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May 16, 2024

A Brewerytown block will be renamed after Welcome America festival creator

Lana Felton-Ghee was a prominent public relations figure who also worked for the campaigns of several Philly politicians.

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Lana Felton-Ghee Way street renaming Streetview/Google Maps

The 2900 block of Girard Avenue will be renamed Lana Felton-Ghee Way after a Philly political activist and public relations leader who created the Welcome America festival.

Philadelphia is renaming a street in Brewerytown after the late Lana Felton-Ghee, who was a city community leader, political activist and event host. 

On Thursday, the city council unanimously approved a resolution to designate the 2900 block of Girard Avenue as Lana Felton-Ghee Way. Among other achievements, Felton-Ghee worked behind the scenes on campaigns for politicians and spearheaded events including the Welcome America festival and the city's 1776 bicentennial celebration.

MORE: What's happening during Wawa Welcome America? It's more than just fireworks and the concert with Ne-Yo and Kesha

"I remember she was a powerhouse," Councilmember Cindy Bass said Thursday. "She was a woman who was in control, in charge, and often she was the only woman in the room as significant political decisions were being made here in the city of Philadelphia." 

Felton-Ghee was born in 1947 and held a number of prominent positions in the city. According to her family, she was the regional director of the 1199C Hospital Workers Union before creating her public relations and events company, Lana Felton-Ghee Associates, in 1995. Her clients included the Criminal Justice Center, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company and the School District of Philadelphia. 

Felton-Ghee worked on a number of political campaigns, including for former mayors John F. Street and Wilson Goode. She was also reportedly a consultant for Bill Clinton and Al Gore's presidential campaigns. 

"She just did so much, creating political opportunities for the city and boosting our political leaders and connecting them with the community, creating opportunities for the youth," said Kierra Felton, Felton-Ghee's granddaughter. "She was just overall a trailblazer that knew how to galvanize the citizens of Philadelphia to achieve political results to help better the city, through her work in public relations, marketing and consulting to politicians."

As an event planner, she created the Philadelphia Freedom Festival, the city's July 4th celebration that eventually became the Wawa Welcome America Festival

Kierra Felton began the effort to rename the street in November for the 10-year anniversary of her grandmother's passing. (Felton-Ghee died in 2013 of Lou Gehrig's disease). The block was the former site of the Hat Shoppe, which Felton-Ghee owned alongside her husband, Jimmy Ghee. 

Lana Felton-GheeProvided Image/Kierra Felton

Lana Felton-Ghee was an influential figure in Philadelphia for decades.

When the family first decided to start a petition to rename the block, they were told they needed to collect 100 signatures in two days, said Shedrick Felton, the activist's son. He went to N. 29th Street and Girard Avenue, he said, and collected the signatures in two hours. 

"I was just elated that these people still remembered Lana and the things that Lana had done," he said, adding that it felt particularly special to have the block so close to the Art Museum area, where the Welcome America festivals take place. 

"The story of Lana Felton-Ghee is the story of opening doors and building a bridge from the past to the present," Kierra Felton said. "Her work is what created the infrastructure for so many things in the city as we know it today. But because she's no longer here and it's a new generation, I don't want that history to be forgotten."

The council also approved a measure to rename the 2300 block of Oakdale Street as Jill Scott Lane after the prominent musician who grew up in North Philadelphia.