Eugene Thomas, known to many Philadelphians as “Buddha,” got his nickname from his Korean mother when he was just a baby. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that today, Buddha is an advocate for peace and community building, centered in his native Frankford neighborhood.
Growing up, Buddha had mentors in coaches and oldheads. But even as a youth, he craved more hands-on guidance. So, in 2014, he, Nafisha Lewis and Lakiesha Butler, both childhood friends and fellow community organizer, created Power Circle Mentors, a neighborhood nonprofit focused on youth development and mentorship through fun and introspective activities. On July 29, he’s hoping more than youth will turn out for a free community event. Buddha and some other neighborhood organizers have taken on the ambitious work of reviving a legendary Northeast Philly tradition: Frankford Day.
“Growing up in Frankford, there’s two days you always gon’ anticipate: One of them is Frankford Day, and the other one is 224 Day, where the drill teams come out and perform,” says Buddha. He describes Frankford Day as “one big community picnic” where hundreds of residents would spend hours in the summer sun cooking out, bouncing in inflatables, and playing kickball on the Frankford Chargers football field until the time came to break out a few cold ones and chop-it-up with a neighbor.
Buddha explains that the older community organizers stopped holding the celebration about three years ago. When “people were still asking about it, we thought: What can we do to bring something like that back to Frankford?” says Buddha. For the third year in a row, Power Circle Mentors is organizing the Frankford Day and Night Market — which, Buddha says, is like Frankford Day, only bigger.
The Frankford Day and Night Market
The Frankford Day and Night Market is rooted in the idea of unity, welcoming not just Northeast Philly neighbors, but everyone in Philadelphia. Says Young Majjy, one of Buddha’s collaborators: “The market brings everybody together as a community. It’s so important to have events like this, where everything’s safe, and everyone’s having a nice vibe, with basketball and music. It’s what the youth and the city need.”
The pop-up fair — on July 29, from 3 to 8pm at 4800 Ditman Street, same location as the previous event — features food trucks and vendors: Sweet Treats, Jamming J’s , Family Funnel cake, Doc’s Water Ice, Pink Drizzle, and Netflix Sugar Rush contestant The Fancy Crumb. Local clothing line Add to the Convo will be there too.
Buddha describes the Market as “heavy on entrepreneurship” featuring small Philly vendors. Still, there’s tons for the community. Kids will get a kick out of free bounce houses, games and activities. A local drill team and others will perform. Police will be there to cultivate a safe and protected environment.
At 4pm, attendees can head over to the basketball court with their vended treats to watch the Frankford Unity Basketball tournaments: Oldheads vs. Police League at 5pm; Down the Way vs Up Da Way at 6pm; winners play at 7pm. Profits from vendor fees are donated to the Frankford Chargers Organization and Power Circle Mentors.
Saturday July 29, 3 pm-8 pm, free, 4800 Ditman Street. Want to get out there on the court and show ’em what you got? DM @1donnwine or @mywayant on instagram. Interested in vending, volunteering, or sponsoring the Frankford Day and Night Market? Email [email protected] or call (445) 215-5648.