Kensington "Originals" Keep Neighborhood Pride Alive

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 38 | Posted Apr. 20, 2011

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Ain’t that Rich: Antipuna says drugs may have forced “original Kenzos” out of their homes, but they can’t kill their pride.

Photo by ryan strand

In Philly, the word “Kensington” means crime, drugs and poverty. In other words: trash. The neighborhood is routinely described as “teeming with drugs and prostitution” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The neighborhood’s rep got even worse last year when the Kensington Strangler terrorized residents for more than three months. By the time a DNA hit in the statewide system led to the arrest of 22-year-old Antonio Rodriguez in January, three women were dead.

Now, it’s been three months since the arrest. Reporters and cameras are long gone. The extra police presence, which many residents argue never existed to begin with, is gone, too.

“Same old shit,” says 40-year-old Karen Quick over a beer at a recent get-together of old friends who grew up in Kensington before the word itself became a curse.

Same old shit means that the intersection of Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street is still one of the city’s most notorious open-air drug markets and prostitutes strolling the seedy strip beneath the El are still regularly beaten, choked and raped.

“You won’t hear about it in the news but people are dying down here every day,” says “original Kenzo” Ericka Harris-Dougherty, 39, at the get-together at Crazy Leprechaun, a bar in Port Richmond. “But [the problem’s not] Kensington—it’s the people coming down here for the drugs.”

“When we grew up we took pride in our streets and neighborhood. Next thing you know drug dealers came here and pushed us out,” adds Joan Samacicia, 39. “I had three kids. I had to move because I found [drug paraphernalia] in our backyard.”

It’s a common story. These days there’s a sort of Kenzo diaspora.

“Everyone lives everywhere,” she says.

One thing has changed in the wake of the Strangler: An emerging Kenzo Pride movement, fueled by self-declared original Kenzos is taking hold. They say they won’t let their self-respect—or memories—die along with the neighborhood.

It seems strange that a renaissance of Kensington pride is the direct result of being terrorized by a serial killer, but that’s how it happened.

Back in January, during the height of the search for the Strangler, PW spotlighted a Facebook group called “Stop the Kensington Strangler—before he catches someone you love.” Started by a well-known charismatic neighborhood guy named Richie Antipuna, the group became a sounding board for frustration with a perceived lack of effort to catch the killer and the feeling that the tragedy regularly going down in Kensington would not be tolerated anywhere else in the city. Then the group was mysteriously shut down.

So last month, at the urging of friends, Antipuna started a new group called “Kenzo Pride.”

With more than 2,800 members and growing daily, the group’s wall is a digital high school reunion, party line and repository for Kenzo in-jokes: A Kenzo dustpan is a ripped-up cereal box; Kenzo shrimp are hard pretzels dipped in ketchup; and so on.

Antipuna says the Facebook group is just the beginning of the Kensington Pride movement, which he’s promoting from all angles: Along with his creative partner, Heather Barton, Antipuna hosts The Richie Antipuna Show, a hyperlocal video magazine produced in partnership with Woodshop Films. He also hosts Live Talk with Richie Antipuna on BlogTalk Radio online. Antipuna says he’s even in talks to run for City Council on the Green Party ticket. He’s also taking it upon himself to establish April 22 as official Kensington Pride Day—chosen as a reference to the retro phrase scribbled in high school yearbooks: “You’re 2 good 2 be 4-gotten.”

“Kensington isn’t a place [anymore],” muses Antipuna. “It’s a state of mind.”

“Most of the people in Kenzo Pride don’t live in Kensington anymore,” concedes Antipuna, who grew up at A Street and Allegheny Avenue but lives in Port Richmond with his wife and children. “They live in Jersey, the Far Northeast, but they’re still hanging on to their Kenzo Pride. That’s what it’s all about.”

It’s a recent Saturday night and the first official Kenzo Pride event is going down at the Crazy Leprechaun, owned by Antipuna in the past and now run by another “original Kenzo.”

