Malik Upshur (right) talks to a 17th district police officer and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

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Updated 1:24 p.m.

After playing basketball with a friend in his neighborhood on Wednesday, Malik Upshur returned to his car to find something disturbing: Ku Klux Klan materials left on his windshield.

Upshur, a black man, lives on the 1600 block of Kater Street in Graduate Hospital. He’s lived there for 40 years, sharing a home with his 94-year-old grandmother.

“This is the first time I’ve seen something like this,” Upshur said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “I never thought in my lifetime that I would experience something like this in the city.”

But incidents like these appear to be on the rise in the region. Just two months ago, an African American family in Tacony received a racist letter threatening to “fire bomb” their home. Bridesburg residents also found KKK materials distributed around their neighborhood in June. And in May, the KKK’s Loyal White Knights spread leaflets around a community in Hatboro, Montgomery County.

District 2 Councilman Kenyatta Johnson — who grew up in Graduate Hospital — suggested that the distribution of hateful materials worsens the tension connected to Graduate Hospital’s ongoing gentrification.

He also thinks the incident was directly connected to Upshur’s race.

“He’s the only African American resident that lives on the block,” Johnson said. “It just so happened that this car ended up on his windshield, an African American. I call that more than a coincidence.”

“While the distribution of this literature is not illegal, given the violent history of the organization, I believe it is dangerous and highly inappropriate,” he added.

Blown up photos of the KKK business cards left on Malik Upshur’s windshield Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Since November 2016, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has documented 192 instances of hate and bias of various kinds — 107 of which have been confirmed, per PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau.

In this instance, Landau does not seem optimistic they’ll find the perpetrators.

“The action that happened here in this district is very difficult to track down the perpetrators sometimes,” she said. “But it does not mean that there’s not pain that happens to the victim, as well as a ripple effect that happens to the entire community.

“It’s very important that during times like this, communities come together and speak out to make sure this doesn’t happen in other parts of the city,” Landau added.

What we know

  • Two KKK business cards were left on Upshur’s windshield on Wednesday afternoon in Graduate Hospital
  • Upshur has reported the incident to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the 17th District Police Department
  • PCHR recognizes these specific business cards — Landau said they’ve been seen before in Northwest Philly
  • This is the first PCHR-documented instance like this in Graduate Hospital
  • This incident isn’t illegal, per Landau
  • KKK-linked propaganda has been spotted elsewhere in the region recently

What we don’t

  • Who specifically distributed the business cards
  • Whether it’s a hate crime — that depends if the distributor knew that Upshur was a black man, per officials
  • What Councilman Kenyatta Johnson plans to do about it, other than hold press conferences
  • Whether PCHR or Philly police will pursue an investigation, or find the distributor
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Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...