Reading in neighborhood solidarity

Reading group in Fishtown focuses on making city more progressive and less corrupt

Members of Reclaim Philadelphia, left, Amanda McIllmurray, Quinn Hansen, Harry Hansen, Alice Edgerton, Jonah Gardner, and Sara Arment. who met at the home of Quinn and Harry Hansen on Thursday, Aug. 17.

By Lindsey Nolen

After the Bernie Sanders campaign concluded prior to the 2016 presidential election, local progressive supporters continued the political revolution by founding the community organization Reclaim Philadelphia. Over a year after its inception, neighborhood leaders in Fishtown have decided to begin yet another new initiative, the Kensington-Fishtown Solidarity Reading Group, which hosted its first meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
While the purpose of Reclaim Philadelphia is to mobilize people in Philadelphia for progressive causes, such as the Our City, Our Schools campaigns and Larry Krasner for district attorney, KFSRG is more focused on simply discussing making the city more progressive and less corrupt.
“I’m part of the Reclaim Philadelphia group, which consists of task forces such as a decarceration task force, an education task force and other neighborhood divisions,” said Shira Blady, a Fishtown neighborhood leader with Reclaim Philadelphia. “Myself and a few other members from the neighborhood wanted to organize a reading group to help build relationships and to create a safe environment to foster discussion and share ideas.”
From there, Blady helped ask other Reclaim Philadelphia group members if they were interested or if they had the time to help with the reading group’s organization. Ultimately, Blady along with Quinn Hansen, Harry Hansen and Taylor Benjamin-Britton offered their time to turn the idea into a reality.
“First we all got together in my living room and discussed what and how the group would run,” Blady said. “We decided we would select the first reading, and decided to focus on authors that discuss class, race and gender as a way to form solidarity with people and to have them share ideas in a safe way.”
Blady added she also hopes people will come out to participate in the KFSRG so they can build relationships in the neighborhood. As a lot of new people are moving into the neighborhood, she believes it is increasingly important to enable people to come out and connect with one another, especially at a time when the issues being discussed are as relevant as ever.
“There’s a lot of hateful rhetoric out there today,” Blady said. “We want people to feel comfortable sharing ideas and discussing different forms of solidarity.”
The group’s leaders have chosen “The ABCs of Socialism” by the writers of Jacobin magazine as the first selection. A short read, it serves as an introduction to socialism, a theory advocating the economy should be regulated by the community as a whole.
“It’s a great book that breaks down what it means to be a socialist, and is about supporting people regardless of class, race or gender,” Blady said. “Sometimes it can feel like there’s a division amongst these different people, and I want the reading group to be a place where people can comfortably discuss these issues.”
Although the group’s leaders chose this initial reading selection, and that the first meeting will be held at the Hansen’s home, located at 2130 N. Phillip St., Blady explained that moving forward she hopes participating members come to take a stake in where future meetings are held and what material is selected for reading. She added anyone interested in topics about solidarity, regardless of age, whether or not they’ve already read the material or live in the Fishtown-Kensington neighborhoods, is welcome to join.
“We don’t want it to be something that we’re controlling, but rather we want everyone to have the opportunity to recommend readings, begin discussions and host meetings,” Blady said. “I’d be happy if 10 people show up to the first meeting. I’m sure we’ll have a few kinks that need to be ironed out, but if there’s anyone interested in coming, we’d love to have them.”
For more information on the KFSRG, or to ask questions, visit: facebook.com/groups/1935799376632261/.

Interested participants can support Jacobin and purchase KFSRG’s first week reading material for $5 at jacobinmag.com/store, or it can be read online at: s3.jacobinmag.com/issues/jacobin-abcs.pdf.