FACEBOOK FILES: Neighbors discussed white privilege and racial inequality last month on Living in Germantown: All Together. Some insights from the guy who started most of the conversations.
Lorenzo Woodson was raised in Germantown, and although he loves the area he endured brutal racial abuse while in foster care. He graduated with honors from CCP with a degree in early childhood education, then earned his Bachelors and Masters in Human Services Counseling from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. He also got his PhD in Human Services from Walden University.
He’s a licensed behavior analyst in Germantown (specializing in clients on the autistic spectrum). He lives in Germantown with his wife of 24 years, and lectures for social & non-profit organizations nationally. Lorenzo’s ultimate goal is to eliminate racism by any means necessary. He’s a member of Men Who Care of Germantown (www.menwhocareofgermantown.org/)
What do you see as the most prevalent signs of racial inequality in Germantown?
The most prevalent signs of racial inequality in Germantown are the inequities in the distribution of wealth and resources when it comes to everything on the 39th district side- southwest and the 14th district the northwest side. Many politicians that represent Germantown are keeping up the divide by being bought or swayed by those with wealth in Germantown. Germantown has a wealth gap, there are those who speak of Germantown as eclectic but do not take action when it comes to living up to that economically.
Shared business exchanges in Southwest Germantown clearly are in need of improvement. Those with privilege and power can make it happen but will not. Those with wealth and privilege do not share their ideas to include others outside of their race/culture. Letting go of their fears and stereotypes could be challenging but I believe it can create collaborations with the small African American business community.
It is one thing to say Germantown is a unique place but to take no action to make it that way is a dream deferred. There is still an “across the tracks” mentality at work. Instead, white businesses and African American businesses could create new shared business models to help combat racism in Germantown.
Some small pilot projects could nurture an eclectic mix of shared experience and ideas. The whites and African Americans could learn to build trust relationships and look out for one another on so many levels. A collaborative business community could be an entrée to more harmonious existence. We could be a positive model for the world!
If you could fix one problem in the neighborhood, what would it be?
I would make every effort to remove the social divide, the lines that separate the wealthy and those with less.
If you had a million dollars to invest in Germantown, what sort of project would you support?
If I had a million dollars to invest in Germantown it would be to invest in what I would call Germantown Federal Credit Union to encourage small business partnerships between African and white entrepreneurs and other cultures in the multiple business corridors of Germantown. This, I believe, would break down stereotype, build trust and remove the economic and social political divide.
What are some myths or misconceptions you’ve heard about Germantown?
One myth about Germantown is that it is full of “mental health facilities.” Yes, Germantown has wonderful large Victorians that work well as group homes and treatment centers. And our tree-lined streets can be a healthy, calming influence. But the community has limits on how many facilities may operate here. Plus, neighbors here appreciate the employment opportunities.
What gives you hope for the future?
I see change in the people of Germantown, in the world, in white men and women and children, especially the Millennials. It is a good feeling to know that information is everywhere. Informed people are thinking and evolving people.
People are connecting, too, and realizing the real world is not how we were shown or told it to be by those in control. The powerful are turning towards isolationism, preparing to grab resources and render us limited. It’s a final grab, their last hope to hold onto their unfair advantages. I believe we will win this fight if we can unite across the racial divide. Germantown can lead the way!
If you could fix one problem in the neighborhood, what would it be?
Plant more trees. Have more community things for families and children that bring all types of people together so they can share cultural mores, values, ideas, food, wares, art, and stories.
Are you originally from Germantown? How long have you lived here? About whereabouts in G-town are you now? Are you married? Kids? Pets?
I was placed in children’s orphanage in Germantown Stenton Childcare Center on a little street on the side of MLK high school in 1968. My first foster home was on 17th and Stenton around Kinsey elementary school. At the age of 6 I was placed in another foster home in Germantown on the east side 800 block of Stafford Street where I lived until I was 12 or 13. I then was moved to Catholic boy’s orphanage in Bucks county Pennsylvania then back to Germantown to a group home on the 100 block of Seymour Street.
I moved to University City and then onto college. After college in 1989, I moved back to Germantown and married in 1995, the same year I purchased two homes and fully remodeled the one my wife and I live in today.
My wife and I do not have any children but my wife loves cats so we have two (she also fosters).
Where’s your “happy place” in Germantown?
My happy place is having a drink with friends at the various restaurants in Germantown. I also love sitting in my sanctuary, the stone patio off my kitchen, by the garden. I like to put some jazz on, light up the fire pit, enjoy a whisky with neighbors – or by myself.
When you order pizza, where do you get it from?
Nicks Famous Pizza is my favorite! It’s light, thin, and just the right amount of cheese.
Favorite restaurant or shops here…? Best kept secret?
The best shops and place that are best kept secrets are the Bargain Thrift on Germantown Avenue and Queen Lane. Champagnes Cafe is on Chelten Avenue, the K & J Caribbean American diner on Greene and Armat Streets. And the Delmar Bar & Lounge is excellent watering hole with a mixed crowd where everybody knows me as “Doc.”
Secret talent(s) or superhero powers?
One secret talent is my ability to draw folks in and engage them to see things differently. I can also envision something and motivate people to help bring it to life.
Lorenzo Woodson (PhD, MHS, CC, LBS) is a licensed behavior specialist and certified functional behavior analyst with Educational & Behavioral Consulting Services, LLC which serves Germantown and the greater Philadelphia area.