06 Jun Meet the K880 Emerging City Champions 2017: Michael and Suze
It’s been almost a year since these urban innovators have launched projects to make their cities more engaged, safe, healthy and fun. Find out who they are, what they’ve created and what they’ve learned.
by Emma Jones, Jonathan von Ofenheim
Meet the Champ: Michael Fichman spent over 15 years in the music industry, working as a D.J., a producer and a promoter. When Michael went back to school to get a degree in city planning, his passions intersected and a problem became clear: Philadelphia lacked holistic, regulated approach to planning and overseeing its nightlife, arts and culture communities.
Michael’s innovation story: Michael heads up 24 Hour Philadelphia (24HRPHL), a group that hosts public forums and roundtable discussions focused on identifying key issues and solutions for Philadelphia’s nightlife communities.
The group talks about policy, tourism, licensing, economic competitiveness, public safety, consent and transportation — and that’s not all. Anything that could help Philly’s nightlife become safer, more accessible and more inclusive is fair game, says Michael.
“I’m interested in trying to empower people of this community to understand what types of changes they’d like to see and what are the avenues that they could take to pursue those changes,” he says.
The group is as diverse as its goals are.
“Our last meeting, there was a woman who’s been running a divey venue that has cool entertainment for 40 years. There’s a sociology professor at Temple University who also happens to be an accomplished D.J. There’s the head of a nightlife marketing agency, a woman who puts on events in the queer goth scene,” says Michael.
“I’ve met a lot of people who are part of different subcultures, which has been cool.”
So far, the group has done research projects about the legal processes of opening an arts space and how to make nighttime communities safer. They’ve also met with the city’s rape crisis centre to train bar and nightclub staff to “identify and de-escalate certain types of sexual harassment and assault situations.” They are currently working on a survey that will help shore up the broader goals of the city’s nightlife communities.
Michael says discussions about nightlife need to stop getting buried underground.
“Nightlife, arts and culture is a community, it’s a business, it’s a place of creativity and inclusion,” says Michael. “There are some people that care really deeply about this stuff. It’s either their livelihood, or it’s where they go to engage with music or community in a way that makes them feel safe or gives them a certain kind of release, and it’s very important to people’s identity and their sense of self.”
Meet the Champ:
Suze Guillaume works to help kids unleash their potential. Through a wide range of projects, she merges her degrees in communications and educational leadership with her passions for diversity, community and social innovation.
She is a published author: her latest book, “Do it Big, The Power of Living with Crazy Faith!” explores her own connection to faith. And Guillaume also helped her son publish a book, “EJ’s Exciting Road Trip.”
Suze’s innovation story: Suze’s latest project, the Beyond Literacy (B Lit) Pop-Up is all about bringing literacy to families where they’re at. It’s a library on wheels sharing culture, stories and books, especially those by local authors and artists.
The cart is decorated with art by 13-year-old Miami artist Valentina Elao González and has a tablet attached for kids to hang around and read e-books.
The pop-up launched at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, a community hub in the neighbourhood where Guillaume grew up and learned to read herself.
“I go into neighbourhoods that no one wants to go into. They say there’s too much violence, there’s too much crime, the parks are not accessible. I hear it all,” she says. “But I go in and see how children are ready to gain access to books.”
With a focus on accessibility, Suze hosts events in places where she knows community members already are, and makes sure to bring food and drinks each time.
“I see it as connecting with people and bringing resources to them. We just go and meet people where they are,” she says. “And I think that’s the hope of Beyond Literacy Pop Up, to find people where they are, to meet them there, and to bring the resources to them.”