Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.

FIGHT THE STIGMA!

FIGHT THE STIGMA!
Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Featured Housing Project Residents

 Leofil Coleman, Rhada Coleman Thomas,
Dolores Coleman Jennings, Tineta Coleman Bowes,
Claire Coleman, Mother Dolores Coleman


by Rosemary Reeves


The United States Housing Act of 1937 created the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to house the poor.  This government program mandated redlining, whereby housing projects for whites were to be built in white neighborhoods and those for blacks were to be built in black neighborhoods.  This caused the racial segregation of housing projects across the United States. 

   
Not long after, WWII raged in Europe.  By 1945, America and its allies had won the war.  Then a new decade was on the horizon.  A tract of land in northeast Philadelphia became the domain of the local housing authority.   Plans were made to construct a public housing development which would be known as Liddonfield.  Built in the early 1950s, this northeast Philadelphia housing project came into existence at a time when legal challenges to racial segregation would test America's claim of "equality for all."

In 1954 Eisenhower was President, gas was 21 cents a gallon and the highly publicized case of Brown vs. Board of Education marked the end of racial segregation in public schools.  The Upper Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia was about to quietly distinguish itself in the advancement of civil rights.  A little-known fact not found in history books, it was the year the Philadelphia Housing Authority made an initial bold step toward integrating the white-dominated Liddonfield Housing Project.  Five black families were to move in.  The first among them was the Coleman family.  I interviewed Dolores Coleman Jennings about her family’s contribution to public housing history. 


You moved into Liddonfield in 1954.   Where did you come from originally?

“My family has lived in Holmesburg for over 200 yrs.  My father Leofil Coleman was born July 7, 1924 to Alice Woodson Coleman and Leon Coleman, although his mother and father moved to Germantown to raise their family.  My great-grandmother still lived in Holmesburg. When my father returned home from the navy, he moved in with his grandmother who resided at 8063 Erdrick Street. When my father met my mother and they married, he brought her to live at his grandmother’s home.”

What were the circumstances that led you to Liddonfield?

“When my father’s family started growing he applied for housing at the Liddonfield Homes. Service men who served in the war were offered first choice. When Mom and Dad moved into Liddonfield they had three children.  My sister Rhada was two, I was one and Leofil, whom we called little Pete, was only a month old.”  

What do you recall about the housing project as far as its design? 

“The design had the look of a community.  Most housing projects don’t have lawns so that was a nice touch…I thought that the only difference our house had that other houses didn’t have were the heating pipes that ran through each house.  We had a living room that was a nice size and the kitchen was also big enough.  There were three bedrooms and a bath. We also had a playground and lots of land to play.”

What was it like to be the first African American family to move into the white-dominated housing project?

“We never felt any danger or not accepted by our neighbors.  I think because everyone was at the same income level that color wasn’t a factor.  Yes, of course there were people who were prejudice but they were older and I didn’t know them. I don’t think my parents even noticed that they were the first of five black families to reside there.  It’s not like they only befriended the other black families.”

Dolores (Toy) said there wasn’t any difficulty adapting to any racial dynamics. “We were well-rooted there (in Holmesburg) and everyone knew who the Coleman’s were, since there were only about six black families who resided in Holmesburg.  We never thought of ourselves as ‘the black family’ and I would say that most of our neighbors didn’t either. The only place that we felt racial tension was outside of the project.  I don’t ever remember being called the ‘n’ word in the project as being called the ‘n’ word while walking down Frankford Avenue.  If we were with our friends outside of the project, our friends would always come to our defense.”

Tell us about where you live now and who you are today.

“I still live in the Holmesburg area.  I couldn’t think of leaving.  My brother and sisters also live in the Holmesburg area.  My mother moved out of Liddonfield  in 2000. She brought her home in 2002 [which is] five blocks from Liddonfield.”

