Since November of 2016 Sally Blagg has been working in the Historic Germantown section of the World Heritage City of Philadelphia. Our approach to increasing media coverage in the area borrows from the fields of critical ethnography and ethnomusicology; by housing ourselves amongst the people of Germantown we were able to, in the words of our Germantown-born social impact coordinator Kristen Clark, “shine the light on the fruit.” Our focused investment in local subject matter experts (artists, elders, musicians, veterans, business owners, home-grown institutions, entrepreneurs, parents and more) continues to create an environment supporting development without displacement efforts in every community where we work.
Through curated media coverage (below) you will find the common thread of our social impact work, this media content is a peak into how we do what we do and why. As we prepare to expand our design consulting work both south and west of North America’s ‘northeastern corridor’, opening regional offices in Appalachia and the Mississippi River Valley in 2022 and 2023, our media page will continue to highlight the work of our team, neighbors and the community voices from where we work. Historic Germantown, as the birthplace of American freedom-in-action, was the right place to shake things up a bit on the path towards our human centered design goals.
Sally Blagg plays an active role in all of the stories about our leadership team, our design work and the people that we serve; we strongly advise our clients and communities to have some creative control over their messaging as well. Enjoy the stories about #thework below!
What Germantown can learn from Lauryn Hill
Our principal curator was asked to write an essay on our work and experiences working in Historic Germantown over the past five years. Here is an excerpt from the piece:
On November 1, 2016, I moved into the historic Germantown section of the city with a set of well-defined goals. I was going to use my role as the new resident caretaker for the nation’s only Black Writers Museum to unify the 338-year-old Germantown community around historic preservation. The mission was not quite hood tours and Bellini brunch on Sundays at the Germantown White House. Instead, I saw an opportunity to use the community’s history as a tool to bring groups together in the name of economic development without displacement. However, the litter in Germantown could not be ignored and struck me as a contemporary challenge that both detracted from the beauty of the environment and diminished the esteem of its residents. I turned my attention toward cleaning the streets and my plans seemed to go up in smoke.
Germantown Voices: The Podcast “I AM” Episode
Our principal curator was asked to join a cohort of neighbors in Historic Germantown that would be sharing their stories for a podcast that centered the impact of COVID. In the Germantown Voices episode “I AM” we hear the story of Sally Blagg as a response to a mothers service work and a son’s love. Here is a quote from the conversation:
“Most of my views and understanding of what challenges exist in society came from just being raised by a woman who was in service to other women that were not related to her.”
Germantown Farmers Market returns, with goal of increasing sustainable agriculture in people of color communities
by Bethany Ao for The Philadelphia Inquirer (5/8/2021)
Jessica Schaefer woke up on Saturday morning feeling more excited than she had felt in a long time.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Schaefer, 39, who grew up, and still lives, in Germantown. “It was like Christmas.”
The source of her excitement? The Germantown Farmers Market returned after a yearlong hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic…
Farmers market open on Saturdays in Germantown’s Market Square
by Sinead Cummings of Philly Voice (4/27/2021)
The Germantown Farmers Market will return to Germantown Avenue’s Market Square on Saturdays through October.
The May 8 market will be the first since the pandemic began.
The Food Trust operated the neighborhood’s farmers market in the past. Now, it’s organized by Germantown United Community Development Corp., CSA farm Philly Forests and urban design planning firm Sally Blagg.
Independent Germantown farmers market on its way
by Nichole Currie for Germantown Info Hub (4/27/2021)
A new and expanded farmers market is returning to Germantown on May 8.
The new Germantown and Schoolhouse Farmers Market will take place at Market Square from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. each Saturday through November 20. The market will be the first since the pandemic disrupted many social events.
The Food Trust operated the neighborhood’s farmers market in the past. This time around, they have handed the opportunity to Germantown residents to organize the weekly event.
Saturday’s market will include 12 vendors from Northwest Philadelphia, ten more than previous years. That means shoppers can expect to see an enhanced offering of fresh fruits and vegetables, healing tea blends, cold-pressed juices, homemade candles and other artisan items produced by local vendors.
“They’re so inspiring, so stellar and I really want them to be celebrated,” Jasmine Thompson says, one of two market organizers. “I want the market to have a focus of celebrating local food and the power that we have for our food system and promoting an idea of food sovereignty…”
How I Got Here: Nashirah Riggs is designing and DJing her way to a better post-pandemic Philly
On March 8, 2021 we received notice that our DJ during our outdoor marketplace along Germantown Avenue in Autumn of 2020, West Philadelphia DJ Nashirah Riggs, was being featured in an article in Technical.ly Philly. The article, written by Michael Butler, does a wonderful job of highlighting this young Philadelphia talent. We hope to collaborate on some spinning in the park some day soon (weather and COVID regulations permitting).
