And for all that she does, City Councilwoman, Blondell Reynolds Brown is someone you should know. Photos by Kim-Thao Nguyen and Joshua Pelta-Heller
On June 1st, Philly’s Children’s Crisis Treatment Center will host its 13th annual “Round-Up” at PÊCHE at Sherman Mills, a Wild West themed event that helps raise money for the organization’s causes of improving the behavioral and mental health of children who have endured abuse, trauma, or other challenges to their development.
Last year, the event raised a quarter of a million dollars toward the CcTC’s cause, hosting over 300 guests. This year, honorary chair Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown expects another big turnout. We spoke with her recently about her involvement in this event, her work as an advocate for the rights of women and children in Philly, and as an advocate for the arts too!
215 Magazine: I know that you have a long history of being a champion of children’s rights in the city – what’s your involvement with CcTC?
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown: After having been a supporter for many years, two years ago I was approached with the opportunity to be honorary chair of the event this year. David Forde (my Chief of Staff) and I were excited about the notion because we go every year! It’s fun, and you meet a lot of people from all walks of life and all parts of the region – which is unusual, for non-profit events in town – but the glue for all of us is one mission: to raise funds so that the CcTC can broaden and deepen their reach for young people who have had some type of traumatic experience.
I’ve been involved in the past as a supporter because it’s fun. I go every year because I love the mission. And it’s always great dancing!
215: In what capacity does this organization work with DHS?
BRB: DHS is responsible for keeping children safe, and it contracts with a number of agencies who have specialties. The CcTC is one of those agencies that DHS can look to when children have come in touch with a traumatic or abusive experience. The CcTC has a rich track record, it’s reliable in the services they provide, and they have become a regular recipient of DHS funds because of their track record.
215: Our magazine covers arts and culture in Philadelphia, and often art that engages social consciousness. I know that that’s a personal interest of yours – you used to be a dancer, and you’re a great champion of the arts in Philly – could you touch on that?
BRB: There’s a real connection between the arts and what it means for our city! When we look atartists, some of the big stars of our day, I am most drawn to those artists who use their art as a way of making a difference. It’s an easy connection. Here’s what we know about the arts: fundamentally, research says that when young people are involved in the arts, just in high school, or when they take piano lessons, they stand to do better on SAT exams. That’s a fact, and based on research. What we know also is that when young peope are involved in arts and culture they’re less likely to end up at family court at 1801 Vine St., they’re more likely to go on to college, and they grow to be the new patrons for our arts and cultural institutions. So when we can connect those who love the arts with those realities, that in and of itself I think should give us reason to want to promote the arts just for what it engenders. And the arts remind us of how human we are and really become the glue for elevating the spirit among us.
And then [you can] look at it for very selfish reasons. [For example] I’ve really found my joy and my confidence in doing dance. When teachers, or care givers, or social workers sort of discover that piece about a young person that’s going to draw them out, then that’s a benefit both for the person that’s trying to provide the help and for the young person, because you can put them in an art experience that is going to draw them out, and help them gain the confidence they need to get over a traumatic experience.
215: So do you see the arts or arts programs as something that could be used by the CcTC in its role and duties?
BRB: Completely. In graduate school I had to take a course called “Play Therapy,” where you watched children that had come through some traumatic experience, and how they play, and there was an analysis attached to what type of toys they played with and a psychological reasoning behind that. But it was play that is safe, and engaging. The arts can serve the same purpose.
215: What can we expect from you in the coming months as far as women and children’s programs or rights legislation and policy?
BRB: On May 29th, we’re going to have hearings addressing this notion of the lack of women on boards. Because what we know is that when women are at the table addressing business issues or children and youth issues, there tends to be a different outcome, so we’re going to be looking at that most immediately. And then we’ve discovered more recently that child care providers are starting to run into new hurdles and impediments with Licences and Inspections. The area I focused on principally when I first came to city council was the hurdles that child care providers had to endure, and twelve years later, we have to go back and deal with that issue again. So we’re gonna be going back and looking at that this Spring too. Because there’s still a long waiting list for those that want to care for children in safe, quality structured experiences, and the City should not be a barrier. Period.
For more information, visit www.cctckids.org. To purchase tickets or for additional information regarding the 13th Annual CcTC Roundup, please visit www.phillyroundup.org or contact Johanna Torres at 215-496-0707, ext. 1137, or firstname.lastname@example.org.