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114th Pioneer Achievement
Award Recipient
Ceremony was Held Mon. May 20, 2024 11 a.m. in the Caucus Room at Philadelphia's City Hall




Writers, Children Book illustrators, musicians, doctors, CEOs... have walked our Frankford Halls.  So, it wasn't surprising that I would be scheduled to talk to Councilman-at-Large Isaiah Thomas, Class of 2002.  


The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, was named the hardest working man in the music industry.  It wasn't hard to see, as Councilman Thomas answered my questions on Zoom, while also juggling two meetings at the same time, and  later cyber-visiting his many community events and projects highlighted on the digital highway and social media--he'll easily snag that hardest working man title in the political 

arena in no time.

What I've learned about Councilman Thomas is that where there's an injustice or deficiency whether it's in education, the local economy, housing, social crises like gun violence and poverty--he'll find a way to help fix it.

Case in point...


“Pew’s 2019 State of the City found that only 2.5 percent of businesses in Philadelphia are Black-owned,” pointed out, Thomas. “We need to grow these existing businesses and encourage others to start their business in the city. We need to make it more attractive to do business in the city – I think that starts by highlighting success stories and providing tools for future successes."

How does it work?    

Councilman Thomas has host the #BlackOwnedBusinessCrawl across the City of Philadelphia, since 2019, during Black History month, through his social media platforms--(@CMThomasPHL on Facebook and Twitter).  The crawl consists of short video profiles from Black-owned businesses to encourage Philadelphians to support BlackLivesMatter by supporting and growing Black businesses in Philadelphia. 

One of the businesses spotlighted in the #Black Business Crawl made the New York Times top 50 restaurants in 2021.  Strawberry Mansion's      Down North Pizza.  

Down North Pizza Exterior with three men in front.jpg
Down North Pizza Interior.jpg
Down North Pizza's Square Pizza.jpg
Down North Pizza second Square pizza.jpg
Down North Pizza's Menu.jpg

What's unique about Down North Pizza, besides the square pizza  is the extraordinary job pre-requisite--everyone working in the kitchen were former prison inmates.  Muhammad Abdul-Hadji, Owner of Down North Pizza believes "just because you made mistakes or committed crimes, or things like that in the past, you can turn your life around," 

""What we try to do is highlight those Black businesses in the city that exist, doing great work so other people know they exist, and encourage people to support them as well as court them," said Thomas.

Second Case in Point...

Thomas chairs Council’s Streets and Education Committees and vice chairs the Children and Youth Committee. His most discussed achievement in City Hall was sponsoring the Driving Equality bill, which bans police from making traffic stops for minor offenses like a broken tail light. Thomas introduced a Citizen Watchdog bill to pay residents for reporting quality-of-life issues and joined Councilmember Richardson in creating a $1 Illuminate the Arts grant to give $1,000 to $25,000 to local artists.

Third Case in Point...

His experience as the boys' basketball coach at Sankofah Academy led him to introduce a bill to protect young athletes. The Nil Youth Protection Bill will provide financial literacy, risk assessment and educational materials to help guide high school student athletes and their families on the dangers of NIL deals. The bill would also set up the Philly NIL Youth Protection Fund, which allows families and student-athletes with the chance of signing NIL deals, the opportunity to meet with a city-vetted lawyer or accountant to help with negotiating or signing deals.

This father of two boys, Isaiah Jr., and Isaac, works hard at ensuring that all children are prepared for their future. 

Fourth Case in Point...


Birth of a Political Leader and Education Champion


In a Reclaim Philadelphia interview, Thomas explained that when he was a freshman at Frankford, his dad signed him up for the Freedom Schools summer program to make sure he had a job and spent his time in a positive way. 


Rooted in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, the Freedom School program is a free six-week reading and math enrichment for students k-8th, focusing on social action, conflict resolutions, intergenerational leadership and learning about the African diaspora. 


This became the most influential experience in his life and led him in the direction of political leadership.  


"Freedom School showed me that my history didn't start with slavery and that I come from the descendants of greatness. Through this work, I developed a love for education and learning; and was thrust into a leadership position becoming the youngest national trainer. In this role, I studied various social movements and the importance of organizing under the umbrella of servant leadership."

"Education is much more than about school. We need to hear from young people about culture, social dynamics, safety and their passions."


And I've barely scratched the surface.

Calling all 2000 to 2003 alumni and later New Millennium alumni-- come out to support one of your own at the Pioneer Achievement Award Ceremony on April 13, at 10 a.m. in Frankford's auditorium.    There's definitely more to come, so stay tuned.


Black Business Crawl  2019.jpg
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