truth will out? a curious case of sunshine continues to brew and other tales

tape-face-west-goshenWhen I wrote about West Goshen last week, I did not realize I had ignited some sort of political powder keg and why is that is local governments are supposed to be so open and find it impossible? These people are elected to represent all residents equally, correct?

Anyway, apparently there was a rather heated West Goshen Board of Supervisors meeting last night?  I hear among other things, the recording of meetings was discussed? So as of now West Goshen records/films zero meetings and their website catalog of meeting minutes and agendas are somewhat, shall we say, deplorable? So I do not know the actual agenda. But, apparently the supervisors, or maybe it was solicitor or maybe both had their knickers in a twist about this topic and so did certain residents that in other townships are often referred to somewhat indelicately, albeit accurately, as cheerleaders?

The whole thing of recording meetings by the public has always been a hot button topic, not just in West Goshen but all over.  The reason a lot of residents will choose to record meetings often has to do with the basic fact that not all municipalities record or film (videotape) meetings, and many are not exactly current  on posting meeting minutes or even agendas. And some townships the meeting minutes are shall we say, sanitized?  So people record them. (and for the record, I have tried to pull up agendas for the West Goshen Supervisors for both August and September of this year, and I got Planning Commission Agendas, which is incorrect as per their posted meeting date.)

Municipalities will say to the public they are worried about privacy in the recording of public meetings held in public spaces.  We’re not talking about Executive Sessions to which the public is not included, we are talking about regular meetings. What is that whole no expectation to privacy in a public space?  And not a public bathroom where there IS an expectation of privacy, but a public board room, where there is NOT, correct?

Ok so yes municipalities will play Captains of Semantics to split hairs in their favor. (Not a dig, human nature, totally understandable.)

So in July I found courtesy of a Google cache that West Goshen was contemplating adopting an ordinance similar to East Goshen’s having to do with members of the public recording of meetings.  The ALSO discussed the possibility of RECORDING meetings so the public could see them in their entirety later, and I would assume that also means they are possibly speaking with Comcast and Verizon regarding a municipal channel that every municipality is entitled to if they so choose?

See here:

west-goshen-july

Ok so got that?  They are discussing their OWN recording of meetings so how is THAT not an issue? It does not compute. Anyway, her is hoping they join modern times because the more open a local government is, the happier the residents and taxpayers, right? And nothing makes residents happier then to NOT HAVE TO go to a meeting to find out what is going on where they live and pay taxes, right? Isn’t it nice to be able to sit in the comfort of your own home and watch a meeting and only have to attend a meeting if you wish to speak at public privilege/public participation?

West Goshen is beginning to sound like Haveford Township in the bad old days  (or West Vincent before last election) and I hope for the residents’ sake that isn’t the case, don’t you?  I don’t really know.  What piqued my curiosity was the case just filed by the resident Tom Casey against the township.  It is about open records, or “sunshine”.

Yikes.

Here is all I can get right now.  These are all filed with the court, and to the best of my knowledge are OPEN and not sealed, unless someone has other pertinent information?  In an effort to be a good citizen, I redacted e-mail addresses and whatnot to the best of my ability with the exception of the West Goshen township e-mail addresses because those are already public.

I am a big believer in sunshine and open meetings and freedom of information where local governments are concerned. I participated in a Sunshine protest in Lower Merion Township in 2010 and photographed it.  I have friends who have taken such things to court in Radnor Township over Right to Know Requests not being honored by school district and won. The Radnor case of a lack of sunshine was a very big deal. As well it should have been.

The situation in West Goshen is also a smelly one and has to do with the sewer plant.  I don’t know all the players or the politics, but I do know quite well the politics of being miserable to residents and even non-residents for discussing topics that local municipalities and school districts/school boards do not want out in the open. Everyone always says when things happen they are “coincidences” but are they really?

I am a big believer in our inalienable rights.  Ultimately the Chester County Court system will decide, and I hope this resident gets a fair hearing in front of the Judge hearing the case. I hope West Goshen lets the resident have their day in court FAIRLY without any outside shenanigans, don’t you?

