Philadelphia Honors Diversity

Philadelphia, with its majority-minority population, is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Its numerous immigrant populations hail from the farthest reaches of the world. New populations contribute socially, culturally and economically to the vibrancy of our city, and the City of Philadelphia has been eager to acknowledge their contributions through the Philadelphia Honors Diversity Flag Raising Program.

Through this program, the City will feature the various international communities living in our city, as well as raising their country's flag above City Hall. These prideful ceremonies have become quite popular with over 30 communities takng advantage of this opportunity, including, most recently, Philadelphia’s Jamaican population.

Scheduled on August 6, 2019, to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Jamaican Independence Day, the Flag Raising Program brought together members of the city, Jamaican community leaders, and a very special guest, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin. 

Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Rev. Hudson-Wilkin felt called to her profession at the early age of 14, and, in 1982, left the island to study at the Church Army College in the UK. She was one of the first women ordained as a priest, as the Anglican Church did not permit women to become priests until 1994, and served as curate of St. Matthew's Church in Wolverhampton. She helped break barriers through her work with the Committee on Black Anglican Concern, later the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, and has championed the cause of ethnic minority clergy. She was appointed Chaplain to the Queen in 2008, and two years later Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Her rapid rise was cemented this June, as she was appointed by Government as the first black female bishop to serve the Church of England. In November she will be consecrated as Bishop of Dover, and has been described by the Archbishop of Canterbury as one of the church’s most effective and influential ministers. 

Visiting Philadelphia on a ten-day trip, she was invited as the guest of honour to the ceremony. She witnessed the flag raising along with the broader audience, before the weather forced the ceremony inside. Once safe from the rain, a broader ceremony commenced, hosted by Blane Stoddart, once a candidate for Jamacian honorary consul to Philadelphia. A group of Jamacian singers sang the national anthems of both the U.S. and Jamaica, before Jamaica's honorary consul to the City of Philadelphia, Christopher Chaplin recited the Prime Minister of Jamaica’s 2019 Independence Message. He mentioned it was “a great day to be a Jamacian in Philadelphia,” before touching on the strength of the community present. Blane Stoddart thanked the council-people present, including Jannie Blackwell, Mark Squilla, and David Oh. Their presence was testament to the seriousness with which the event was treated, and the rich ties which connect the U.S. and Jamaica.   

Following this the Shelia Hess, the City Representative, came forward on behalf of Mayor Kenney. She spoke on how honoured she was to celebrate Philadelphia’s Jamacian community, and how the city embraces and celebrates its diversity. She referenced the Unity Cup and Philadelphia Honours Diversity as evidence of this commitment to its international populations, before mentioning that Philadelphia was named the first World Heritage City in the U.S.. She ended by officially welcoming the Rev. to the city, and presented a mayoral proclamation which declared August 6, 2019 as “Jamaica Flag Raising Day.”

The Rev. was next to speak, and started by offering a prayer. She then offered the greetings of the Queen and the Speaker of the House of Commons, before speaking on the words of Jamaica's national pledge. Following this, she began a talk about Philadelphia, mentioning the brotherhood that tied together Jamaica and Philadelphia, stating that there was no need to sing a song in a foreign land, as “we have made it, you have made it home.”

Following this the Jamcian honorary consul awarded an honour to Mary Young for her community work, and the Jamaican singers performed a series of Jamaican songs for the audience. All of these proved quite popular, with members of the crowd dancing and singing along. Jamaican food was on offer afterwards, and the crowd delighted in conversation and celebration. 

The Reverend’s visit continued, laying a wreath at the British Officer’s Graves in the de Benneville Cemetery and the British World War I Memorial at Northwood Cemetery on the 7th of August. On friday the 9th she performed the service at the Washington Memorial Chapel, and rung the Justice Bell to commemorate Women’s Suffrage. On the 10th she attended a fundraiser for Team Jamaica Bickle as the honoured guest, and on the 11th the Reverend preached the Morning Service at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. That evening she preached at the Evensong Service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, before attending a grand Commonwealth Gala fundraiser for the Covenant House, organised by the Commonwealth Committee of Greater Philadelphia. She commented on how much she enjoyed her visit, and joked that the visit would feature in her auto-biography.    


Article written by Scott Blum-Woodland on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

Photo credit: PHLCVB