Historic Germantown’s annual Hall of Fame Ceremony is approaching, and the organization’s executive director, Tuomi Forest, emphasized that the event will once again “look at people that have had an impact and connection locally, but also often are seen regionally or even nationally as leaders in their fields.” 

The ceremony will be on June 7 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Mt. Airy. Every year, only three neighborhood figures are selected as honorees, who are the night's primary focus. 

This year, world-renowned 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, will be honored for their impact in their respective fields. 

“We look for a range of sectors to be represented; [it can be] people from the arts community and all of its different disciplines, civic or community leaders, education or academia, the faith community, or the business community,” Forrest said. “We’re really looking for a wide range of areas.” 

Historic Germantown begins the selection process every year by gathering honoree nominations from the general public. They welcome new suggestions and suggestions from previous years that weren’t selected. Then, a small committee of community board members makes an initial selection of eight to ten suitable candidates.

Those eight to ten names then go to Historic Germantown's governing board, which narrows it down to the three finalists.

The event will feature a seated dinner where community members can socialize. Then, the formal ceremony will commence, with videos of each honoree and their work displayed. Each honoree will be introduced by a friend, family member, or colleague and brought to the stage to make their remarks.

There will also be a silent and live auction, with items donated from local businesses and community members. 

Online tickets are available for purchase on Historic Germantown’s website. 

“It’s a major public program, but it’s a major annual fundraising event as well,” Forrest said. “It’s critical to supporting our ability to manage the consortium and offer services and support to our member sites and to the wider public community.”

For Ursula Rucker, this honor is one that she profoundly holds dear and is a full-circle moment for her and the community that molded her into the artist she is.

“I was having a rough moment in time, and then my friend texted me [and told me I was selected]. It was one of the most exciting things that has happened to me in quite some time,” Rucker said. “This is Germantown! This is so much for my family, so much for me, so much for everyone who lives here; it’s historical. Everything in Philly wrapped up into one piece is in this place right here.”

Rucker has released five solo albums and about 350 collaborative songs with a multitude of artists, making her mark as an artist with heartfelt messages recorded over 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.

As someone who was born in Germantown, raised in Mt. Airy, and has resided in Germantown again for the past 21 years, her upbringing and connection with the community inspire her greatly.

“Everyone knows me to be super loving to my city that I know with all of its bumps, bruises and bright spots. It’s an ancient city, and I’m Philly all day, every day, but I’m also me,” Rucker said. “A mother of four sons: the poet who talks about a lot of feelings, what’s happening in my life personally, and [things happening] everywhere else [to help people find] something called peace or love.”

The Leeway Foundation describes her poetry as stories of struggle, love, womanhood, peace, anger, injustice, and spirituality.

Her 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 ass 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.”

Sara Lomax deeply made her connection locally, personally and professionally, and she feels that the foundation of her family-owned WURD radio directly connects with what Germantown embodies.

“I was really honored and surprised; the Hall of Fame is a category that you don’t naturally think you’re going to be inducted into,” Lomax said. “I feel like Germantown is one of those very iconic communities in Philadelphia because of the history, diversity, and institutions. It’s a special and fascinating part of the city, and I’m really excited about the event.” 

It is the only African-American-owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania and is one of only three that remains in the country.

“We cover the Germantown community, and it’s a very vibrant, Black community within Philadelphia. WURD is a Black talk radio station,” Lomax said. “We are deeply embedded in Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Germantown is absolutely one that we’re committed to.”

WURD celebrated its 20th anniversary in November 2023. Lomax has been running the station since 2010 and has seen it evolve both in the media and throughout the city since its origin.

“My father, [Walter P. Lomax, Jr.], bought the station in 2003. It was really acquired to maintain and amplify the black community, [giving people] a voice and a vehicle to speak 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.”

She was also a member of the School Committee (Board of Trustees) of Germantown Friends School while her three sons attended the institution. Despite raising her children in Cheltenham Township, their educational upbringing and much of her community engagement work took place in Northwest Philadelphia.

“I spent a lot of time in the Germantown area since 2001 until my youngest son graduated in 2022,” Lomax said. “That was a good 20 years of me being very involved in a school that’s situated in the heart of Germantown and has been very active in serving and engaging with the surrounding community.”

She 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 in Philly or in the country that are doing the work that we’re doing,” Lomax said.

Kurtz Construction Company, founded by Steve Kurtz, has been in business for 53 years and has made its architectural impact by restoring old and historic infrastructure throughout Germantown and the Northwest Philadelphia region. 

“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. “We’ve done a lot of buildings in Germantown. Every now and then, we’ll do a new roof on a new house, but 95 percent of our work is on older [buildings].”

Kurtz Construction 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.

Outside of local endeavors, his company has done “important jobs at Valley Forge and West Point in Washington D.C.,” as well as work at “a lot of churches and a lot of university buildings that were built in the 1800s,” according to Kurtz.

“It’s an honor, and I think highly of the people at Historic Germantown,” Kurtz said. “Germantown is a great place, and it has a lot of very important houses, not just historic buildings; a lot of people live in [Germantown] houses, and they care about keeping them the right way.”

According to Forrest, The Germantown Hall of Fame started as a program of the Germantown Historical Society, with an event throughout the 1990s that honored contemporary history makers with a connection to Northwest Philadelphia.

“That program ran for [about] a decade and a half, and then it was put to the side and [wasn’t run for years.] When Historic Germantown started management of the Historical Society, we dusted off the event and reintroduced it in 2018 as a rebirth of the concept,” Forrest said. 

“Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Northwest Philadelphia broadly, has such richness in terms of talent and vision, and not everyone that’s not living in the neighborhood realizes that,” Forrest said. “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.”