Here is what I have dug up:

casey-v-wgt-appeal-to-oor-decision-ap-2016-0868-in-chester-cty-court-of-common-pleas_redacted

casey-v-wgt-oor-ap2016-0868-rebuttal

ex-a-b-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-c-f-oor-2016-0868

ex-g-oor-2016-0868

ex-h-j-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-k-oor-2016-0868

ex-l1-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-l2-oor-2016-0868_redacted

I am guessing unless the court posts otherwise that this will get a hearing date in the near future, right? A public hearing that media and the public can attend? Anyway, West Goshen is uncharted waters.  Who knows what will happen? I will hope for the best that they do the right thing and get over medieval style politics, right? After all, they owe their residents (ALL of their residents) to be the best, right?

when articles appear that tell but half a story

6876843369_4fcfdf5e31_oSeptember 4th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer about East Whiteland.   Written by a reporter who actually interviewed me about growing roses in 1997, Alan J. Heavens.  I respect him a great deal and would love to know the impetus for this article.

The cynic in me thinks maybe it was placed as PR for the Great Valley Corporate Center or someone similar.

Now this article is well written, and the Inquirer sent one of their best photographers to capture some key shots of East Whiteland, including a very old farmhouse in a bucolic setting, ironically.

25960549603_96081cb1df_oBut the article neglects to mention the non-corporate residents of the township watching their way of life disappear one development at a time.  We live in Chester County because we choose not to live in a city or on the Main Line.  Yet development by development, what makes Chester County unique, even what makes East Whiteland special, is quickly disappearing.

27685291670_2d629ed33d_oJust the other day I wrote about the new fake General Warren Village over near the behemoth of ugliness called Atwater. In my post I mentioned a comment I had received on another blog post about East Whiteland:

The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.”  East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.

 

Now this article.  This article had to have been placed by someone because people in regional newspapers don’t just arrive at the topic of East Whiteland just because.  East Whiteland is a place most people just drive through without even thinking about the non-corporate residents in the township. East Whiteland barely has it’s own identity and doesn’t have a town center so most people know nothing of East Whiteland. They have heard of Malvern, they have heard of Frazer, they have heard of Great Valley High School. But mention “East Whiteland” to most and you get a blank stare.

So this article paints this great picture of all those corporations everyone has  to thank for our way of life in Chester County, apparently. Something along the lines of on the 8th day God created Corporate America perhaps? Ok that’s great, these places are employing folks from all over. Some of whom live in East Whiteland, but a great deal more live elsewhere.

cornfieldEast Whiteland is not just a place people drive through or go to work.  It’s home to real people year ’round.  East Whiteland is also home to Immaculata University and Villa Maria which also deserves credit for employing so many folks. And truthfully, they are better neighbors than corporate America and they respect the local history, heritage, and keep open space.

22015047366_4dd7b6d264_zThe article quotes a Narberth realtor, John Duffy of Duffy Realty. Why quote a veritable Auslander? They also have a St. David’s office.  But they aren’t Chester County realtors, they are based in Narberth and may have branched out to St. David’s, but if you look at their listings, the ones for Chester County with the exception of some rental unit at Raintree in Malvern Borough are all listings that mention SUB-DIVISION, So they are moving west like the developers but are they really the voice of Chester County Realtors now?.

Snippets from their listings on their website include:

  • 1 listing on Flowing Springs Rd in Chester Springs – it’s lovely but oh yes, possibility of sub-division.
  • 2 Juicy sized properties on Willann Road in Phoenixville – 15 and 17 acre parcels and yes, sub-division is possible.
  • 1 10+ acre property on Hickory Grove Road in Owen J Roberts School District “Possibility of four prime building lots on 10.2 gently sloping and wooded acres. Take advantage of sweeping southeasterly views across the Kimberton Golf Club”

The article mentioned East Whiteland Historic assets Gunkle Spring Mill and Lapp Log House. It doesn’t mention some of my favorite places like Duffy’s Cut (site of the massacre of Irish rail workers in the early 19th century), Linden Hall which is still rotting while the townhouses rise,  Loch Aerie, and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill road which is nearly as old at 184 years as the AME Church itself which just turned 200. The article wouldn’t know how to find local landmarks like the Women’s Lib Barn. It certainly doesn’t mention the trailer parks and the itinerant worker housing seen on and off Route 30 near the Wawa and so on.