Read the article in Philly Voice, here.
February 27th Full Moon Book Talk w/ Elizabeth Drayson
Our principal curator was asked to speak at an environmental conference from two inquiry prompts from the moderator (1) Where can the Commonwealth get out of the way and where can it better support environmental education? and (2) What is the role of truth and reconciliation in crafting food policy? Why should sustainability start with the indigenous people and people of color? He spoke candidly from the pro-bono service work that Sally Blagg continues to do in Historic Germantown, organizing community voices and investing in food sovereignty efforts.
January 28th Full Moon Book Talk w/ Camilla Townsend
BIPOC-run urban design firm develops community centers that serve modern life and historic preservation
by Francesca Furey for Grid Magazine (12/17/2020)
David Rose—or Javat Agni, his Indigenous name—wasn’t aware of Germantown’s history until graduate school. As a descendent of the Cheraw people (aka Saura) of the Sauratown Mountains, he knew of the horrors settlers brought upon Indigenous peoples.
“My whole life, growing up, we didn’t hear all the best stories about the settler states. We [heard] the truth … We [heard] about capitalism, about how environments are destroyed and polluted,” says Rose, of his upbringing. “I felt like there had to be some place in history, where Europeans were on the right side of it…”
Power to the (First) People
by Carolyn Fillmore for the NW Local (11/4/2020)
We’ve all heard how Columbus thought he was in India when he first rolled up on the Americas, so he mistakenly called the inhabitants he encountered “Indians” and the name stuck. It’s still around today, although since the 1960’s it’s being replaced by “Native American” or First Nation. Fun fact: in Alaska, indigenous people are referred to as “Alaska Natives,” because the culture includes Native Americans as well as Inuit, what readers might call “Eskimo” (which fyi is not a great word choice, these days).
Of course, Aboriginal people don’t represent a single culture, language or identity nor do they all share the same dna. There are thousands of different tribes and languages, each with its own art, music, schools, history, governance, rituals, values, goals and often a unique and complex understanding of natural systems in their environment…
Fit for Us: An Open Letter to the Fitness Industry
On September 1, 2020 Self Magazine published a copy of an open letter to the fitness industry that was written by Fit for Us, a Sally Blagg allied organization working to diversify the imagery, investment model and wellness best practices fitness industry. Read up on the work that Percell Dugger and his company GoodWrk does, check out the work of Fit For Us directly on their website and join us in the movement to upend systemic oppression through moving in confidence in all that you do.
Read more about the Fit For Us cause in the SELF MAGAZINE September cover story, here.
A new fresh produce option for Germantown residents
By Brenda Lange for Chestnut Hill Local (5/29/2020)
Germantown residents soon will have the option to buy fresh, organic, locally grown produce throughout the summer as part of a new buying club, or community supported agriculture (CSA), getting ready to launch next month. At this time, the program is for residents of the 19144 zip code only.
Germantown Grocer is one part of the urban design consulting firm, Sally Blagg, owned and operated by David Rose, a Germantown resident since 2016. Sally Blagg, which employs five people, took its name from Rose’s grandmother “five times removed,” who came from the Carolinas. Rose describes his work as “asset-based community development and creative problem solving.” Through their work, Sally Blagg works with individuals who bring their talents and skills to the table, creating the assets on which the community will be developed.
Germantown’s rich history — in part, housing President George Washington during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 when Philadelphia was under quarantine — attracted Rose, 35, who earned a degree in urban and public policy with minors in architecture and environmental design from the University of Buffalo. He studied in a historic preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania and worked with Partners for Sacred Places, whose mission is to protect church communities, and has found a lot of local support for historic preservation as he builds his network.
“Originally, I thought that Germantown needed food options and co-op access, and I wanted a full-scale grocer,” said Rose, “but after looking at market trends and talking to many people, I decided we needed something new school that was also old school.”
Rose says that, generally, it’s next to impossible to find fresh produce on a regular basis in Germantown, and part of his larger plan is to build to a point that that will no longer be true. Starting on June 21, residents of the 19144 area code who sign up either at sallyblagg.com/grocer or 215-4**-**26 will receive a list of produce from which to place their order for a $30 box of seasonal, fresh, organic vegetables and local fruits. Buyers will be given a time slot for curbside pick-up, or in the case of certain residents, will schedule a home delivery. The program will run for 13 weeks…
Musical Mt. Airy Reboot
by Carolyn Fillmore of The NW Local (11/03/2019)
Ah, now this feels right. Chef Craig Wilson’s new Milo restaurant – just a hop, skip & a jump up Germantown Avenue – is a great venue where his artful vegan food can really shine. No hating on the Falls, but wow this new vibrant new space is a huge step up from that narrow little dining room on Conrad. Congratulations are certainly in order.
