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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Renaming ceremony sparks protest

The sign for the newly renamed W. Wilson Goode, Sr. Way (Photo by Matt Barrett ’21).

Local residents enraged by controversial street name

A dedication ceremony to rename the 2400 block of North 59th Street after former Philadelphia Mayor, Wilson Goode Sr., was met with protest on Sept. 21.

“I accept responsibility,” Goode said. “I was mayor that day. It happened on my watch. I accept that. But you will not define me by one day in my life. You all are more than that.”

People gathered outside the intersection with signs to protest the renaming of North 59th St. to W. Wilson Goode Sr. Way. In June, the City Council approved the decision to rename the street after the former mayor who currently resides there.

“Nobody asked for our approval,” said Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza, an Overbrook Farms resident. “That sign represents 11 people killed, babies blown up, taken out of that building in bags.”

On May 13, 1985, a bomb was dropped onto a home on Osage Avenue which was inhabited by members of MOVE, a radical black liberation group founded by John Africa. The bombing, which was ordered by then Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor and approved by Goode, killed 11 MOVE members and started a fire that destroyed dozens of rowhomes along Osage Avenue.

The bombing came after a long lasting feud between the radical organization and the city of Philadelphia. Some of the protestors who came out on Friday had been present during the 1985 bombings.

“I can’t look at this sign,” Sullivan-Ongoza said. “It’s painful, because I was there when they dropped the bomb. This is what it represents to our community: pain and destruction at the hands of a government. People are still suffering.”

Although the residential area and surrounding community is situated only a few short blocks from St. Joe’s, many students were unaware of the protest’s meaning.

“I think that it’s a good opportunity to readdress what happened and for a lot of people to learn about it,” Josh Bostrom ’19 said. “Not a lot of people knew about that until they heard that they were going to be co-naming 59th Street along with his name.”

Bostrom admits to having no prior knowledge of the 1985 events or the MOVE organization until watching the Netflix documentary “Let the Fire Burn” by Jason Osder.

“I absolutely see why it would bring up anger for people who live there or people who lived through that event or were affected by it directly,” Bostrom said. “I don’t personally have a connection, but I can absolutely relate to why those people would be upset.”

Goode does not dwell on the past incident. Instead, he said he is ready to sit down and converse with those opposed to him.

“I stand on my record. I stand on what I have done,” Goode said. “I am prepared to sit down and have a conversation with the people in back of me whenever they want, wherever they want, whatever time they want and spend as much time as they want to talk to me.”


Matt Barrett ’21 contributed to this story.

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