17047192442_1b07ce4e3d_oThe article touts the businesses as being responsible for a real estate boom, but neglects to add up all the living units currently in progress and being planned in East Whiteland and any potential/probable impact.  When all is said and done, East Whiteland will be compeletely overwhelmed by not hundreds, but thousands of  additional living units. The article states East Whiteland is 11 square miles, so think about it – a couple thousand new living units is a VERY big deal.  And no one wants to talk about how that will affect schools, municipal services, traffic, infrastructure, open space.  It’s not all happening in a vacuum and who is to say this zeal to build one cram plan after the other won’t affect residents detrimentally down the road? And who is to say economically East Whiteland can actually sustain so much development long term?

Oy vey. And it mentions two historic assets that I am sorry are darn lucky to be left standing in a township that doesn’t really do much with historic preservation even though the historical commission is headed now by a very knowledgeable and caring gentleman (and they posted minutes for August 2016!! ), legislatively the commission has no teeth because there is nothing in East Whiteland to give them teeth (much like Tredyffrin Township as well, yes?)

17045432081_e515193eb2_oThe realtor Duffy says he doesn’t recognize the names of the developers in East Whiteland.  

“Newly constructed homes are available, of course, but most of the builders are younger and their companies and developments smaller than the big names, Duffy says.

“In fact, when I’m asked by agents if I know anything about these builders, I have to call them,” he says.”

Funny, I find quite a lot of them familiar names as I first heard about them on the Main Line. The ones that actually develop, and others who get things approved but then sell their approved sites to other developers and even one or two who got approvals but thus far have done nothing and the names don’t ring a bell? And here I thought savvy realtors were always out and about?

You know O’Neill, Kahn, Pulte, Ryan Homes, Benson, Liberty Property? And if you don’t recognize their names there are others like Toll, JP Orleans, Bentley and more within spitting distance of East Whiteland because why? Oh yeah you can’t swing the proverbial dead cat in Chester County these days without hitting a developer, can you?

I realize you can’t fight city hall on everything, but this sundae with a cherry on top bubble view of East Whiteland doesn’t reflect the people who have lived here in some cases for decades who are terrified by the sheer volume of development and other things like gas pipelines which are coming at so many Chester County residents at a fast and furious pace.

16841236827_7e282e76de_oSo are there a lot of positives to this article? Yes but it still doesn’t mean East Whiteland needs to drown in development so it turns into Bensalem or King of Prussia, etc.  Open space is a real thing, and Chester County is losing it daily along with historic resources and equine and agricultural heritage.

The development which is occurring shows little architectural design aesthetic, aren’t exactly being built to withstand the test of time, and there is just too much of it.  Every square inch available is getting gobbled up. It’s insane, quite literally.

The Inquirer article neglects to mention all of this or the feelings of the existing residents and those in neighboring communities affected by all this development.

26774787724_76108f4124_oSo while the folks at places like the Great Valley Corporate Center are running around patting themselves on the back and realtors who aren’t truly representative of Chester County spout facts anyone with a computer can research on the Internet, there are the quiet voices of everyday people living in Chester County communities like in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are grateful for the commerce but don’t want to lose a way of life, open space, history, and so on.

What is this game we play? Bully for business and real estate developers and damn the existing residents, open space, agricultural heritage, and history?  Doesn’t seem like a very fun or fair game to me. Is moderation in growth really so goddamn difficult?

Here is the article:

Companies congregate here, drawing buyers

Updated: SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT

by Alan J. Heavens, Real Estate Writer @alheavens

It’s high time we headed over to East Whiteland for a visit.

After all, without this 11-square-mile Chester County community, a good many folks in this region would be unemployed.

There are so many corporate headquarters in East Whiteland that every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the township’s population of 10,650 increases by more than 23,000.

Those companies include Cerner Corp. (formally Siemens Health Services), Vishay, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Ellucian Higher Education, Janssen Biotech (formerly Centocor), and Acme Markets.

Think Great Valley Corporate Center, five million square feet of office and research-and-development space on 700 acres – Liberty Property Trust’s largest domestic suburban project….

“It is a well-run township that cooperates with those around it, is convenient to everything, has a top school district and low taxes,” he says.

“Who can ask for more?”

 

The “more”  folks could ask for include slowing down the pace of development, open space and true historic preservation.  There are more than businesses living in East Whiteland Township.

The race for open space used to be just a tag line about saving it in Chester County. Now it describes every developer who gets their paws on a few acres.

moon over immaculataHappy Labor Day from the land of development, err Chester County. I really hope my feelings about this development are in the end proven wrong, but the reality is I have this sinking suspicion that when I am a very old lady I will be able to say I told you so and I won’t be happy doing it.