Inside, young men in Phillies caps smile and exchange tough-guy headlock hugs. DJ Too Tuff—an internationally renowned turntablist who grew up in Kensington—pumps old-school hip-hop to a crowd of 60 or so people.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 38 of 38
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1. SHAWN MALONEY said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:31AM

“AS A KENZO PRIDE MEMBER AND FAN OF THE PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY RICHIE ANTIPUNA IS THE BEST AND HE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE YOU FEEL WELCOME AND HE ALSO KNOWS HOW TO GET PEOPLE TOGETHER AS ONE AND HES SERIOUS ABOUT WHAT HE DOES I LOVE KENSINGTON I WOULD NEVER CALL IT NORTH PHILLY ITS KENSINGTON AND IM PROUD TO SAY THAT WITH WHAT RICHIE ANTIPUNA DOES HE WOULD BE A GREAT CITY COUNSEL MEMBER I BACK HIM AND ALL MY KENZOS ALWAYS AND HEATHER BARTON AND DAN SCHMIDT THEY HELP RICHIE OUT AS WELL I GIVE THEM THANX TOO”

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2. Kim Downey Kenzo Pride & Proud said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:34AM

“I would personally like to thank Tara Murtha for her time, her thoughts and her beautiful words. The people of Kensington, the originals and their children, we truly appreciate what you have written. We are a unit, a family, one that consist of more then just blood. It brought a tear to my eye because I was born and raised in Kensington, and reading this article, knowing what I grew up in and what it is today, well, it's upsetting. Kensington was more then just a neighborhood, it was home. Home is where your Heart is...Kenzo 4 Life!!!! Thank you Richie for giving us a voice and Tara for providing the microphone.”

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3. SHAWN MALONEY said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:41AM

“KIM IS RIGHT IT BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE TOO AND TARA MURTHA YOUR WORDS WERE BEAUTIFUL KIMS FEELINGS ARE THE SAME AS MINE WE ARE A FAMILY WE ARE ONE NOT A GROUP OF OVER 2800 BUT JUST ONE WE ARE TOGETHER IN EVERY DECISION AND WE COME TOGETHER AS ONE WHEN ASKED AND RICHIE ANTIPUNAS VOICE IS WHATS KEEPING THE KENZO PRIDE ALIVE ALONG WITH THE REST OF OUR KENZO PRIDE MEMBERS I LOVE YOU KENZOS KENZO 4 LIFE”

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4. A real KENZO! said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:47AM

“It is great that so many people have pride in the area that they came from, but many on that site have no idea of what Kensington was like back in it's heyday! You explained it best it is like a high school reunion where all the name calling and drama goes on. There is another page on Facebook that has a better grasp of what Kensington really used to be like. The page is called Calling all Kensos. Check it out you get a better understanding of what a real KENZO is! For the record I am a member on both pages.”

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5. SHAWN MALONEY said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:00AM

“a real kenzo i like your post but come on now this is about richie antipuna and the movement and change he is doing i mean i loved the original heyday of kenzo too but this is about our boy richie antipuna whoes making a diffrence

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6. Kim Downey said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:14AM

“To A real Kenzo...I'm also a member on both pages and to be honest Calling All Kensos (spelled wrong BTW) is a good page but it doesn't do anything for it's people. This article is about what RICH ANTIPUNA who has done, in creating the KENZO (spelled correctly) PRIDE page, brought people together and kept alive the KENZO in so many with memories and camaraderie. You may think you are a real Kenzo but we are all KENZOS!!!!! You are just a different breed.”

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7. Heather Barton said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:24AM

“I thought this was an article about Richie running for mayor? Wow- And thats a great line Rich, " Kensington is not a place anymore , It's a state of mind"...How and when did u ever come up w/ that ? It's so familiar to me...HMMM???You are truely amazing!!”

