Cities across the globe will always compete to retain recent college graduates and attract young talent. Philadelphia, recognized for its growing millennial population and viability as a place where young workers can find stability, is no exception.
That’s a good thing. A city’s ability to attract and retain is a key indicator of economic growth, hence the media’s obsession with lists of millennial leaders and influencers (like this one and this one and this one).
But what about leaders who aren’t millennials? You know, leaders who have helped foster the generation of leaders to succeed them?
Young leaders aren’t born leaders. They’re taught how to lead.
That’s why we’re introducing 7over70, a new series we hope will break through some of the ageism that exists in innovation circles by recognizing impact leaders over the age of 70 who have dedicated their lives to making Philadelphia a more just and equitable city.
This series is dedicated to recognizing the organizers, activists, funders and changemakers responsible not only for the welfare of their communities, but for fostering new generations of impact leaders to do the same.
Our inaugural 7over70 list is composed completely of community nominations. We omitted household names in Philadelphia impact such as philanthropist Gerry Lenfest in hopes of introducing leaders who might not be as well known outside of their communities.
(Want to nominate a leader for our next 70ver70 list? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: 70ver70 Nomination.)
Without further ado, the inaugural 7over70.
From our Partners
1. Jean Hunt (72)
Hunt started making waves as a civil rights activist and community organizer since she moved to Philadelphia in 1965. The Bryn Mawr dropout quickly established herself as a leader of the New Left movement in Philadelphia as a civil rights advocate, anti-war protester and neighborhood organizer.
A registered nurse, Hunt went on to run two nonprofits (Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women and the Campaign for Working Families), and lead youth development programs at both the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
During her decade-long tenure at Parks and Rec, Hunt “often thought about what a resource all the vacant land in Philadelphia could be,” she wrote in a Weaver’s Way Co-op newsletter back in January of this year.
“I never dreamed that a strong movement to farm that land would emerge and that it would be democratic, broadly based and in neighborhoods throughout the city, or that it would weave a web of glorious vegetables, orchards, farmers’ markets, classes and, most importantly, programs for young people.”
Hunt remains an active organizer and vocal proponent of the beverage tax.
2. Madeline Arrington (73)
Arrington is a “tireless” and “enthusiastic” advocate for justice in West Philly’s Mantua neighborhood. A board member of the Mantua Civic Association and a member of the Ralston Center’s Age-Friendly West Philadelphia Initiative, Arrington’s most recent work has been spearheading a collaborative neighborhood initiative called Walk Age-Friendly Mantua.
Through the creative placemaking and community development program, Arrington has helped organize a volunteer-led walkability audit of Mantua, hosted community design workshops that resulted in the design and implementation of five benches for neighborhood seniors and produced a community celebration event.
Arrington was also behind the Mantua Urban Peace Garden, a community garden and green space established in 2014 with the help of Drexel University and Neighborhood Gardens Trust.
3. Stanley Pokras (70)
When the long-time Nonprofit Technology Resources executive director was unexpectedly invited by former Philadelphia mayor John F. Street to make remarks during an event celebrating the city’s brave, ill-fated public wifi program Wireless Philadelphia in the mid-2000s, Pokras issued a challenge.
“I told them that people don’t need technology and computers,” he wrote in 2011. Rather, they need three things: information, communication and trust.
“These three things, I believe, are essential to the continued improvement of human society. And the last, trust, I feel is the most important of the three.”
Pokras has been an advocate for information sharing since at least 1970, when the then-23 year-old engineer launched Everything for Everybody, an “information center” on 5th and South streets where members could exchange unique skills and services amongst themselves (the Inquirer described it as a “local people-to-people communications network in a profile published in 1970).
4. Bilal Qayyum (70)
Qayyum’s retirement from civil service in 2009 marked the beginning of his work as a grassroots organizer and activist.
Qayyum was designing and implementing leadership and entrepreneurship programs for Black youth as early as 1979 while working for the City of Philadelphia as director of community and youth employment. He went on to work at Philadelphia Citywide Development Corporation during the development of the Gallery and was instrumental in bringing 19 minority-owned businesses to the space.
A founding member of the African American Chamber of Commerce, Qayyum continues to fight for change as a member of the Father’s Day Rally Committee and chair of the Philadelphia Anti-Violence Coalition.
5. Bill Sasso (70)
The lawyer has served as chair of law firm Stradley Ronon since 1994, and while the international business community might recognize him for his corporate work, Philadelphians likely know him as an active funder and member of several prominent civic boards across the city.
Sasso is often referred to as a “prominent Republican fundraiser,” having donated over $31,000 to political campaigns across parties in 2016 and having cemented Stradley Ronon as the 16th-biggest corporate giver in the tri-state area in 2011 with cash donations totaling over $1,500,000.
His résumé as a board member is stacked and includes institutional behemoths such as the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, the Delaware River Port Authority, the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
6. Carole Williams-Green (83)
While mothering State Sen. Anthony Williams (D., Phila.) doesn’t quite count on this particular list, Williams-Green’s record as an educator, nonprofit founder and environmental activist certainly does.
When Williams-Green retired after 31 years as a school teacher, she turned her sights toward creating an environmental education center in Cobbs Creek. Ten years and $2.7 million later, the educator’s vision was realized as the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center.
“It really was a group effort,” Williams-Green told the Inquirer after receiving the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education’s Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership last fall. “You don’t do these things by yourself. I represent the group.”
7. Mabel Brazington (95)
Brazington is a Yeadon resident, and we’re making her appearance on the list an exception because of the work she’s done with Philadelphia-based organizations.
The U.S. Marine Corps veteran is the eldest member of the National Action Network and, just this year, received the organization’s Rev. Al Sharpton Pillar of the Community Award recognizing the seven decades she’s spent serving the region.
That service includes time spent on the Mayor’s Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, as a member of government watchdog nonprofit Committee of Seventy and with nonprofits such as United Way and the World Affairs Council, among others.
“I feel good being a member of anything that promotes what we [NAN] promote,” said Brazington upon receiving her award this year, “which is truth and justice for all.”