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“My kids are grown, but I get up every morning and I clean that block because I don’t want to see my babies walk through that.”

Sonja Bingham Kensington
Sonja Bingham en una protesta en Kensington el 8 de julio de 2020. (Foto por Claire Wolters)

Sonja Bingham, Kensington resident

Editor’s note: The responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness. We tried to keep the majority of the points that were made, but some parts did need to be cut or rephrased. Phrases, such as “addicts” and “users”, were changed to “people experiencing addiction” and “people who use drugs” to follow Kensington Voice’s ethics of using person-first language.

Does the proposed Kensington Investment Plan represent the community’s current needs or priorities? Is there anything missing?

Editor’s note: Sonja wasn’t familiar enough with the plan to answer this question at the time of the interview.

Do you agree or disagree with the proposals under the “public safety strategy and expanded access to treatment” section and the “community cleaning and sanitation” section? Thoughts?

The corridors need to be better cleaned. This would never be acceptable near my house, which is near Martha’s restaurant. Near my house, if people were walking their dogs without poop bags, I’d say, “You got one in your pocket?” This is not okay. It’s not okay for the people who have to live in it, and it’s definitely not okay for those of us who are stakeholders in the community to have to tell our kids this is okay. My kids are grown, but I get up every morning and I clean that block because I don’t want to see my babies walk through that. That should not be their conditioning experience.

Street sweepers cleaned my stoop today [Wednesday, July 8]. It was the most amazing, wonderful, and uplifting experience. That should be routine. It’s not a lot to ask and it’s relatively clean. But, it’s because we had the press conference last week and now we have the protest today. So what happens after?

Under the “restorative community investment for safety and quality of life” section, which issues do you feel should receive priority funding?

Safe corridors and more police presence; for the police to engage with our young people. That community effort needs to involve all the generations. The kids in this neighborhood need to see that. 

The narrative is that cops want to kill Black people. That’s the narrative. So when they see [police] picking up trash or playing on the basketball court, it changes the narrative. It should be mandatory that police officers donate two hours of community service to their districts. Two hours. How many cops are in a district? Do you know what two hours would do? Do you know how impactful that would be?

I am not a native of Philadelphia. I was one of three Black families in my town in New York. So, my experience and the way I was brought up is just different. But living on the other side and then coming here to this side, the same rules still apply. If we see police officers and the mayor as our friends, and they think that we are worth them coming out to our neighborhood and picking up our trash, that’s gonna be something. 

Do you agree or disagree that adding a fully-staffed police district or Police Service Area (PSA) will help police officers respond to underserved parts of Kensington?

There needs to be more police presence in main hubs. Kensington and Allegheny avenues should be a hub. It should be a wonderful place for businesses, for restaurants, for people to get off SEPTA’s Allegheny Station and pick up dinner for their kids before they go home into the neighborhood. 

We need a heavier police presence and more engagement with the community. Have them come play basketball. If the kids see the District Attorney’s Office, and the police officers, and the powers that be out there investing and contributing to their neighborhood, that’s gonna make them feel special, like they have value. Those are things that I personally — without getting into Black Lives Matter and all of the obvious issues of late — think are very impactful. 

Editor’s note: The status of the proposed Kensington Police Special Services District is mentioned in the city’s Restore Kensington Action Plan. You can read more about that here.

What should be a part of the city’s treatment options to aid people experiencing addiction?

No comment.

To read more Community Listening responses click here.


Editors: Zari Tarzona, Claire Wolters, Siani Colón / Designer: Henry Savage / Translator: Somlmaira Valerio

What did you think about this story? Send a note to editors@kensingtonvoice.com, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

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