Access and Opportunity
Kenneth Gamble, a rhythm and blues legend, and influential Philadelphia community developer, has his wife and plenty of dirty dishes to thank for launching his music career and his thriving, nonprofit development business.
After graduating from high school, Gamble worked as a dishwasher for a busy diner in the Philadelphia area. When he saw how little money he made for so many hours of hard work, he knew he needed to aspire to a career that did not leave him with dishpan hands every day. “That will straighten you out right away,” Gamble said. “It was unbelievable.”
Decades later, after he and his partner, Leon Huff, had established themselves as two of America’s most talented soul and R&B producers with best-selling hits such as “Wake Up Everybody,” “Love Train” and “Me & Mrs. Jones,” it was Gamble’s wife, Faatimah Gamble, who inspired him to launch a career in community development, after Gamble expressed his concern about rising levels of decay and abandonment in the city.
Beginning in 1980, he spent more than $7 million of his own money and purchased 120 rundown properties. Later, he moved his family to his old South Philadelphia neighborhood. And, in 1993, he created Universal Community Homes, a nonprofit community development corporation, which has since built and rehabilitated many homes and schools in the Greater Philadelphia area.
It may seem like an odd pairing—writing/producing mega R&B hits and developing homes and schools—but listen to the songs that Gamble and Huff wrote and produced and it will not seem so odd.
“A lot of our music had social commentary to it,” Gamble said, referring to songs like Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody,” which he and Huff produced.
“The world won’t get no better, if we just let it be. The world won’t get no better, we gotta change it, yeah, just you and me,” repeats the song’s chorus. “Wake up all the builders, time to build a new land. I know we can do it, if we all lend a hand,” intones another lyric in the song.
For Gamble, a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a National Academy of Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, one of the beautiful things about music, art and culture is that they have a life of their own that lasts and permeates society. “Music, art and culture outlive the generations they come from,” he said, adding that they not only help shape society, but provide valuable windows of insight into past civilizations.
Today’s students who wish to pursue a career in the music industry, he said, should soak up as much knowledge and experience as they can about the business side of the industry while pursuing their dream.
During the early 1960s, Gamble said he worked at Jefferson University Hospital as a endocrinology medical technician, owned a record store in South Philadelphia, wrote songs and performed at night. The job at Jefferson gave him steady income. Owning the record store allowed him to experience the business side of music. And, writing music and playing the night gigs allowed him to pursue his dream. “You got to have a lot of irons in the fire,” he said.
The Arts, Entertainment, Aerobics,
and Auto Care and Repair
All Brought to You by CCPTV
Faculty and staff from Community College of Philadelphia are using their talents to educate and inform Philadelphians through programs, interviews and performances on CCPTV, the College’s public education cable channel.
“CCPTV offers high quality educational programming that features what our students are doing and what the College has to offer. It provides an outlet for faculty and staff to showcase what they can bring to the community, students and education,” said Allan Kobernick, producer of CCPTV and director of Multimedia Services.
Shows hosted by College faculty and staff cover a variety of topics, including automotive repair, finance and economics, aerobics, yoga, nutrition, computer technology and culinary arts. College Multimedia Services staff and student interns serve as the production
crew. The Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society and its faculty host a “Perspectives” series that highlights local leaders discussing current legal and societal issues. The vice president of Academic Affairs, Judith Gay, Ph.D., talks with faculty members about outstanding academic achievements for the show “Academic Dialogues.” The “Philadelphia Cultural Forum,” hosted by Gina MacKenzie, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, features musical and theatrical performances by individuals from the College and by local performers, musicians, photographers and artists, and includes a discussion of their art.
Some of CCPTV’s programs have also been offered in Spanish. In a year and a half, CCPTV has involved more than 150 faculty and staff members in projects, and more than 400 guests from the College and the community have appeared on the station’s programs.
The largest and most unique collaboration among colleagues and students at the College will air this fall. The Quartet Project, or Q Project, involves faculty, staff and students in the creation of a full-scale production of a “reality show.”
Kobernick and MacKenzie received a mini-grant from the College’s Foundation to create the Q Project, a mini-movie that documents the development of a teleplay. A call for the play went out to the College community, and every aspect of writing and selecting the play, as well as preparing the performance, was shot single camera film style. The first three episodes are documentaries about the production of the play, and the fourth is the finished production.
“The project was a tremendous experience for the students and us,” said MacKenzie. “The interns got to shine and be very hands-on.”
New episodes of regularly scheduled programs are ready to air this fall, including “Art History Abbreviated” segments, which feature Art faculty talking for 3 to 5 minutes about
well-known works of art and artists. “They are fun for us, and they are fun for people to watch. We have covered Picasso, Da Vinci, Monet and Egyptian art,” said Sarah Iepson, assistant professor of Art.
“We are working toward having a complete lineup of shows so they have their own time slot,” said Kobernick.
To view previously aired episodes and see a broadcast schedule, visit www.ccp.edu/ccptv.