HG honors a poet, an entrepreneur and a preservationist

by Pryce Jamison, Germantown Info Hub
Posted 6/6/24

Historic Germantown has chosen three local luminaries for induction into its Hall of Fame.

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HG honors a poet, an entrepreneur and a preservationist


Historic Germantown has chosen three local luminaries for induction into its Hall of Fame: Poet and recording artist Ursula Rucker; Steve Kurtz, founder of Kurtz Construction Company; and Sara M. Lomax, entrepreneur, journalist and president and CEO of Philadelphia's WURD Radio. 

All three will be honored for their impact in their respective fields at the organization’s annual awards ceremony, which features a formal dinner and awards ceremony as well as a silent auction with items donated from local businesses and community members on June 7 at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Mt. Airy. 

"Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Northwest Philadelphia broadly, has such richness in terms of talent and vision,” said Tuomi Forrest, executive director of Historic Germantown. "Germantown can be painted in a negative light by the media and from people who don't live here, so this is a way to showcase what's positive and great about the community."

Ursula Rucker

Rucker, born in Germantown, raised in Mt. Airy, and a Germantown resident again for the past 21 years, is one of the neighborhood's most celebrated artists. She has released five solo albums and collaborated on songs with multiple other artists on music that ranges across genres such as house, electronic, dance, and hip hop. She has notably performed spoken-word pieces on the "Def Poetry Jam" series in the early 2000s and collaborated with The Roots on their 1995 album, "Do You Want More?!!!??!" and their 1999 album, "Things Fall Apart."

Rucker's face is also featured on two large Philadelphia murals that display empowerment messages: "We Still Here!" on Maplewood Mall in Germantown and "You Go Girl!" on the 1500 block of Ridge Avenue.

"I was 12 when I started writing, and I told myself to save my life as a little girl while in a loving, but crazy household; I had to find something for me," Rucker said. "As a Black woman, poetry is my culture. It saves my life when I share it with others."

"Everyone knows me to be super loving to my city – with all of its bumps, bruises and bright spots," she continued. "It's an ancient city, and I'm Philly all day, every day, but I'm also me: a mother of four sons, the poet who talks about a lot of feelings, what's happening in my life personally, and everywhere else."

Sara Lomax-Reese 

Lomax, president and CEO of WURD radio, has been running the station – the only African American-owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania and one of only three that remains in the country – since 2010.

WURD has grown significantly since her father, Walter P. Lomax, Jr., bought the small station in 2002. "My father's vision was always for WURD to be a place where the voices of the community could come and be heard," Lomax said.

"It's been a real journey of transformation, from us being a standalone AM talk radio station to now we're very much multimedia and multiplatform," Lomax added. "We have an app, a significant digital presence, we do a lot of community events, we're on AM and FM, and we also have an environmental justice initiative and a jobs and economy initiative."

Lomax, who sent her children to Germantown Friends School, feels a special connection to the neighborhood. "Germantown is one of those iconic communities in Philadelphia because of its history, diversity, and institutions. It's a special and fascinating part of the city," she said.

Lomax is also the co-founder of URL Media, a network of Black and Brown media organizations that share content and revenues to build more sustainability for one another. WURD Radio is a member of the URL Network. "Our strongest attribute is that we're really for and about the people, and there just aren't a lot of Black-owned media organizations that are doing the work that we're doing," Lomax said.

Steve Kurtz

Kurtz, founder of Kurtz Construction Company, has been restoring historic infrastructure throughout Germantown and the Northwest Philadelphia region for 53 years. Kurtz has renovated historic buildings such as the Stenton Mansion on the 4600 block of North 18th Street and the Awbury Arboretum on Awbury Road. He has also conducted many residential repairs in the area, offering services such as roofing, carpentry, door and window repair, and masonry. His son, Chris Kurtz, currently serves as the company's president.

Kurtz has also served as a board member for the Historic Rittenhouse Town and has done extensive volunteer work in community parks, where he picked up trash for 40 years and influenced many others to join the cause.

"Because of all the older houses in Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill, we [used to run into] difficult situations. Gradually, we learned how to restore them to the way they originally were," Kurtz said. "It's an honor. Germantown is a great place, and it has a lot of important houses."

Tickets are available at historicgermantownpa.org.