Dolores (Toy) also bought a house in the white middle-class neighborhood near Liddonfield, but experienced racist backlash.  “When I moved into my neighborhood 30 years ago, I wasn’t welcome by some people,” she said.  “In 1979, a neighbor put out a petition for me to leave.  My next door neighbor informed me about the petition and told me who it was.  I thought I need to go and talk with this person.  I told them, “I am here to stay, so I suggest that you pack your bags and go.”  But there was an additional turn of events.  “It was also comforting to know that not one person would sign his petition,” she added.

The Upper Holmesburg section of Philadelphia still remains predominantly white.  Only a handful of minorities lived in Liddonfield until the 1980s.   The housing project was recently demolished.

Is there anything else you think our viewers should know about Liddonfield?

“I want your readers to know that Liddonfield was a community of good people.  When I was growing up in Liddonfield every parent only wanted the best for their children and taught them that hard work and education would be your ticket to a good life.  Just about all of us have our own homes and we have never forgotten where we came from.  I’m glad that I grew up in a community where people had your back and taught you to respect yourself at all times.”

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by Nick Cataldi


Nick Cataldi, radio D.J. for WBCB1490 AM
My parents were divorcing and we had just moved to a place called Liddonfield in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia. I was only 10 years old and I knew we were never rich people by any means, but moving here told me that the best days were behind us financially, at least for the time being. I looked outside on a cold, damp February morning and saw my first sign of life - my next door neighbor. She smiled and said hi and little did I know that a lifelong friendship had just started.  I went outside to look around.  The neighborhood had a lonely look to it. Small wonder  - everybody was in school or working!  I hadn't started school yet. I had some settling in to do and would hit school tomorrow. This wasn't a new experience for me. It was another move, another school and another scary and lonely feeling.     

I settled into school and after a few days it warmed up a bit.  I ventured outside of my house. I could see the basketball court. It was where everyone of all shapes, sizes & colors seemed to congregate. The energy I felt around me was incredible!  Sports at that time were the biggest common denominator among the guys in the project.  Even those who weren't very good would be playing. Baseball & football were popular, but only when in season. Basketball, however, was a year 'round thing in Liddonfield. It almost defined you among some of the guys. How good you were, that is. Of course, there were other criteria, but how you played basketball was one of the top ones. Why, I never knew. I wasn't very good. At first, that is. One guy told me, "Kid, I've seen some lousy basketball players in my life, but you take the cake!” (Strange, considering he was only about fourteen, himself.  How many players could he have seen, right?)  I laughed about it, but deep down I felt bad. That was due to change.

As the days went by, I saw that my new friends were very interested in a game that I had never paid too much attention to. Bit by bit, I was gaining interest until I found myself consumed by the sport. I would watch others with a new found enthusiasm. Rarely did I experience such a feeling, if ever. One guy named Joe really had my attention. He, along with the standard repertoire of shots, created some new ones that used to bring back memories when I saw later day pros doing them . Years later, I would think, 'Joe did that years ago'. I would shoot baskets with him on a regular basis. I would never try to copy him, per se’. This I was learning while playing on a sport team that was made up of individual talent. Almost like an artist's work. I spent hours at this game.  I even shoveled the snow off the court one time. (I had read that  Boston Celtic Great Bob Cousy, as a youngster, had done the same thing. So, good for Bob! Good for me!) I figured that greatness was just down the road!  Thinking and talking basketball became the norm for me, a way to connect with friends, as well as a way to enjoy a certain solitude and dream of someday playing pro ball while I perfected my game.  