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8. Jeff Titus said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:40AM

“I said it before Kensington is not just a location its the people. I wouldnt move back if they gave me a house, but I would happily bring my friends to live where I am now. not just my friends but all kensos from my time there.

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9. debra efre said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:47AM

“hey all you kenzos who went to st.hugh's shout out if you remember me . i lived at 2nd and Indiana and then Wishart st at Mascher.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:52AM

“Since moving from Kensington to the Northeast 8 yrs ago from losing my house & struggles with neighbors making it hard to raise your son with such disrespectful neighbors whom b4 having my sons I wouldnt think twice about punching the shit out of for talking to me this way.Ive become somewhat embaressed to say I was from because of what it became.Yes "Kenzos" were known to be bad ass probably because of the struggles some of us endured ,but never were we ever one to forget about our friends we never back down from what is right and the Kezo Pride page makes us able to never lose site of that.I love that I can go there and not be judged from where we came from and talk about all the "good" memories we had growing up there.Always welcomed and never disrepected its a place without negativity knor is it tolerated or they will be deleted. That is why so many left our Kensington homes in the first place of all the negativity has just overwhelmed and consumed us!”

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11. Steve Lee said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:40AM

“Richie's got the right idea. I moved away a long long time ago, courtesy USAF, 1985. Get back home once a year, visit with friends from way back. Great time, remembering how great it was growing up in Kensington, which had a bad rep even back then. Went to Frankford HS, and the people from up that way thought Kensington was lower class back then (but they came down to K and A to watch us celebrate the Phillies Championship in 1980!) My friends from the old neighborhood are still tight, like blood. Proud back then to be from Kensington, proud today still. Richie's doing a fantastic job reminding people of their roots and bringing us together. Maybe we can all stay strong together and make the neighborhood what it once was.”

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12. Mary Bowen said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 04:47PM

“First off I would like to say thank you to Tara Murtha for an awesome article in regards to Richie Antipuna. Second I would like to thank Richie who came up with an idea and ran with it in regards to taking a neighborhood which always had a "rep" and reminding everyone that is from there, or ever lived there that it was the people and the memories that make Kensington a special part of our lives, I know as a member of Kenzo Pride I have reconnected with so many people that I have not seen in years and have become friends with so many new ones that I know will always be a part of every single one of my old and new memories I have of Kensington. Richie will be known throughout Kensington history as the man who kept the Kensington dream alive by bringing together so many people he must be doing something right cause over 2800 proud members including myself are the proof of what an awesome and powerful movement Richie has started here.”

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13. Judy Otto Evans said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 05:51PM

“I wanna thank Tara Murtha for this article that she posted about Richie Antinpuna. Words can't explain the GOOD, FANTASTIC, AWESOME work that Rich da Man has done. For someone to come forward n express how he feels about the neighborhood n good it has brought to him along with us us Kenzo's..The memories the ppl are posting are phenominal...the Kenzo meet n greet's are the best ever...we're more than friends..we are a Community of Friends, Foes n even some have became Lovers...As some of us look at it Kensington made us who we are today...some are THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY,,,AND some are JUST US!!THANKS Rich...and AGAIN..I am proud to say I am a Kenzo...KENZO'S LIVE ON!!!”

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14. Kathy Ber said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 06:39PM

“Nice article. If the group of people band together in real life as they do on the page..... good things are going to happen. Kensington was once a great place! If you meet a Kenzo today I guarantee 4 out of 5 are still friendswith thier childhood friends. A tight group. People that didnt live there will never understand how we feel. Im very excited about the buzz that Richard Altipuna has caused. Kenzos = DONT COUNTS??? Dont think SO! Kenzo Pride forever!”

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15. Donna Mauro Mullin said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:05PM

“I am and always will be proud to be from Kensington. I grew up knowing my neighbors watched out for me and cared about me. I never knocked to go into a friend's house because I knew I was always welcomed. I loved going to Visitation and working at my uncle's seafood (Warks) store. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. I learned all bout neighborhood pride there.”

