Around Town

Harris praises passage of Clean Slate 3.0

State Rep. Jordan Harris, House Appropriations chair, praised the bipartisan passage of House Bill 689, known as Clean Slate 3.0 that he authored with Rep. Sheryl Delozier, and thanked his colleagues for expanding on the good Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate program has achieved since its creation in 2018.

“The bipartisan passage of Clean Slate 3.0 shows that Pennsylvania continues to believe in second chances and expand the folks who can access them,” Harris said. “I’m incredibly appreciative to again work with Rep. Delozier on criminal justice reform as well as the advocacy groups from both sides of the aisle who all recognize that this is the right thing to do for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians. I hope to see quick passage in the Senate so Gov. Josh Shapiro can make Clean Slate 3.0 law.”

Clean Slate 3.0 builds on Pennsylvania’s original Clean Slate law by making low-level, non-violent drug felonies with a maximum sentence of 30 months eligible for automated sealing. It also permits petition-based sealing of a few other nonviolent felonies and reduces the waiting period for automated sealing of misdemeanors to seven years. The original Clean Slate law has sealed 40 million cases and improved the lives of 1.2 million Pennsylvanians and their families.

A broad bipartisan coalition of support has formed behind expanding Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law, including groups from law enforcement, faith groups, business leaders, civil rights organizations and criminal justice advocates.

Fiedler urges Solar for Schools

State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler called on lawmakers to pass Solar for Schools legislation (H.B.1032).

Fiedler was joined on the steps of the state Capitol by a diverse coalition including Mike Ford, secretary-treasurer of the PA Building & Construction Trades Council; Arthur Steinberg, president of PA American Federation of Teachers; Carolyn Heckman, PA policy and outreach coordinator for the Evangelical Environmental Network; Katie Blume, political and legislative director of Conservation Voters of PA; Tony Seiwell, business manager for LIUNA Eastern Region; and Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER Interfaith.

Fiedler’s bill was approved in committee with a unanimous bipartisan vote in late May. Fiedler said she anticipates a House floor vote on the bill before the end of June.

“I’m excited that Solar is passing through the House. This legislation is truly blue-green, bringing new jobs to our commonwealth while protecting and preserving our environment,” Fiedler said.

She said the diverse coalition of supporters demonstrates the broad appeal of Solar for Schools.

“Solar leverages state and federal dollars to support the creation of solar arrays at public schools across the commonwealth. It will save school districts and taxpayers money, create new learning opportunities and invest in statewide clean energy,” she said.

Evans to introduce act to increase accessible, affordable housing

Congressman Dwight Evans will introduce legislation with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick to increase the amount of affordable housing that’s also adaptable and accessible for seniors and people with disabilities.

The bill is the House version of the Visitable Inclusive Tax Credits for Accessible Living Act introduced by Sen. Bob Casey. It would increase investment in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program and ensure that developers are building more affordable housing units that are more accessible to people with disabilities and seniors and located within communities where residents can walk or move around easily to transportation and neighborhood amenities.

“Less than 6 percent of housing is designed to be accessible, according to a 2011 federal study. We can and must change that,” Evans said. “The need for accessible housing is already significant, and it will continue to grow as America’s senior population grows. This bill would make a big difference, and I want to thank Sen. Casey for taking the lead on it in the Senate.”

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit incentivizes developers to build new housing for low-income renters. The VITAL Act would increase funding for the LIHTC and, through adding incentives, increase the number of accessible homes so that more people with disabilities and older adults can live in the communities they choose. It would also require over three years that the states administering LIHTC construct at least 20 percent of their LIHTC units as accessible or adaptable and walkable/rollable.

BlackStar Film Festival Aug. 2-6

BlackStar Projects, an organization celebrating visionary black, brown and indigenous film and media artists, announced the films selected for inclusion in this year’s 12th annual BlackStar Film Festival. The 2023 BlackStar Film Festival will take place Aug. 2-6 with in-person screenings at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus, Suzanne Roberts Theatre and Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia as well as online.

