One of Many Beginnings

“You love to hear the story again and again
of how it all got started way back when
The monument is right in your face
Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place…”
MC Shan, The Bridge (1987)

This legendary opening verse — of one of the most important rap songs made during the Golden Era of Hip-Hop — names key figures in the formative days of rap music, figures you would only know if you were there, first hand. The making of this project, both in sight and sound, felt like this.

Our story begins way before Hip-Hop, before the chiseled “1973” keystone was set into the community center, and involves many more amazing people than our walls could allow.

Welcome to the monument of our living story. The place might change but the names will stay the same. We say those legendary names loudly, proudly. They’re with us, and now, with you…


— Shawn Theodore


Sports, not just basketball, is the cultural life-blood of this neighborhood, and if community memory serves our story best, it always has been. The competitive desire to win, to be the best, was born into you.

To be from around here, and to play for this area meant that you were one of the best in the city, period. And if you didn’t play, it didn’t mean you weren’t a part of the culture. Everyone here had a role, a position, a mission, and they still do.

The impact of the court extends beyond its fences. Moments on the asphalt are moments shared on social media and on the side streets where camaraderie and competitive hustle thrives; in buoyant moments between friends, family, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, drill teams, homies you see on a daily basis and those who just got home. No matter what, that spirit of the court, of our neighborhood, doesn’t only go with you — it precedes you.

— Shawn Theodore

What The Future Holds

“Sometimes I get discouraged
I look around and, things are so weak
People are so weak
Sometimes I feel like crying
Sometimes my heart gets heavy
Sometimes I just want to leave and fly away…”

-Mos Def, Umi Says, 1999

There’s no way that we can deny the impact of experiencing the worst in us — the lows, losses and senselessness that plagues communities and rips the fabric of family. We call into question the actions of those who, knowingly or otherwise, add to the problem and not a solution. We hold no blame to one sole person or one source. However, we will hold those accountable for irresponsibility when necessary. We have no room for it in the present or in the future. And with that, we reminisce over those who are not here while to make our way forward.

Stompin’ Grounds

Text by AR Walker.

Playgrounds are a source of freedom and a place for play, which in turn becomes the root of comfort.

Boys and young men could be seen as dominating the landscape of the basketball court, but the young women who are present at the playground are equally important.

Girls, whether playing ball themselves, watching and heckling the boys as they play, hanging out on the swings or practicing dance routines, experience their initial rumination of of womanhood in this space.

Through exploration, their personalities and interests expand outside their homes and on the playground. They explore new friendships, societal norms and their identity. Here is where they find their independent voice, opinions and new perspectives.

The Guardians Speak

We asked our community: What do you want to tell people about our playground? What would you say if you were talking to young people, elders, the Sixers, or the police? 

The statements were designed as colorful storefront signs and placed on a wall painted to resemble the Melendez family bodega at 9th and Cumberland. The store stands right across from the basketball courts and supports players with water ice, a bicycle pump for deflated basketballs, and keeping an eye out for young people’s safety. The wall connects the gallery to the visual language of the streets surrounding the courts.