Andre Jones is the Associate Director of Education for Philadelphia Young Playwrights and an Independent Graphic Illustrator/Fine Artist, as well as this week’s #PeopleofWilmDE! Read his story below:
“I was born and raised in West Philadelphia. Went to Overbrook High School where I was both an Art Major and three sport athlete (Football, Basketball and Track). I worked as a muralist for the City of Philadelphia after graduating from The Art Institute of Philadelphia until 1993. Went to Cheyney University and Graduated with my BA in Theater in 1995 and one of my first jobs was a customer service representative position at Beneficial Bank (now part of WSFS) in downtown Wilmington. I currently live in North Wilmington not far from Concord Ave. I’ve been living in Wilmington for 18 years since 2003.
I have my sister and my parents here. We all live within ten minutes of a drive from each other, so my children are close to their cousins and grandparents. We live close to 95 and the trains so we can get anywhere fairly easy like New York, Philly, New Jersey, Maryland, or DC. But we can also enjoy living laid back in Wilmington. We also love tax free shopping (of course!).
I have two favorite attractions here. The Wilmington Fringe Festival and The St. Anthony’s Italian Festival. A close third is the Ice Cream Festival and Delaware Shakespeare Performances in Rockford Park. But Small Business Saturdays (807 N. Union Street) and Sunday Pop up Shops at Artzscape (205 N. Market Street) are fast becoming new favorites.
The 2013 Wilmington Fringe Festival is one of my favorite Wilmington memories, specifically the production of my one-man show, Off. That was a good time.
I would say that Wilmington has a multi-neighborhood feel that is reminiscent of Philadelphia. But, its unique blend of being chill and yet urban enough to encourage your entrepreneurial spirit sets it apart from a lot of places.
I’m active in the community. My wife (Pam) and I are Deacons at The Resurrection Center Church where we have participated in serving meals to the homeless at the Wilson Hicks Center for Christmas for several years. We are the Word Alive Drama Ministry leaders at The Resurrection Center as well. I taught drama at Christina Cultural Arts Center (both independent study and with Heart Under the Hoodie). I directed the groundbreaking play #Blackjobsmatter and helped to facilitate conversation between city political leaders and citizens primarily from the 19801, 19802 and 19805 zip codes. I participated in COVID-19 free rapid testing through our church and partnership with St. Francis Hospital. I served as the 2013 Emerging Artist Fellow for the Delaware Division of the Arts and I’m currently with Small Business Saturdays and Artzscape Sunday pop up shops. We collectively are connecting the community at large with local small businesses.
Becoming the Emerging Artist Fellow in 2013 was pretty sweet. I was in grad-school at Temple at the time. And my professor had tried to produce a seed of doubt in my mind about my ability to write plays. So, I sent plays to the Delaware Division of the Arts. I told myself if this didn’t work out I was going to be done writing because maybe my professor was right. But I got the Fellowship. And with it I took a gap year from my studies and produced two play readings, one full length production, a film and a one act play… and then I went back to school. And although the professors said the same things I continued to do me and earned my MFA. So yeah, I’d say that’s one of my proudest moments other than my two eldest children graduating from Cab Calloway School of the Performing Arts.
As we get back out into the community, one of the biggest concerns I have is whether as a country we will rush to busy ourselves in an effort to go back to the status quo or if we’re able to pivot toward new possibilities between communities, cultures and commerce.
My biggest hope is that the big money interests shift their thinking to allow for the voices of the little-or-seldom heard into the room when they are deciding on projects. I know it sounds idealistic but if we just try to imagine – think about the difference between intent and impact, we can avoid adversely impacting those who get excluded and possibly positively impact growth by expanding opportunities for a wider range of talented and skilled people.
For Wilmingtonians: understand that your wealth is not monetary. Your wealth is in your ability to imagine and create. Whatever you dream you can achieve, particularly if you pay more attention to your dreams than what people have to say about them.
This story is one of my favorites: There was a little boy who saw a caterpillar. He watched it climb the trunk of a tree and out to one of its farthest extending branches. He ran to tell his mother. Days passed and all the little boy could see was what looked like a small sack dangling from the branch. And one day the sack cracked open and the boy was convinced the caterpillar was trying to get out so he called his mother and then ran out to the tree trunk and started to climb. But as he tried to climb his mother tugged on his shirt and pulled him down. ‘But, Mom, it’s struggling!’ the boy exclaimed. ‘I know,’ his mother said. ‘But if you help him, he’ll never gain strength in his wings.’ And then she sat the boy on her lap and said, ‘Never forget, every tub must sit on its own bottom.’ Translation: there is work for you that only you can do.”