The 2023 BlackStar Film Festival is set to feature a total of 93 films representing 31 countries, including 19 world, 11 North America, 5 U.S. and 10 East Coast premieres. Forty-seven films will be Philadelphia premieres. The films presented this year engage with climate justice, queer stories and narratives of migration and displacement. Highlights include the world premiere of Ja’Tovia Gary’s Quiet As It’s Kept, a contemporary cinematic response to Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye, and Invisible Beauty, a documentary championing the career of pioneering model and activist Bethann Hardison. Additionally, La Lucha, directed by Violeta Ayala, which will have its world premiere at the festival, tells the story of a group of people with disabilities in Bolivia who trek the Andes in their wheelchairs, in order to protest for their pension and fight for their civil rights.

“We are excited to present another groundbreaking lineup and hope it allows filmmakers of the global majority to connect with new audiences through intimate and important storytelling,” said BlackStar chief executive and artistic officer Maori Karmael Holmes. “We consider every aspect of the festival to be an intentional community building effort, centered on joy, radical care and thriving, and we are looking forward to presenting another festival that embodies this generous spirit.”

“Once again we went through the film programming process with a brilliant group of curators, makers and thinkers. At this year’s festival we will explore wide-ranging and urgent themes, from queer futures in cinema to climate justice and resistance to land theft,” added festival director Nehad Khader. “And we are thrilled to be able to continue to share this work with our community around the world both in person in Philadelphia and virtually.”

In addition to its engaging lineup, the 2023 BlackStar Film Festival will feature parties, programs and conversations, most of which will be announced in the coming months.

Passes for the festival and a full list of participants are now available at An all-access pass is available for $350, and a virtual festival pass is available for $175. Individual tickets for virtual and in-person screenings, which go on sale in early July, will be $7.50 and $18, respectively.

Burrs at the Beach

The 34th annual Burrs at the Beach will take place on Sunday, June 25, from 1-6 p.m. at Keenan’s Pub in North Wildwood. Proceeds will benefit needy Catholic students at West Catholic with tuition financial support.

The cost is $30 and includes buffet, reduced drink prices, raffle prize, band and DJ. Must be 21 or older.

Call George Light (‘58), 610-996-2015; Peg (Sheffield) Panichelli (‘65), 610-420-0987; or Tom McGinn (‘65), 610-461-6241.

Cornhole at St. Martha

St. Martha Parish, 11301 Academy Road, will host a Cornhole Tournament on June 17, at 11 a.m. The cost is $50 a team (all ages) and includes two tournament T-shirts and a chance to win a cash prize. There will be basket raffles, a 50-50, craft beer pull, food, kids crafts and T-shirt sales. Proceeds will benefit the parish Raising the Roof campaign. To register, to become a sponsor or for more information, go to the St. Martha Facebook page or call Kathy Cantz at 215-632-4742 or Mary Beth Ricks at 215-459-3430. ••

English classes for Ukrainians

Holy Family University’s English as a Second Language initiative for newly arrived Ukrainian adults is accepting new applicants. The classes are free and open to members of the community who are at least 18 years old. Classes are at 9801 Frankford Avenue and online. Class days and times are online (through Aug. 24, Tuesday and Thursday, 6-7 p.m.) and in person (June 21 to July 31, Mondays and Wednesdays, 5-7 p.m.). Since last fall, more than 100 newly arrived Ukrainians have attended classes at no cost to help them improve their English proficiency and become familiar with the Philadelphia community. Interested applicants can register at ••

Hoops camp for boys and girls

The 17th annual Jaguar St. Ephrem Basketball Camp for Boys and Girls will take place from Monday, July 24, to Friday, July 28. The cost is $150 and includes a basketball and T-shirt. The camp is held in the air-conditioned Marian Center at St. Ephrem Parish, 5400 Hulmeville Road in Bensalem. The camp is under the direction of former college coach Dan Williams. For more information, email Williams at ••

Pro-life baby shower

The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia will hold a baby shower on June 24 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. There will be a Mass at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, followed by a march down Race Street and a rally at Independence Mall, where there will be music and speakers such as Mark Houck, the pro-life activist found not guilty by a federal jury of shoving a Planned Parenthood volunteer he said was harassing his son outside a Center City abortion clinic. Baby donations will be accepted. ••