Unfortunately, after a few years we were to move and not for a good reason. I took with me the love of the game but my new neighborhood did not have a court very close to home. I had to walk a good distance to find one. Often, almost daily, I would return to the project where I was and always would be accepted. Ironically, for all the stories about poor kids from the project who continuously  get into trouble with the law, that wasn't to happen to me until after I had moved to a nearby suburb. Now, I hadn't been an angel while I lived in Liddonfield but it did get much worse after I moved away. I didn't seem to have the sport as a good diversion. While I still played sports, I was mixing the wrong things into it. I made friends elsewhere of course, but we were all taking wrong turns in life. Why I'll never know. It did occur to me years later that I was lacking the emotional support I had always gotten from my adult neighbors in the project. These were good people from very working class backgrounds.  A great many of us lived in fatherless homes. Almost as many had no contact with our fathers. Getting older, making poor and often unchecked decisions. There were consequences. Prices would have to be paid. Some of us were heading someplace, not sure at the time but it was in a good direction. Others had no idea what they were going to do or how to steer into the skid they had gotten into. Some had gotten married & moved awayOthers married and hung around for a while, then moved.  
While it could be said that those on the outside didn't 'expect much from that kind' (meaning us people in the project), many did just fine in life. Eventually I was able to get a grip on my own life. I was to return quite frequently to visit with friendsIn some ways it was like I'd never left. Always felt so happy to be back and those I saw always greeted and treated me well. As the years went by often the discussions were about sports and how lucky we were to have them so close to our homes and our lives. How when we felt belittled by the 'outside world' we always knew how lucky we were to have experienced living in such a place. No matter how many times I came and left, a piece of me always stayed there in Liddonfield.                     
 
Nick is a radio D.J. at WBCB1490 AM in Levittown.  Join Nick Sunday - Thursday on The OverNight Ride!!! 12:05 am - 5:30 am.  You can also check out Nick's Facebook Page and his thoughts of the day on Facebook's RIP Liddonfield.

Liddonfield Housing Project's Kid Teck


By Rosemary Reeves

Liddonfield Housing Project may have been demolished recently, but not before producing its own hip hop artist, Kid Teck. 

Kid Teck, whose real name is Anthony Schultz, performs along with Tony Two Step in the well-made video for the original song, No Stress. The video footage includes some of Philadelphia’s most famous landmarks.  It begins with Tony Two Step getting off the Philly subway at 15th and Market to meet Kid Teck for their performance at Love Park and when the music starts, it’s magic.

Skateboarders do skateboarding tricks and talented break dancers bust some cool moves during Kid Teck’s and Tony Two Step’s performance at Love Park.  These guys complement each other with their opposite personalities.   Tony comes off as outgoing and is a natural in front of the camera.  Kid Teck, on the other hand, is charmingly subdued.  Kid Teck knows he’s cool and it comes through to the video audience.

I found Kid Teck through RIP Liddonfield Facebook.  Kid Teck had written some lyrics about Liddonfield to a catchy beat by another artist as an experiment and asked the Facebook group for feedback.  I happen to be a fan of hip-hop and after listening to the song I thought, “This guy is good.”  I contacted him immediately to request an interview. 

How old are you?

I’m actually 23.  I go by "Kid Teck" short for "Tecknology."

How long did you live in Liddonfield?

I've lived in Liddonfield for only a bit at a young age, but both my grandmothers, Janet Schultz and Cora McShane, lived there for most of their lives.  

Tell me the story behind the lyrics for the Liddonfield song, Through His Own Eyez.

The story behind the song is basically a brief view of my life, what I really witnessed in life, how I lived and how I am now.  A lot of people that live in my town didn't know where I really came from so I made a song about it.  I do not own the beat that was made but I do have producers that are local that make beats for me as well. *Note that "No Stress" is an original beat.

I particularly like the video for the song No Stress, in which you performed along with Tony Two Step on the streets of Philadelphia.  What inspired you to get into music?

Music's been in my family for quite some time.  My father and mother grew up to old school freestyle music like Stevie B, Debbie Deb, Lil Suzy, T.K.A. and so on.  What inspired me to make music is being around music my whole life ─ my mom and dad with freestyle and my brother with rap/hip hop (Wu-tang, Lost Boyz, Jay-z, Beanie Sigel, etc.)

Do you have an agent?

No, I do not have an agent.  I'm what you call “underground.” 

Where can people purchase your music?
People can purchase my music at shows I do, or they can listen and download at sites like  www.youtube.com/imwkidteck , www.soundcloud.com/definition-of-ill or www.reverbnation.com/kidtecktecknology.
 
How did you avoid or overcome negative influences in your life?
You have to surround yourself with positive people, kill the negative.  

What are your goals for the future?
My goal in the future is to open a business.  I have an upbeat personality and I’m very energetic."