The Students were the Catalyst for the Change
Mark Harrell is a community organizer at the Southwest Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Philadelphia and publisher of the organization’s newspaper The Southwest Globe Times. Harrell studied Political Science at Howard University and went on to Lincoln University where he majored in Human Services. Along with the many organizations of which he is a part, Harrell is also executive director of Men United for a Better Philadelphia
Defining moments: My life has taken so many positive twists and turns but I think it’s family first; including my nine brothers and sisters. My family is a very close-knit one and my mother the matriarch of the family, at 89 years young, is still very much its center. We just center around the love of family and that lends itself to the work that I do in the community, the bigger family, the village.
Significant accomplishment or project: There are just so many things, my first job was working with young people as a camp counselor. It’s been rewarding and that has just been a part of my life’s work. I went on to do quite a few other things in the community including my work with the Future Leaders of the World (FLOW), a drug and gang prevention program. We brought services to the community as opposed to having kids to us and that was very rewarding. I also count my work with Men United for a Better Philadelphia.
Advice for young people: I try to share with young people, the history of young people being involved in movements, like the anti apartheid movement led by
the late Nelson and Winnie Mandela in South Africa. It was the students that were the catalyst for the change that took place and started turning around the whole anti-apartheid movement. Even if you look at Tiananmen Square in China, those were students who stood in front of those tanks.
Then there are home-grown movements such as Civil Rights under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. King purposely sought the engagement of youth and their participation had a significant impact. When you look at the pictures of young boys and girls being hosed down with fire-hoses and the dogs, those were young people who were a part of these movements which changed the world. That hasn’t changed. It’s the power and the energy that young people bring to these movements that make them successful.
How to build relationships within the African Diaspora: I am a community organizer in Southwest Philadelphia which is one of the most diverse areas. One of the important things is to understand the different cultures that we live around. We all live, play, work and worship together here, but there is a need to understand the cultural differences and the similarities that exist. It’s best to reach out and ask questions of others who are part of other cultures, and to form dialogues to get to understand and know one another. Invite those conversations to take place. The bottom line is that it all goes back to one continent, and that’s the continent of Africa.