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16. mark murray said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:23PM

“it is a nice article but it lacks truth.... why did kensington turn rrom a friendly, family oriented neighborhood to a digusting crime ridden neighborhood. the once proud neighborhood was taken over by a lower class type people who feast on others misery. they are called human parasites. overall the system has let us kensingtonians down by not doing their job...politicians and police take pay offs and turn their backs like nothing is happening...i know it is a free world and people can live wherever they want...But is fair to destroy memories, friends, dreams and aspirations of a once proud neighborhood. This is why i moved away from philly. I was too deepressing to watch my neighborhood turn into poverty and criminal city. you as the media need to voice more than what u printed in ur article...Richie antipuna grew up in the same neighborhood i did....richie will get it done along with all his friends....we will make kensington stronger and prideful with hardwork and determination.”

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17. Sean McQuaid Tyas said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 07:43PM

“Great article, and many kudos to Rich for creating the Kenzo Pride page. As we have gone on to other things after leaving Kensington for whatever reason we did (I think the majority of us left in the mid to late 80s when it really went downhill), most of us have become disconnected from our Grammer, Jr. High and High School friends. While Facebook has become a great medium for many of us to find one another again, Rich strengthened the possibilities of doing this. What we need is a major get together, and notice well in advance, to re-connect with friends we have not seen for decades, and to meet others from different parts of Kensington (we all have a commo bond). The pride of Kensington will not die as long as we are around. I often think to myself that I wish the area had not changed, and we all stayed, as many from 'Small Town USA' have stayed all their lives, grew up together, and grew old together. It'd be great if we were more than Facebook cyber friends.”

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18. Eileen Austin said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:54PM

“Thank you to Tara Murtha for the article. Just wanted to say that no matter where we all live now, we still call ourselves Kenzo's. We have the neighborhood in our hearts and memories forever. I can go anywhere in the City and get talking to people and without a doubt they either were from the neighborhood or their family/friends lived there at one time. Like Kathy Ber said , I am also excited about the Buzz that Richie has created. I would like to see change in the neighborhood so that kids growing up there now can feel safe and take pride to say they are from Kensington like my kids and I do. Thanks again Richie, Danny and everyone who posts memories on "Kenzo Pride" Facebook page for making me smile.”

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19. Michael "Kenzocrat" Mallon said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:57PM

“OK First I would like to thank Tara Murtha for this article! Then Richie & Heather for all that they did keeping the fire burning under the Bureaucrats during the search for the Philadelphia strangler during his reign of terror this past winter. & for creating the two consecutive Facebook groups that have brought every one together. To Danny who helps police the groups posts for any out of line content! No lets discuss no count votes Mr Street. No wait you do not rate my respect to be addressed Mr. Hey Milton I ask you on behalf of all The Kenzo Veterans that have served there country! What have you ever done for any one to deserve our votes.You have only cheated the system & lined your own pockets. The day has come that Kenzos are going to raise our Beloved KENSINGTON out of its despair and make sure that this City counts her Residents. And we are going to start by voting out Rif Raf do nothing for the working class Politicians! So save your money you and your brother should bow out!”

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20. Coleen "Kenzocrat" said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 10:03PM

“I would like to thank Richie, Heather and Dan for all they are doing to bring back all the fond memories from our childhood days. I love what everyone is doing!! Tara Murtha thank you for bringing this article to the attention of all your readers. Kensington will always hold a special place in my heart. I think what it has turned into, is a disgrace!! When i tell my kids stories about when i was younger they don't understand how it became "the bad lands." Kensington "of old" is but a dream, But Kensington will one day get back to being what it used to be! When Richie runs for Mayor, I will be there helping him 100% because i know he can make a difference! Just look at what he has done to bring everyone back together again! Keep up the good work!!”