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reject the mariner 2 east pipeline

reject

Reject the Mariner East 2 pipeline! (click on hyperlink to go to Sierra Club initiative)

Normally I do not pass these things on. But I hate Sunoco (and am not enthralled by the other gas line companies either, but they are more polite to deal with if you have to call and ask questions like I did today). Out here we are on wells and they put us, our families, our pets, our neighbors, our wildlife, our environment, our drinking water and more at risk.

Sunoco thus far seems to bully, lie, and intimidate their way through Chester County and elsewhere, raping the landscape as they go.

21784458790_3b3b49f6a6_oNone of use should  want them stealing any more land belonging to anymore individuals thru their B.S. Eminent Domain practices because they are not doing any of this for us….ever. With big oil and big gas, it is always and always will be….about them.

They put toxic, highly flammable, and highly combustible products too close to homes, and they are NOT protecting water sources or wildlife, let alone people.

This is NOT about us and our energy supply. They are just stealing it for other people. They don’t even adequately compensate people for what they do if you want to make it solely about money and it is so much more than that. And thus far the majority of local officials just bend over and give it up without much of a fight.

In the past two days I have had conversations with people from East Goshen and West Goshen Townships who both do not know each other and their experiences as related to me were virtually identical.

They were threatened with eminent domain and they felt they had no choice but to give them an easement; and both hired attorneys that cost many thousands of dollars!

21349816844_28eba2ef09_oThey feel the worst is yet to come as they haven’t started the pipeline invasion yet. They have heard that townships may give them rights to work 24 hours a day, which if true is insane!

So much for East Goshen and West Goshen townships… These folks both tell tales of strange men and women with Texas and Louisiana car plates on their properties TRESPASSING before they even had legal easements.

It just isn’t right and the elected officials are of no help at all.

One said to me (and I quote):

What many don’t know is how in the end our property values will be affected and it is my belief that my property value ( and all on the pipeline path) will go down because of the easement… But the same monies will be needed to support the town budget so everyone else’s taxes will go up to provide the same tax base . We are all losers.

 

We are all losers.  Yup.  I received a pamphlet recently from Spectra Energy about pipeline sapipelinefety.  I have not previously received any pipeline info before where we currently live.  So I called.  I spoke with a very nice man named Don in Gas Control.  And wow, we do not have a gas line on our property or in our immediate neighborhood, but wow, pretty darn close.
Another election year issue on a national scale.  Please sign the above petition and add your voice.  And for those of you tired of trespassers, call Andy Dinniman’s office in West Chester .  There should be rules as to when they can access easements and they should provide advance notice.

Anyway, that’s it. I hate pipelines and I hate what they are doing to our area.  And for what?

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kathleen kane is guilty

NBC 10 Philadelphia has just broken the news that Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is guilty on all charges

kane_karthleen

ABC27.com photo

The Philadelphia Inquirer adds:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was convicted Monday of perjury, obstruction and other crimes after squandering her once bright political future on an illegal vendetta against an enemy.

Four years after Kane’s election in a landslide as the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general, a jury of six men and six women found her guilty of all charges: two counts of perjury and 10 misdemeanor counts of abusing the powers of her office.

Sad day for that fight against the proverbial glass ceiling, eh?

the song remains the same

This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.

This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.

Well as lots and lots of people know, The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the story of Ebenezer A.M.E. that was once located at 97 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA.

Bacton-newsInterestingly, a  couple of fairly powerful and influential members (or so I was told) of the A.M.E. Church were interviewed : Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, executive director of the national denomination’s department of research and scholarship and Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.

I had contacted Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown in the past and it kind of got nowhere. I have contacted the A.M.E. Church Elder Rev Charles H. Lett and that was late December, 2015. He never responded after we had a brief telephone conversation where he instructed me to write to him.

Most recently because of the Inquirer article, I contacted Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.  Three times. I have not even received an acknowledgement of my efforts to reach him.

So either the A.M.E. Church cares very little about honoring their history and their dead or they don’t want to hear from a woman who is not of their faith and is not related to anyone buried at Ebenezer AME in Frazer.

How sad and too bad, I am not giving up. The A.M.E. can’t just talk the talk of their history, they need to walk the walk of their history.  And if they could afford a giant bicentennial celebration in the city of their faith’s birthplace, surely they can afford one cleanup of one small old and sacred and historic place, right?