Hats off, too, to Milo’s ambitious concert schedule. The place came with a full stage — seemed a crime not to use it. Craig was shocked at how quickly performers signed up, once word got out his space was available. “I think we’ve booked a hundred acts, we’re filled for like a year,” he told us while we waited for one of these shows to begin – a full-hearted tribute to Nina Simone with a 6-piece string ensemble accompanying a pianist/vocalist whose singing basically blew several audience member’s heads off (including mine). These videos don’t quite pack the punch of the live experience, of course, but they’ll give you an idea…
Philly pays tribute to Nina Simone, whose life was forever changed by rejection from one of the city’s great institutions
by Shaun Brady of Philadelphia Inquirer (5/15/2019)
Just days before her death in April 2003, Nina Simone learned she was to receive an honorary degree from the Curtis Institute of Music. The news must have felt as bittersweet as it was vindicating; half a century before, the aspiring pianist had failed her audition at the illustrious institution, a rejection she always ascribed to racism. Simone’s account has been called into question — she was one of 72 applicants the year she applied, and only three received admission to the school — but that rejection helped shape the defiant artist she became.
Simone’s relationship to Philadelphia is only one of the ways in which the singer and pianist is a complex figure in the country’s music and social history. Her life and legacy will be celebrated and explored Sunday at venues throughout Germantown as part of the daylong event “Singing Nina: A Cultural Festival and Conference.”
Presented by Germantown Arts, “Singing Nina” is the brainchild of three neighborhood residents: Jim Hamilton, founder of Rittenhouse Soundworks & Filmworks; recording engineer and bassist Brendan McGeehan; and David Rose, principal curator at creative agency Sally Blagg…
Singing Nina:A Cultural Festival and Conference for a Legend
by Suzanne Cloud for the Broad Street Review (5/15/2019)
So many good things happen over coffee, and in the case of the Singing Nina: Cultural Festival and Conference, celebrating the late, great Nina Simone, it happened at the Germantown Espresso Bar, a community space and local hang for creative local minds to find each other. Jazz recording engineer, musician, and all-around master synergy maker Brendan McGeehan, along with David Rose, another creative connector in Germantown and consultant with the Sally Blagg Agency, found themselves discussing an initiative to make Philadelphians aware of the history of singer, pianist, composer, political activist Nina Simone, who stared racist America in the face every single chance she got. (Stop right here and check her out at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Fest)…
Nina Simone’s Complicated Relationship With Philadelphia
by Victor Fiorillo in Philadelphia Magazine (5/11/2019)
On May 19th, at various locations in Germantown, fans of Nina Simone will gather for Singing Nina, a day of concerts, panel discussions, and a documentary screening, all surrounding the one-of-a-kind performer. Why here? Because while Simone spent most of her life in New York, Europe and Liberia, and eventually self-exiled in France until her 2003 death, it was a quick but pivotal moment in Philadelphia that led her down the path to stardom.
A gifted classical pianist, Simone, born Eunice Waymon, moved here in the early 1950s so she could study at Rittenhouse’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. But Simone, who had already studied at Juilliard, was rejected by the school — something she blamed on racial discrimination…
The (Not So) Hidden Agenda-March 17, 2019-w/ “Singing Nina” co-producer, David Rose
Singing Nina – Festival & Conference Honoring Nina Simone
by the Philadelphia Jazz Project (2/26/2019)
“Singing Nina: a cultural festival and conference,” is a one day, multi-location event being held in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on Sunday, May 19th, 2019. Presented by Germantown Arts, the mission is to celebrate the life and music of the cultural icon, Nina Simone.
The event’s organizers are David Rose, Brendan McGeehan, and Jim Hamilton. David Rose is principal curator at Sally Blagg, a Germantown-based creativity agency with a focus on connecting conglomerates to the communities that they serve for maximum growth and impact. Jim Hamilton is a Germantown-based musician, sound engineer, record producer, entrepreneur and owner of Rittenhouse Soundworks & Filmworks. Brendan McGeehan is a recording engineer, educator, record producer, arranger and session musician who produces concerts and teaches sound design.
PJP spoke with the Singing Nina festival co-organizers by David Rose, Brendan McGeehan, and Jim Hamilton about the collaboration and what’s coming up…
Local students connect, discuss power of microlending
by a Staff Writer for Chestnut Hill Local (02/12/2019)
At the conference on microlending(from left) Penn Charter junior Ed Doherty, University of Pennsylvania students Brandon Cohen and Vibhav Jagwani, Penn Charter junior Ryan Cohen, David Rose of Sally Blagg, LLC and Alyson Goodner, director of Penn Charter’s Center for Public Purpose.
