WHYY arts and culture program showcases Philadelphia’s diverse communities

Lauren Martin of The Soapbox in West Philadelphia holds up one of the many zines in their collection. Part of the episode on Cultural Gatherings.

As the Stay at Home Order remains in place for the city of Philadelphia and beyond, WHYY’s TV program “Movers and Makers” may well be a good substitute for physically exploring the region right now. 

Hosted by South Philly native Andrew Erace and produced in part by Naomi Brito and Terri Murray, WHYY’s vice president of programming and production, “Movers and Makers” zooms in on a diverse swath of creative people and cultural institutions throughout Philadelphia, from musicians and zine-makers to community organizations and playgrounds. The second season of the program premiered on April 23. 

Bob Skiba at the John J. Wilcox Archives

The producers’ commitment to inclusivity and diversity means that “Movers and Makers” features members of the LGBTQ+ community in various formats. The show’s first season included a segment on Bob Skiba, well-known curator of the William Way LGBT Community Center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives. 

“We’re an all-female production team, so it’s three women producers that produce all the segments and then Terri is leading us,” Brito said. “As a result, our segments tend to be really diverse because we all have incredibly different backgrounds as producers.” 

An episode in the current season of the show features a segment on zines, which are self-published collections of original writing and/or images that usually focus on niche subject matter. West Philadelphia nonprofit The Soapbox: Community Print Shop and Zine Library appears in the episode. The Soapbox produces Philly Zine Fest, “Philly’s oldest and largest small press festival.” 

“‘Zines’ is a good example of a segment [where] there’s already a lot of importance to marginalized communities in terms of zine-making,” Brito said. “As part of that segment, we talked to a really diverse group of zine-makers, including people who identify as LGBTQ, whether or not their zines specifically deal with that identity.”   

Season 2 starts off with “Pioneering Women,” which spotlights some of Philadelphia’s influential and creative women in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment.

“We’re theme-ing episodes this year so that they have a little more of a thread through them,” Murray said. “We were really excited to be able to kick off with an episode that honors and highlights artistic and powerful women in the community.”  

Other LGBTQ content in the current season of “Movers and Makers” includes a segment on the Norris Square Neighborhood Project in West Kensington, which provides youth and community residents, including LGBTQ youth, “a safe space to explore culture and social justice issues, create art and develop their sustainable-agricultural skills.” In a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood, the Norris Project partners with other organizations including GALAEI, Brito said. 

A segment in the “Hidden History” episode features a profile of the South Asian American Digital Archive, which is “committed to documenting and preserving South Asian history here in the United States,” Brito said. “As part of that, also making sure that the LGBTQ population within South Asian Americans is represented as well.” 

Though everyday life has been put on hold for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show’s snapshots of different people and cultural establishments still hold significance, perhaps even more now than before.  

Host Andrew Erace. Courtesy WHYY

“Everyone’s supposed to be quarantined inside, [but through the show] able to get an understanding of what is taking shape in your city that you might not even know about,” Erace said. “You can watch it right on television and bookmark these episodes so that when we can go outside and businesses are back open or events are rescheduled, you’d be able to actually use “Movers and Makers” as an opportunity to connect with different places and people throughout the region.”

“I think that the situation that we’re all going through is such a heavy, heavy topic and lends itself to a lot of anxiety and depression,” Murray added. “I think arts and music, and culture and people just being creative and expressing that creation is a good way to lift people’s spirits and keep them connected.”

Although the show’s production has been temporarily put on hold, the team plans to pick up when life can resume as normal, Murray told PGN. “I see this program evolving and us being able to tell greater stories and find other hidden talents and people in the city,” she said. 

The “Movers and Makers” team also welcomes ideas from community members in terms of people who might be good to feature on the show. Folks can email ideas at [email protected]. “People come to us with all kinds of ideas,” Brito said. “Some work and some don’t, but viewer suggestions have led to some of our coolest stories.”

“Movers and Makers” airs on WHYY-TV12 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., but all episodes will be available to stream in their entirety via WHYY’s website: https://whyy.org/programs/movers-makers.

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