Philadelphia’s grassroots activists take the DNC stage

There will be no shortage of glitz and glitter this week, as the Democratic National Convention officially opens today in Philadelphia. President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and, of course, presumptive Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are expected to speak, while celebrities like Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Bryan Cranston and Idina Menzel will headline concerts and make appearances.

But amid the pomp and circumstance, four Philadelphians dedicated to serving youth and disabled communities will share their stories.

Thaddeus Desmond, a child advocacy social worker; Dynah Haubert, a lawyer who works for a disability rights organization; Kate Burdick, a staff attorney for the Juvenile Law Center; and Anton Moore, founder of Unity in the Community, are all slated to address politicians and delegates Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tuesday’s roster will focus on the theme of A Lifetime of Fighting for Children and Families, and proceedings will honor Clinton’s history of child advocacy.

For Desmond, whose parents battled with drug addiction and were unable to care for him, that issue is especially personal. His social worker, Kathy Desmond, fostered and later adopted him. Now theGermantown native is a social worker with the Support Center for Child Advocates.

“Being involved in it in a different way than most people allows me to work in the field in a different way, with a different kind of mindset — you know, being there, having my own experiences,” Desmond said.

He added that while his experiences often differ from those of the children he helps, they’re often similar.

“I very rarely self-disclose my story,” Desmond said. “It kind of takes away from the work. And who is that really serving at the end of the day?

“In the function of being a social worker, of being a child advocate, I don’t really thinkit serves my clients.”

But Tuesday, Desmond will share his story in front of hundreds of delegates, dignitaries and politicians.

He’s onlya little nervous.

“I’m honored, grateful and humbled more than anything,” Desmond admitted. “I’m glad that I’m able to be a voice as a social worker, as a young professional, as a black man in the profession, to be a voice for social workers heard across the country.”

Meanwhile, an event of this grandeur is not unfamiliar to Moore, who grew up at Tasker Homes at 31st and Tasker streets.He worked closely with Obama’s campaign, working on booking talent and DJs during the president’s events in Philadelphia.

His nonprofit started as a block party in 2009. Moore took his experience working in television and radio and brought it to his South Philly community.

“I’m bringing celebrities to my community to talk about peace, to have fun, eat and talk about the serious issues,” Moore said.

Now, Unity in the Community organizes peace walks, neighborhood cleanups and concerts.

At a time when tensions are high over gun violence, and in a city where youth violence runs rampant, Moore said he hopes to instill his message at the DNC.

“We need to have a sense of urgency,” Moore said. “Young lives are being cut off … We need to get these resources for these communities. We need a bottom-up approach.

“The people at the top are fine. The bottom is suffering. We can no longer have a top-to-bottom approach in our community, in Philadelphia or in the United States of America,” he added.

“We need to throw them a lifeline, a lifejacket. We need to tell them we’re here to help.”

Moore said such programming at the DNC is indicative of how different the Republican platform is from the Democratic.

“I think the [Republican National Convention’s] focuses are personal interests,”Moore said. “I think the DNC and Hillary, they’re focused on our community as a whole. What works best for a community, not what works best for individual people.”

“At the DNC, they ask, ‘What can we do that makes our community better?'” Moore said.”With the RNC, it’s, ‘What can we do to make ourselves better?'”