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21. Ericka Harris Dougherty said... on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:30PM

“I was so misquoted in this article! I never said anything of the sort...lol
I have no idea who is dying there these days. I guess thats the press for ya...oh well she did get one thing right...I am an original Kenzo and proud of where I grew up!”

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22. Joan James-Samacicia said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:00AM

“I want to personally Thank Richie Antipuna & Heather Barton & Dan Schmit for helping us Kenzos to talk about the real Kensington maybe people will see what we are about and a true Kenzo is true loyal and a good person. We always hear about the bad things about Kensington well now its time for people to finally see what true Kenzos are about. Being born and raised in Kensington was great we didn't have drug dealers on the every corner or empty drug bags or needles all over the place we had unity and people took pride in there neighborhood and we all looked out for eachother we were all family. I learned a lot of life lessons and they were all positive I am a mother of 3 and it saddens me that I couldn't raise my children there, but I will say this Richie spoke the truth when he said being a Kenzo is a state of mind and he is 100% right. I am very grateful to have the Kenzo Pride site because we may not have our neighborhood but we do have our memories. All Kenzos are one of a kind.”

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23. Corey Hoffman said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 06:48AM

“I never forgot were I was from. Although the streets of Kensington took the fight out of some people, it put the fight into most. I keep my memories of Kensington fresh, and I will never forget the person the neighborhood made me.”

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24. Elizabeth Herman said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 07:25AM

“I would like to first say thanks to Richie for creating the Kenzo pride Facebook page and all his efforts in reconnecting us. I was born and raised in Kensington and cherish all my family, friends and memories. I would not change were I came from for a minute, it made me who I am today - Kenzo proud for life! Only the people who lived in this great neighborhood can truely relate. I hope that we can all stand together and make a change - bring back the traditions/heart of the old neighborhood, were everyone new everyone, cared about each other and their properties, had each others backs - we were not just neighbors, but friends and family, true Kenzo's for life!”

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25. Lillymae Levasseur said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 08:04AM

“I was born and raised in Kensington... I would not change were I came from for a minute...some people are afraid to even admit they are from there but not me never have and never will be...if you know me or any of my 6 brothers you know we are straight kenzos...some people even called us ghetto but ya know what they were just hating...kenzos stood for what they really wanted...kenzo pride for life...Shout out to Richie...Heather and VaVa...Holler at your girl lilly...:)”

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26. robin pappernek said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 11:18AM

“i wanna say how glad i am richie started the group n im proud 2 have been added 2 it woohoo kenzo 4 life and this is like a life changing experience for us and the kenzo neighborhood and it was richie antipuna who did this for us and to tara murtha for writting the article thanx”

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27. Mary "Proud 2 B A Kenzo" Parks said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:11PM

“My family moved to Kensington from Fishtown when I was about 4 years old. I lived within walking distance of K&A from then until I moved away from Philly in 2008 for work. Through the years, I've had people rag on me for being a "Kenzo"...but I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. I have so many memories of my old neighborhood - walking on "the Ave." with my mom and going into all of the stores...my friends riding down the block selling fresh pretzels every Saturday morning (I can still hear the cries of "freeeesh pret-ZELS!").....but most importantly, the sense of being part of a family....”

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28. Joni Shiffler said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:35PM

“I am from Reach and tioga, My Parents are life long Kenzos,, I wanted to thank Rich and Heather and Dan for all you are doing to make sure our Lifelines are secure,, Those of us who have such beatuiful Memories of the way it was, never had to worry about where you were walking, if you did something, you were gaurenteed that if your parent didnt smack you for it someone elses did, Those were the days,, I am still friends with almost all of the People I started grade school with at 5 years old.. I am incredibly lucky and I know it,, I just make sure My kids know the Kenzo way,, Take care of your own,, I know we did something right because Thats how they are.. Thank you again Great Article..

