Dendy Summer

Written and photographed during Summer 2018. Published in part on PlanPhilly in August 2018.

Kids from R.W. Brown Summer Camp play on the swings.

Dendy feels like magic. That’s the thought that ran through my mind the first time I went to my neighborhood rec center for a swim one June evening.

Less and More sit on the bleachers at Dendy.

Golden light washed over the crowded pool, a tight ship run by "Ms. Joanne," as Dendy Playground pool maintenance associate Joanne Williams-Campbell is known. (She has strict rules: no towels or shoes on the pool deck; all swimmers must shower before and after going into the water.) The water ice truck parked at the curb blared Christmas tunes while the line of antsy kids only got longer.

A boy rides his bike across the basketball court.

Kids on bikes popped wheelies as they criss-crossed the basketball courts during breaks in summer-league contests. Conversations, children's games, and SEPTA trains roaring past overhead joined birdsong in the air. The bright blue sky slowly turned orange, then faded to navy.

From left: Sisters Savannaha Marion, 15, Cionne Richardson, 13, and their mother Michelle Richardson look at a caterpillar on the blacktop at Dendy.

This is how every summer night at Dendy is, I found out. Taking up the entire block at 10th and Oxford Streets in North Philadelphia, the playground is the center of the community.

Coach Jazzy Harvey blows his whistle during a basketball game.

This project aims to show the place, but more importantly the people and the feeling, of a community.

From left: Jashsier Birckett, 12, and Rashad Arrieta, 11, shoot hoops on a Friday morning.

I never expected to photograph it when I first went there. Marie Dendy Playground was just the closest pool to me as I stayed the summer alone in my apartment near the Temple campus, and I was set on getting in the water. I’d been eyeing the pool since I went to Dendy to cast my vote in my first presidential election in 2016, and now the time had come. 

Quamir Jones does a cannonball into the pool.

Swimming was supposed to be a break after spending my days interning with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s photo staff. But the feeling that night was impossible to ignore; the magic was palpable, and I knew I had to document it. 

Keith Bolden dunks a basketball as the sun sets behind Dendy.

Dendy is a summer oasis, offering a chance to cool down from the heat in a Philly neighborhood that’s hotter than average, plus affordable recreation for an area where median income ranges from $20,000 to $28,000. It’s also a hub of neighborhood life, with cookouts, basketball tournaments, and summer camp.

A North Philadelphia resident poses for a portrait on a Saturday night.

It soon became my oasis, too, with a regular cast of smiling basketball players and toddlers and parents and everyone else, who soon came to know me (fondly, I hope) as “the Camera Lady.”

A young Philadelphian swings.

Images from the over 1,300 shot there this summer have been shared with community members in person, via Instagram hashtag #dendysummer, and prints now hang inside the rec center.

Mimi, 2, peers through the fence.

Philadelphia's sugary beverage tax has spurred debate among residents, though revenue from it will go to fund the Rebuild program, which will bring much-needed improvements to the city's rec centers and libraries; it's civic infrastructure that makes moments like these possible.

Mister Moe serves ice cream to eager children.

As my lease comes to a close, so does my time at Dendy, but I rest assured the magic will always be there.

© 2019 by Maggie Loesch

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