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Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition. UAC 52nd Anniversary virtual event screenshot. 
Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition. UAC 52nd Anniversary virtual event screenshot. 

Urban Affairs Coalition celebrates 52 years of servicing the Philadelphia region

During a virtual event on Nov. 19, the UAC honored three leaders for their dedication to transforming the communities it serves, and made a big announcement. 

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On Friday, Nov. 19, the Urban Affairs Coalition celebrated its 52nd anniversary of serving the communities of the Greater Philadelphia region. 

The UAC was founded in 1969 after diverse Philadelphia leaders gathered in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to discuss how to tackle community unrest and invest in hope for communities who need it most. 

“The loss of Dr. King was an immensely traumatic and horrific event that destabilized the movement. But out of that tragedy and confusion came a commitment to positive change,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president & CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition.

At the virtual event, UAC honored three leaders for their dedication to positively transforming the communities they serve, and also representing the spirit that originally inspired the founding of the coalition.

Dr. Ala Stanford was honored with the Living Legacy Award for her work with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. 

A North Philly native and board-certified surgeon, she took action immediately after the novel coronavirus began spreading throughout the city. 

She gathered some volunteers and test supplies and began administering COVID-19 tests for those who needed it.

Her efforts were especially critical for Black communities, who were infected at three times the rate and dying at nearly six times the rate of majority White communities.

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium has resulted in more than 75,000 residents in BIPOC communities getting tested, 1,000 people a day getting vaccinated and a 24-hour Vax-A-Thon which vaccinated more than 4,000 people.

In addition, Dr. Stanford recently opened the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity, a permanent health center based in North Philly that serves people of all ages, seven days a week.

Gregory Heller, director at Guidehouse, was named the recipient of the Community Leadership Award.

For nearly six years, Heller has served the city in the public sector by providing affordable quality homes and building safe, healthy communities. 

As he accepted his award, he reflected on the housing stability crisis that has existed in Philadelphia long before the pandemic.

“More than half of our renters qualified as cost burdened, and there were over 19,000 evictions a year,” said Heller.

He noted how Philly became one of the first big cities in the country to use the federal recovery funds to create a COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. 

Fast forward to today, and the rent assistance program has distributed $200 million to landlords and tenants. 

“I'm proud of the fact that Philadelphia's rental assistance and eviction diversion programs have been recognized as national models. These programs have kept tens of thousands of families in their homes and helped Mom and Pop landlords stay in business, providing so much of our city's affordable housing,” added Heller. 

The “Doer” Award went to Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., New York Times Bestselling Author and Chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies.

During a fireside chat with Sulaiman Rahman, Founder & CEO of DiverseForce, Dr. Glaude Jr. discussed how the current climate in the U.S. in regards to the fight for social justice and equality is part of a repeated cycle that dates back to Reconstruction, and even before. 

He noted that the fight is a constant one, but one that also must be active.

“We have to change how we move in this city, in this country,” said Dr. Glaude, Jr.. “You have to move with the kind of dignity and standing that you deserve, and that you demand. 

“The condition for our entry into these places can no longer be that you quiet yourself because then you become complacent,” he continued.

During the event, the UAC honored PNC Bank with the Founders Award. 

In addition, PNC announced a $1.5 million commitment that will result in the creation of the new Urban Affairs Coalition Community Connection Center located in the heart of North Philly’s Broad Street commercial corridor. 

Joe Meterchick, PNC Regional President, said the new center will offer meeting and programming space, co-working facilities, conference rooms and more. 

The 52nd anniversary event was just one of several virtual, in-person and hybrid events UAC will be hosting over the next several months. 

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