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29. GARY SUMMERFIELD said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 01:13PM

“LETS START OFF WITH ONE FACT MOST OF THE PEOPLE ON KENZO PRIDE ARE MOSTLEY TRANSPLANTS THEY EITHER MOVED TO PORTRICHMOND ,FISHTOWN,JUANITA,AND IF YOU REALLY MADE IT BIG OXFORD CIRCLE BUT A KENZO IS A WIDE VARIATY OF PEOPLE WHOS ROOTS ARE IN THE 25,24,34,22 ZIP CODES SO KENSINGTON IS MUCH MORE THAN SOMERSET TO ALEGHANNY AVE. SO TO SAY YOU MOVED OUT OF KENSINGTON IS AN OVERSTAMENT OF YOUR LOGISTICAL IDEA OF A KENZO AND ALL PEOPLE IN THESE AREAS NEED TO UNITE AND COME BACK TOGETHER AND MAKE KENSINGTON THE PROUD UNION OF HARD WORKING FUN LOVING PEOPLE WHO WOULD GIVE YOU THE SHIRTS OF THERE BACK JUST BECOUSE YOU WHERE OUR NIEGHBOR ! AND KENZO PRIDE RUNS DEEP IN ALL OF US WE SAY WE ARE PROUD OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE SO LETS TAKE OUR HOOD BACK AND EMBRACE THE FACTS THAT THINGS CHANGE !
AND JOIN TOGETHER AND SUPPORT THE WHOLE OF KENSINGTON !
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD NOT JUST A PARENT SO WE MUST UNITE AS ONE AND SEEK THE SAME AGENDA !AND KENZO PRIDE CAN HELP HEAL THE WOUNDS OF TIME .”

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30. Aleafia Davalos said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 03:09PM

“Great article!!! Richie is doing a great thing and its nice to see it get recognized!!!! Keep up the good work Richie and fellow Kenzo pride members!!!”

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31. A REAL KENZO said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 11:24PM

“A REAL KENZO STILL LIVES HERE THESE FUCKERS AINT CHASIN ME OUT”

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32. johnny goodwin said... on Apr 22, 2011 at 09:13PM

“all these ( kenzos) are a bunch of backstabbers and jealous .”

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33. Frank Kerns said... on May 2, 2011 at 04:34PM


Drug's and Crime are everywhere not just Kensington. I left to California 1984
and who was killing people at random in L.A Richard Ramirez the night Stalker
He makes the Strangler look like Bambi. Kensington in my day was full of alot of good Athletes a fair amount of musician's and a lot of hard working people.
Of course there was drugs and alcohol but the whole country turned vicious at the same time. Gun's give the slime of the Earth the power to destroy and devastate the finest communities. It wouldn't be so easy to takeover neighborhood's with Drugs if we had some tuff Manufacturing restrictions on guns.”

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34. john weissinger said... on May 4, 2011 at 09:42AM

“send me friend request”

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35. Kenzo O.G. Kip and Cambria said... on May 5, 2011 at 12:20AM

“We have to keep KENSINGTON alive... yes it may be a part of North Philly but when asked where we are from we should always say KENSINGTON with pride!!!!!!!”

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36. Billy Modj said... on Mar 3, 2012 at 04:20AM

“Richie. IS KEEPIN IT REAL.... U gotta LOVE it ... I DO........”

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37. Virginia Helmling said... on Apr 20, 2013 at 09:18PM

“1970 Frankfort High. looking for Debbie Hall.
Proud to be from Kennsington. It was "family " back than . I loved it !



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38. paul from the oblong table said... on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:15AM

“Qualifications, 3303 N 2nd Street, Cramp School, delivered papers to St Hugh's, delivered groceries from the A & P Front and Westmoreland, worked with "huckster's" in the summer. A few years back at the Harmonia Club there was a group with (green) shirts--"Once a Kenzo, always a Kenzo".
At the time I didn't realize that not only did I want a shirt--I absolutely needed one. If anyone has a clue I need a 2XL--just a bit larger that my younger years at Cramp (and then Dobbins). 215-815-2880”

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