Here is the article before I tell you who I wrote to today for help:

Updated: JULY 17, 2016

Tia Manon trudged through the swampy cemetery of the old Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, looking for two names belonging to one man. (SLIDESHOW)

Perry Ringgold was a slave who escaped the South on the Underground Railroad. James Williams was the free man he became after he was harbored by a Quaker family in Exton.

According to family lore, this relative of Manon’s helped found the East Whiteland church in 1832, but none of the stone markers bore a trace of him, by either name. She did come across one name she recognized, a Reason – William Reason. Could he have been an ancestor of her late husband, George Reason?

….”It makes you feel very, very sad,” said Manon, 47, of Paoli, a student at Immaculata University.

She is among a group of neighbors and history buffs who want to clean up and preserve the two-acre tract on Bacton Hill Road. Officials of the Chester County township said that they will coordinate the effort, but that they first need permission from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which they believe owns the property….

The 2.5 million-member A.M.E. Church, founded in Philadelphia by Bishop Richard Allen in 1816, is the oldest independent Protestant denomination established by African Americans. It currently has 7,000 congregations, but the number that sprang up over the centuries and then vanished is unknown.

Chester County is filled with the ghosts of churches past. Like Ebenezer, they grew in concert with pre-Civil War black communities in locations such as Uwchlan and Downingtown, said Renee Carey, a Chester County history enthusiast and South Coatesville borough councilwoman who has researched black churches and cemeteries.

 

I have only included an excerpt of the article, please read it in it’s entirety.  I worked for close to a year alone to get that article placed, and I am grateful to Tia for agreeing to be part of it.

EBeneSo anyway, today I decided to read a biography from the Mother Bethel website of this senior pastor  Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler. I got the bio off a Google cache truthfully because the Mother Bethel website is down more than it is up. I noticed he had been interviewed by a gentleman I believe to be the foremost authority today on African American history, Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates of Harvard University. A lot of you would recognize him as the brains behind the PBS Series Finding Your Roots.

So I decided to e-mail Dr. Gates, it can’t hurt. Here is part of what I said:

Dr. Gates,

You don’t know me but I am a huge fan of your work. I watch your shows on PBS.  I live in Chester County, PA, and I am desperately trying along with others including the people on this e-mail to get the A.M.E. Church to save a 184 year old church ruin and cemetery.

The Church is named Ebenezer AME and land was deeded by a Quaker named Malin around 1831 and the church was completed in 1832. It was one of the earlier black churches out here and there is a graveyard too. In the graveyard there are USCT Civil War soldiers and freed slaves.  It is because of one of the Civil War soldiers I became interested in the first place. His name was Joshua Johnson. Ebenezer A.M.E. is still located even as a ruin on 97 Bacton Hill Road, Frazer, PA (East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA)

I am a blogger and a native Philadelphian who moved to Chester County, PA a few years ago.  I have been trying for a few years now to get help.

All records indicate the AME Church still owns the land.  We just really want to get this place saved.  And I am hoping the reason I am ignored by the AME church doesn’t have to do with the fact it’s not my church and these aren’t my ancestors. To you, I respectfully submit these ARE the ancestors of people in the area, and there are more in addition to Tia who was in the article I placed with Kristin Holmes recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I think you might be surprised by the people who wish to help get Ebenezer cleaned up before it is too late.  The A.M.E. Church needs to spearhead the initial clean-up as we all believe land is STILL owned by the AME Church and merely not owned by a church congregation that no longer exists. But there are people interested in helping the church after that as in volunteering their time.  The boy scouts always want service projects, in addition. And there is a history with local scouts and this place.

The A.M.E. Church just finished hosting their bicentennial in Philadelphia.  This is part of the history they celebrate this year.

I have been routinely ignored by the A.M.E. Church for three years now.

I am not the only one.

I am a realist, and not every sacred and/or historical place can be saved. But this place is special, truly special.

I also promised the poet A.V. (Ann) Christie before she died this spring of breast cancer I would keep working with others to save this.  I want to keep my word.

Most recently I contacted someone you interviewed not so long ago, Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel in Philadelphia. He was interviewed in the Inquirer article.  I alone have now sent him 3 emails with information to try to get Ebenezer saved. He has not even acknowledged receipt of the e-mails.  I can’t tell you how discouraging it all is.

