The Advocate Cafe, the soup kitchen at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, is 34 years old and has its roots in the Black Panther Party. It was established as part of a food program, and it’s still an anchor point in one of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods. With a sympathetic eye, filmmaker Petr Lom follows the kitchen staff, volunteers and guests for two years, and records what happens when an undocumented Mexican family asks for sanctuary at the church.
As pastor Renee McKenzie points out, reaching out to undocumented immigrants marks a new chapter in the church’s long tradition of social justice activism. And so, a classroom in the church basement is converted into a home for Carmela Hernandez and her four children. Helping those in need is all about “giving back,” in the words of former Black Panther Barbara Easley-Cox, who has been involved with the church and the cafe since the early days. Or, as she determinedly states in this heartening film, “Carmela’s story is our story.”