As gentrification pushes northward, a community of survivors is slowly displaced.
Now one of the community gardens is being auctioned off to make way for development. Saunders had hoped to use the Dietz & Watson warehouse as a youth center after she was told the owner could donate it to the church and get a tax write-off. Now that dream's gone too.
On block after block, she says, neighbors are abandoning their homes, either through neglect or by putting them up for sale.
"It's a shame that we have to get pushed out of our community," she says. "We were unified as a family, and now they're breaking up our family."
For Saunders, the "they" are the developers and the politicians who encourage them. Saunders plans to invite Councilman Clarke to a meeting with residents. There's even talk of marching on Clarke's City Hall office to let him know they're serious.
"Will it change anything?" she asks. "No. But we just want him to know that we want to fight for our community--that whatever he does, we're going to stick it out."
But Saunders admits even she's looking for another place to live--outside of Old Kensington--just in case. Her home and the church are in desperate need of repairs. Fines for building violations and past-due property taxes are mounting.
Normally on a Saturday, Saunders would be at church, singing and delivering God's word. But on this day a threatened foot of snow keeps the church doors closed.
"I don't know how long we'll be able to last," says Saunders. "With all these new houses and new people, I don't believe any of us will be here for long."
Kia Gregory (email@example.com) writes often about issues affecting her native North Philadelphia.
Immigrants are not a zombie invasion
PW's Fall Guide 2014