I know you are so incredibly important a person and busy, but I thought maybe if someone like you expressed an interest, the A.M.E. church would actually respond to us.  We just want them to help us get it cleaned up.  It is so badly overgrown, we can’t just go onto their property and clean it up. We need their permission, and we need them frankly to pay for the initial clean-up.  After that we feel we can get volunteers organized and with the permission of the A.M.E. church hopefully keep it cleaned up going forward.

But we are at a critical juncture, and we need to get the A.M.E. Church moving now before all is lost forever.

I am not asking you for any sort of financial input, but I am asking you to help us because of your unique academic and celebrity position.   You are the one who teaches us how to find our roots and the importance of our personal histories.  You are also the foremost authority on African American History in this country today.  The people buried at Ebenezer are part of that history. Plus there  are local residents and not so local residents interested in honoring their ancestors buried here.

I hope you can help us.

 

So we will see if that helps, or if Dr. Gates responds. He is kind of famous, so maybe he won’t. But I hope he does.

Here are some e-mail addresses for any of you out there interested in getting Ebenezer saved:

The pastor at Mother Bethel interviewed in the Inquirer is Mark Kelly Tyler.  Markkellytyler@gmail.com

Rev Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, The 20th Editor,
The Christian Recorder — Since 1852
“The Official Newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church”

www.the-christian-recorder.org
Office: 615. 714-0986
chsydnor@bellsouth.net

Other emails I found to add to emails:

Dr. Richard Lewis Richlew1@aol.com

journeyministry@aol.com

cio@ame-church.com

info@stpaulsamecmalvern.org – Unfortunately note that the Malvern folks have never replied to anything. Ditto for Info@MotherBethel.com

Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown teresa.brown@emory.edu or AMECHistoryintheMaking@yahoo.com

Bishop Ingram  BishopIngram@firstdistrictame.org and alternate e-mail for First District AME is Clinton@FirstDistrictAME.org

Click HERE for a Google Cache of organizers of the A.M.E’s bicentennial.

Be polite but please consider writing to these folks to get them to help save the ruins and graveyard of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland, Chester County.

If you are a member of an AME congregation please tell them and the location of your church. If you have ancestors or think you have ancestors buried at Ebenezer, tell them that as well. I would also suggest including a link to the Inquirer article.

Seriously, just because they don’t respond to me it doesn’t mean they won’t respond to you- the MORE emails they get the more likely they will pay attention.

In closing, yes the song remains the same, but we can hope the more people talk about Ebenezer, the better our chances to save it and what remains of the graves.

#ThisPlaceMatters

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)

gone too soon. be at peace, austin wylie

Austin

I received word a little while ago through my Shipley network.  Young Austin Wylie is gone. Reports indicate suicide.  This teenager is a perfect stranger to me, my only sense of connection is my alma mater Shipley, and I have to tell you I find the news devastating.  I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around the photographs of a seemingly happy and well-adjusted teenager, and this news.

We have a teen close enough in age to this boy, so it hits home on that level too. My better half’s mother was  on the Board of Trustees like Austin’s mom when we were in high school . (My sweet man’s mother is one of the reasons boys were allowed to go to Shipley all those years ago, truthfully.) We  were speaking about this today, I called him at his office to tell him the news from Shipley wasn’t good.

missing 3One of the things we spoke of is how I don’t remember kids being under pressure like this when we were at Shipley. And that at the Shipley of today this was the second teenage boy from there in a little over a year to chose to end his life. I am referring to Cayman Naib.

Before all you haters pop up and criticize me for thinking about this, be honest, am I the only one? This is not a dig at my alma mater Shipley at all, they are just as devastated and this came way the hell out of left field at school officials as well. I am speaking of the pressure teenagers, and seemingly boys in particular are under to succeed.

This was not a boy anyone would have pegged for this action. But Austin Wylie as per Shipley, his family, and the authorities ended his life by jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge. He left a note on his phone apparently, and was feeling overwhelmed by something at that time. I don’t understand how no one saw him climbing up on the bridge, but that is one of the things about cities and life: we are all so busy going about our days we often do not notice what happens around us.

Here is the letter from Shipley:

explain 1

explain 2

explain 3

explain 4

This is a very nice letter.  I am sharing in my own post because I am a little offended by the Patch and their zeal to spread devastating news like spam. They hit a power share button and just blasted the news across their sites in my opinion. Maybe if they did actual reporting they might have content for all their hyper local sites. But I digress.

