Philly Soul + Fattah = Urban Development

Leon Huff + Kenny Gamble

First there was Holland, Dozier & Holland of Detroit… then there was Lennon & McCartney of Liverpool… then, Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia…

“What we’ve been able to do is identify why African American communities are like they are… distressed, in poverty, not involved in the economics of their community, not involved in the whole political process… education was the key.” — Kenny Gamble

Rep. Fattah

Legendary producer Kenny Gamble’s see here community-development corporation, Universal Companies, just took a huge step forward to change communities in South Philadelphia and has been credited with bringing parts of South Philadelphia out poverty by way of educational opportunities and real estate redevelopment.  Last week it was announced that Gamble’s Universal Companies has won a grant for $500,000 to “to help communities develop a comprehensive plan that addressed their most pressing problems, and get children from the cradle through college graduation.”  [see Harlem Children’s Zone site]

In his announcement of the grant award on Jan. 21, 2011, Philly Rep. Chaka Fattah said, “the funds from the U.S. Department of Education will provide children in the Point Breeze and Grays Ferry communities in South Philadelphia, one of the most devastated areas in the city, access to effective schools and strong systems of support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career.”

Kenny Gamble, Harold Melvin + the Blue Notes album cover, The O'Jays, Harold Melvin + The Blue Notes

Out of 339 applicants, Gamble’s Universal Companies was one of only 21 applicants awarded funding.  In Universal’s case, $500,000. The nonprofit organization also raised another $500,000, including $250,000 from the William Penn Foundation.  If their long-term strategy works, Universal Companies could get a share of a $200 million grant in the future.

Gamble told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “The bottom line is how do you create this kind of consciousness, so that people who have been robbed of all these initiatives, the knowledge of doing for themselves? How do you create a community of people to get up off their knees so that they can become independent? You change their whole community.”

Gamble’s plan is to bring community development to 200 neglected blocks in South Philly and focus on early-childhood education, family services and affordable housing. Gamble in the Philly Inquirer: “There’s been generations that have not been able to take advantage of the education and when African Americans had education, it was always inferior. This is going to take generations and a constant maintenance of the educational and cultural aspects to make sure that this doesn’t go back.”