This one says it all! The Purple Lady – the kids chose the color and the name – sailing in the basin to the side of the Independence Seaport Museum. The Cruiser, Olympia and the Bark, Moshulu in the background.
A year ago in August when we started, this was exactly what I had in mind. A boat built by the kids of North Philly, sailing in the Delaware, drawing from the rich maritime history of the city, reflecting on the long tradition of working class sailing that was a feature of the Delaware over a century ago.
And here we are!
Congratulations to The Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory!
Congratulations to Brett Hart, its director!
Congratulations to Victoria for seeing the whole thing through!
And, most especially congratulations to all the kids who made this possible!
Besides bringing a focus to the way the people of Philadelphia turned to the river for recreation as well as work, the most important aspect of this project was the opportunity to work with these kids.
With no advantages, most would consider them hobbled by their circumstances. When they find their way to the Boat Factory they enter a place where they are respected and treated as capable young people. In this project we did nothing to “dumb-down” the boat, or its construction. From day-one – when a group of four teams of four, Victoria and I, began lofting the boat until yesterday’s launch; they were exposed to the most demanding tasks with the expectation that they would meet it.
Unlike so much “education,” these weren’t “make-work exercises” intended to spoon-feed someone else’s knowledge into passive receptacles. This was a real thing! A boat – after this more boats – needed to be built. They were going to do it. And they could pick-up the experiences and understanding to carry it out.
Much like my own experience in Boat School, there wasn’t some well-oiled institutional set-up they were expected to walk through. They were exposed to the vulnerabilities of a small program doing something for the first time with a limited staff and limited budget. They were counted on.
And they rose to the challenge!