Grays Ferry community leader Kyle Shenandoah, 34, was struck and killed by a moving vehicle around 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue during the early morning of Aug. 21, police have confirmed.
Upon arriving at the scene, fire department medics pronounced Shenandoah at the scene at 3:36 a.m., according to police. Police say the vehicle involved in the collision, as well as at least one witness, remained on the scene.
South Detective Division is assigned to the investigation. At this point, police say the incident does not appear to be criminal in nature.
The Grays Ferry native, who was vice president of the Grays Ferry Civic Association and a member of the Democratic State Committee, dedicated his life to the welfare of South Philadelphia, particularly to those residents living in the Grays Ferry neighborhood.
Shenandoah, who was on the board of multiple organizations, such as the SEPTA Citizen Advisory, NExT Philadelphia of The Urban League of Philadelphia and DVRPC Public Participation Taskforce, engaged in a multitude of community service efforts over the last few years, particularly addressing transit and employment accessibility in South Philadelphia.
Among his scope of efforts, Shenandoah most notably spearheaded an annual South Philadelphia job fair in 2017.
“I could have done a job fair anywhere, but I kept hearing my neighbors say they’re looking for work,” Shenandoah told SPR in May 2018. “I wanted to make sure it was somewhere close. So, I brought it here to South Philly.”
He also championed an effort last year for the implementation of SEPTA Route 49, which connects Grays Ferry to Strawberry Mansion, traveling through University City, Center City West and Brewerytown — some of the city’s largest employment hubs.
Shenandoah, who also assisted with the reopening of Lanier Playground and the directing of a film highlighting the Vare Recreation Center, received various awards, including first place for The Philadelphia Innovations Awards as well as a congressional commendation and mayoral and City Council Citations.
In the spring of this year, Shenandoah was given a 2019 Community Leader Award from The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, specifically recognizing him for advocacy with the SEPTA 49 Route and efforts to help local residents find employment.
This particular undertaking started before the annual fair when he posted more than 3,000 job openings on social media a few years ago.
In May, Shenandoah spoke at the TEDxPhiladelphia, an independently organized event under the national TED Talks organization. His TED discussion focused on the idea of reinvestment versus gentrification, specifically surrounding three concepts to differentiate the two, including how a project benefits a community, how well the community is informed on it, and if a conversation exists after it’s completed.
“We can have some renewal without displacement,” he told SPR in April 2019. “We can have revitalization without gentrification. We can have those things. It’s just a matter of knowing how to frame a narrative, getting the right kind of responsible development coming to the community and really making sure the residents come first before we think about the people coming in…My talk is really trying to re-embrace optimism in this age of rapid development.”
In August, Shenandoah was recognized by Green Philly as a “Neighborhood Champion” for his work to “reduce poverty through equitable development, effective sustainability efforts, and accessible infrastructure.”
Earlier this year, Shenandoah told SPR that he, along with the Grays Ferry Civic Association, were establishing a community action plan called GraysFerry 2022, which aims to bridge gaps existing in infrastructure, transportation and recreation.
“Obviously, Grays Ferry needs reinvestment…There’s an acknowledgment that we need these resources,” he told SPR. “That we need this money. We need something to bring life back into our community, but we also don’t want to lose what we are – our traditions, who we are and the people who have been here the longest. So, how do you find a balance between that?”