younger siblings. Nevertheless, his ambition to expand and grow the Carters’ peanut business was successfully fulfilled. In 1976 Carter won the Democratic presidential nomination and entered the presidential race as the Dark Horse Candidate. Carter narrowly defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford.
On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders. During Carter’s term as president, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were created as new cabinet posts. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. Though polls of historians and political scientists usually rank Carter as a below-average president, he is personally held in the highest esteem. Among many accomplishments was the 1982 formation of the Carter Center, a base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance prevention and eradication of disease in developing nations.
Carter is considered a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project. He is also a prolific author on diverse topics. In reference to current political views, he has criticized some of Israel's actions and policies regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and has advocated for a two-state solution.
Carter maintains his interest in domestic matters and has vigorously opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. the FEC to strike down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions. Of that, he has said the U.S. is “no longer a functioning democracy” and now has a system of “unlimited political bribery.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice to be confirmed to the Court after Sandra Day O'Connor, and one of a total of four female justices, with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, currently serving. Following Justice O’Connor’s 2006 retirement, and prior to Justice Sotomayor joining the Court in 2009, Ginsburg was the only female Supreme Court justice seated. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents, as noted by legal observers and in popular culture. She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Notable majority opinions Ginsburg has authored include United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.
She was a wife and mother before starting at Harvard School of Law, where women were a considerable minority. In consideration of her family life, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, and tied for first in her graduating class. Ginsburg initially chose academia, becoming a professor at Rutgers School of Law (Newark) and Columbia Law School. She taught civil procedure, being one of the few women in her field. Ginsburg spent a considerable part of her legal career advocating for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, and winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. She volunteered professionally with the American Civil Liberties Union, where she was a member of its board of directors and general counsel in the 1970s. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where she served until her elevation to the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg has been named one of 100 Most Powerful Women in 2009, one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year 2012,” and among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2015. She has also been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by Willamette University, Princeton University, and Harvard University.
Ethel Thomas Mason was orphaned at infancy and spent her early years at the Children's Aid Society Orphanage in Philadelphia. She was taken in by a Quaker family and brought to live on Washington Street in South Media. Upon the death of her Quaker benefactor, Ethel, then 13, inherited the home in which she had lived, and resided there into her late 80s. Ethel worked as a domestic, then a cook, and later established her own business providing domestic workers for homeowners.
She and her daughter, Martha, along with friends, started the Nether Providence Day Care Center, offering that service for children of working mothers.
The center moved from the local Episcopal Church to Media Elementary School. The center’s Board of Directors renamed the enterprise for her during a ceremonial banquet at which Rev. Leon Sullivan was the speaker. On that occasion, Robert Gioggia, then – President of Media Borough Council, said, “Ethelnwas the inspiration behind the foundation of the Ethel Mason Child Development Center which, in 1987, employed 30 adults, provided day care for 143 pre-schoolers and school-age children, plus provided family day care for another 302 children in certified homes around the county.”
Ethel Mason was active with a wide range of organizations: the Nether Providence League of Women Voters; a board member of the Child Care and Mental Health Clinic of Delaware County; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; NAACP; the original founder in 1937 of Camp Hope; a director of the Media Fellowship House; and board member of the Wallingford Arts Center, “Mrs. Mason made many friends in other endeavors,” wrote Helen Passaro in a 1987 obituary on Ethel Mason. “Her grandmotherly qualities brought her the love and friendship of hundreds of young people and adults who frequented the Media Fellowship House.”
At her death, she was survived by five daughters, three sons, and 45 grandchildren. The Ethel Mason Development Center continues to play an active role in the Delaware County community.
Marian Anderson was an African-American contralto who became one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Music critic Alan Blyth said, “Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty.” Most of her singing career – between 1925 and 1965 – was performing concerts and recitals in major music venues and with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. Although offered roles with many important European opera companies, Anderson declined, noting she had no training in acting and preferred the concert and recital form. She did, however, include opera arias within those performances. Her many recordings reflected a broad repertoire of concert literature, lieder and opera as well as traditional American songs and spirituals.
Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson in the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson gave a critically acclaimed, open-air concert Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000, and radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States when, in 1955, she became the first African-American to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Anderson worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and as a “goodwill ambassadress” for the United States Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.