A group of high school students combined business and real-world experience at the William Penn Charter School Microfinance Inaugural Conference on Feb. 2, a learning opportunity that evolved from Penn Charter’s Microfinance Club.
The two-year-old club has been exploring international and local microfinance, fundraising through school-wide activities and making loans to entrepreneurs through Kiva.org, an international nonprofit that provides financial services to those who can’t access them…
Germantown businesses revolt against taxing district that didn’t deliver on clean streets promise
by Jake Blumgart Plan Philly (01/10/2019)
Jamar L. Kelly faces a monumental challenge. The interim executive director of the Germantown Special Services District knows his organization is failing at its core mission of keeping the neighborhood’s commercial corridors free of garbage. He sees it in the newspapers and plastic bags that swirl across his path every day, and in the discarded soda cans and cigarette butts mashed into the sidewalk.
“Make no mistake, when I pulled up on Oct. 15, I didn’t want to get out of my car on the avenue,” said Kelly, referring to his first day on the job. “We all get it. Cleaning is something we have to address to present a more welcoming environment.”
Kelly is the fourth executive director hired in five years to lead the taxpayer-funded municipal authority tasked with keeping the business district around Germantown and Chelten avenues clean. The mess he inherited — Kelly is the organization’s sole employee — extends beyond dirty streets and stretches back decades….
Could a plant-based, zero-waste grocery store work in Germantown?
by Gillian L. McGoldrick for Medium (11/29/2018)
Germantown Avenue and Chelten share a bustling intersection, with a brand new Dominican cafe on the corner, a popular shoe and clothing store, and a Walgreens pharmacy nearby.
But does a fully plant based, zero waste grocery store fit in?
David Rose and his consulting firm Sally Blagg are planning just that. Rose, a transplant Germantown resident of two years, will open the specialty store in the coming months to serve his community. Germantown Grocer is set to open in mid-2019. It will sell organic and vegan products to Germantown residents at “comparable” prices to any other store, with a variety of local options. EBT will also be accepted…
In lieu of Starbucks
by David Rose for WHYY (04/18/2018)
A youngster, who appeared to be of African descent, no older than 10, walked into a coffee shop in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.
He asked the barista about the cost of a cup of hot chocolate.
With the same admiring smile that I have witnessed on many occasions from my seat at coffee shops in this section of the city — given to countless numbers of young people who find the courage to walk into “grown-up spaces” like this one — the barista responded with a question, “Would you like a large or small?”
The youngster replied that he was interested in a small cup of hot chocolate and the barista said, with a consistent tone, “That would be $2.”
The actions that ensued speak volumes about Germantown as a community as much as they speak to the essence of this business where I, this young man, and this barista (who happened to be the shop owner) co-existed on this particular afternoon.
The youngster, who seemed taken aback by the price, followed up with an inquiry on the shop’s closing time. The owner responded, without any visible frustration, that the establishment closed at 7 p.m.
“OK,” said the youngster.
As an onlooker who had been working on the computer while overhearing this exchange, I understood it to mean that the cost of the hot chocolate was more than this young man had calculated for this adventure into this new space on this particular day…
The secret lives of caretakers in Philly’s historic houses
by Karen Chernick for Curbed Philadelphia (06/06/2017)
In Philly, the opportunity to live rent-free in a 300-year-old house doesn’t come around very often. When it does, it gets snatched up fast. Last month, a resident caretaker position became available at Germantown’s Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm, one of the oldest houses in the city. For this live-work position, abatement of rent was offered for performing a four-page list of duties, including: changing light bulbs, serving as a back-up tour guide, and feeding the chickens daily. Oh, and collecting their eggs.
Sound like an unreasonable exchange? The position was filled within five days.
That’s usually how it goes. When Jonathan Burton, a former site manager of the Powel House and the executive director of PhilaLandmarks, advertised a position at Society Hill’s Hill-Physick House a few years ago, he received hundreds of requests for the job within four days of posting the listing.
Most of the time these positions are posted publicly online and are open to all applicants, but former caretakers acknowledge that there’s already a network of people with connections to the historic preservation community. The ideal candidate also varies by house…
Cleanup joins services district, students, merchants
by Staff Reporter for Philadelphia Tribune (04/21/2017)
The Germantown Special Services District joined with student leaders from Mastery Charter School-Pickett Campus on a student-led interactive cleaning and greening forum as a part of the citywide Philly Spring Cleanup earlier this month.
The forum, which took place at the school at ., engaged middle and elementary school students from the Germantown community in activities and conversation around maintaining clean communities through mindful stewardship practices, according to to a release from the organization.
The event was the result of the special services district’s working relationship with Mastery Charter School-Pickett Campus, Germantown Friends School, PhillyCAM, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and Germantown neighbors that serve on the services district’s Clean, Safe & Beautification committee…