Yesterday Shipley had put the following out:

shipley yesterday

 

missing 2I have to be honest as the hours dragged on yesterday and people in the media I knew kept commenting how they were being shuttled back and forth between the police departments involved trying to figure out what was going on that the news was NOT going to be good.  It was just a feeling, and now as I write this post I wish the outcome had been different.

What happened to Austin that made him drop everything else he was doing and go do this in the middle of the day like this?

A friend of mine just made the following comment:

Another suicide. Another young person with their whole life ahead of them. I can’t think about it without crying. But what can we do…to lessen the pressure our children feel – whatever happened to the carefree days of high school? – and what can we do to recognize and support those in need of mental health support. I can’t help but feel like we are failing today’s children.

 

Another friend then said:

This is horrible. We all need to stop the high expectations, pressure cooker, mentality at school and home. Isn’t great teaching and great learning enough? Manage the expectations and egos.

 

I agree.  And I think this goes especially for boys.  Boys internalize so much.  We don’t even realize it.  Girls seem to let emotions out more.  And they will talk about stuff more.  When you ask a teenage boy how their day was, the response is monosyllabic. I know first hand and it drives me crazy.  Ask girls the same question and you will not only get more of a response, you will get the added color of who annoyed them at lunch or what someone was wearing.

missingHowever, male or female, we do need to regulate the pressure cooker called life.  As kids climb the grades in high school the expectations grow. The expectations grow from their schools, from us as parents, and the pressure these kids put on themselves so they don’t disappoint anyone.

Another friend of mine said :

It‘s not just Shipley though. It’s an epidemic. The pressure and expectations how early it starts is terrible. And the way today’s teenagers believe their lifetime happiness and success are somehow related to test scores or number of AP classes or grades is heart breaking. In addition we need them, everyone, to be unafraid to ask for help and to not be embarrassed to address and acknowledge their struggles.

It’s a topic that is hard to discuss. It’s not something that teens or adults want to think about.  It’s unpleasant and difficult. But it does happen. Teen suicide is very real, and is preventable.

Good mental health is fundamental to the health and well-being of every person and of the nation as a whole. Our children are our future, so we need to help them know they are not alone and there are resources at their and their parents disposal.

Being a teenager is not easy. It is quite literally the best of times and the worst of times. As adults, we need to think back into the deep, dark recesses of our minds and remember what it was like to be a teenager. The hormones, confusing and often conflicting (let alone ever-changing) emotions, peer and parental pressure.  Add to that today the issues of multi-platform bullying and social media overload.

Teen suicide is part of a larger public health issue. Coverage of this topic and discussion needs to encourage help-seeking.   And we all have to remember suicide is a very complex issue. It can’t be pigeon holed into a little box and that’s it.   There are multiple causes. And the signs of suicide vary.

 

According to the website Reporting On Suicide, the signs can include (but not all individuals display signs):

  • talking about wanting to die
  • looking for a way to kill oneself
  • talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • displaying extreme mood swings

 

Parents  need to be  honest and admit  at times it can be a struggle when communicating with the teenagers in our homes.  And according to a study produced during the Clinton White House Years , teenagers aged 15-16 who do not feel close to their parents are about three times as likely to think about suicide as teens who are close to their parents, and teens aged 15-16 who don’t eat dinner with their parents regularly are twice as likely to have attempted suicide. This talking point about dining as a family is also just good common sense.

Togetherness as a family that is positive opens many doors, and face it, what is one of the hardest parts of raising teenagers? Communication. And communication isn’t social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mails, chat programs, it’s a real conversation. Sitting down and talking even if it is light dinner conversation. Real and tangible contact and human interaction is so important with regard to interpersonal relationships at any age.

Teen suicide is very preventable, but as a society we have to open the doors to productive conversations and communication.  Proper education on the topic is one of the keys to prevention. This needs to be discussed in the schools, the community at large, and the home.

Again, communication is key.  When life gets bumpy or stressful it is helpful to know there are resources and people to talk to. Some teens in crisis will not display any telltale signs of issues, so it is really important to be able to talk with your children and they with you. And it is important for them to know from us that we do not need them to be perfect, and for some parents, especially if they are personally ambitious that is often hard to convey.

I am not laying blame here, I am devastated for the Wylie family.  I look at photos of a boy that will be forever frozen in time, never aging.  That makes tears run down my face. I also hope parents who were friends with, neighbors of, and went to school with Austin hit the pause button and help their children grieve and work through this.  We can’t pretend these things aren’t happening, they are happening right in our own communities and across the country.

Updated: JULY 15, 2016 — 3:21 PM EDT

Please talk with your kids about teen suicide. We need to take the top of the pressure cooker.

Austin Wylie, I never knew you, but I won’t soon forget you.  I hope you are at peace, and I pray for his family and friends to find peace at this most difficult time.  Remember the good times you had with this by all accounts remarkable young man.  Hold him in your hearts with love.

Here are some resources Shipley recommended:

Grief Counseling Referral List 2016[1]

After a Suicide- Student Questions

Parent Handout – Suicide Loss

My deepest condolences to Brooksley and Jim Wylie and Austin’s brother Cameron.

I close with one of my favorite Robert Frost poem I shared a year ago:

Reluctance

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Robert Frost

have you seen austin wylie?

missing 2This morning when I logged onto my computer, social media was filled with news that strikes fear through your heart: a teenager is missing. From Shipley. His name is Austin Wylie. He is from Lower Merion Township. Lower Merion Police are asking for ANYONE with any information to call them at 610-649-1000.  His car was apparently found yesterday at 5th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia.  His friends say his keys were found in the car, the police aren’t confirming or denying that.

As per Google, this is where his car was found:

5th and spring garden

This is not where you would find a kid from the Main Line typically unless they are going clubbing or something and he is just too young for that I think.

I thought maybe first he was a city kid who went  out to Shipley, but he’s not as per NBC10:

Standout Teen Soccer Player from Montco Goes Missing

A standout teenage soccer player from Montgomery County vanished this week, and police from multiple jurisdictions are working together to try to find him.

Austin Wylie, who recently finished his junior year at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, was featured in September as the Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week for his achievements as Shipley’s forward.

Friends are taking to Facebook, Twitter and other social media to share photos of Wylie after they said he went missing Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for Lower Merion Police Department told NBC10 that a number of law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions are investigating Wylie’s disappearance.

He confirmed that a car Wylie had been driving at some point was located at 5th and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia since the teen went missing, but wasn’t able to confirm whether the keys had been left in the car, as reports on social media have said.

Anyone with information on Wylie should contact Lower Merion Police at 610-649-1000.

Follow us: @nbcphiladelphia on Twitter | NBCPhiladelphia on Facebook

Austin Wylie is a rising senior at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, my alma mater. That means he just finished his junior year.  By all accounts a standout student athlete who is well liked. Kids like him do NOT just vanish into this air.  What is around 5th and Spring Garden in Northern Liberties that would attract a kid from the suburbs? Or did nothing attract him and something or someone made him go there?  And all his friends are saying on social media his keys were in the car????

Main Line Media News is reporting Austin is from Haverford in Lower Merion Township:

Police asking for help in locating missing Haverford teenager

Thursday Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh confirmed social media reports that Austin Wylie, a 17-year-old from the Haverford section of Lower Merion, is missing and police have been searching for him.

His friends are a credit to him, they took to social media immediately, posting away. I think it because of these friends that media and police and the rest of us are sharing. When you have a kid close to Austin’s age it is especially terrifying.

missing

I do not know this boy and I am uspet.  Another teen missing?  From Shipley, no less? This just doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would take off and disappear. So where is he? His poor parents and family, and his poor friends.

Please if you have seen this boy, please come forward.  Even if you saw him buying a soda in a WaWa or something, please come forward to police. Who the heck knows where Philadelphia Police are on this since all we have heard from only Austin’s hometown PD, Lower Merion.

missing 3

This just doesn’t seem like a kid who would just disappear or take off. Maybe I am wrong, kids get upset, teenage years can be super emotional.  Please if you have seen this kid call the police.

Praying for a safe and happy resolution. (And I would love to know why no one has heard from Philadelphia Police on this yet???)

Austin

Police seek info. on missing Montgomery County teen Austin Wylie

His car was reportedly found in Northern Liberties

BY ELISA LALA
PhillyVoice Staff

Authorities are asking anyone with information related to the disappearance of Montgomery County teen Austin Wylie, who has been reported missing since Wednesday morning, to come forward.

A spokesperson from the Lower Merion Police Department confirmed to NBC10that a car driven by Wylie at the time of his disappearance has since been found at N. 5th and Spring Garden streets in Northern Liberties.