His congregation calls him Joshua, so the Rev. Kevin R. Johnson decided to emulate the Old Testament leader.

The head pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church on North Broad Street plans to lead a silent march at 5:45 a.m. on Easter, around the old John Wanamaker Middle School, to "claim [it] for God and to claim it for the North Philadelphia community," Johnson said.

The school, which two years ago was the refuge for displaced Hurricane Katrina victims, is being sold by the Philadelphia School District, spokeswoman Felecia Ward confirmed. It's unclear whether a prospective buyer has been identified.

Just as Joshua circled Jericho seven times before the walls came a-tumbling down in the Bible story, Johnson said he and the marchers will circle the school property, at 11th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, seven times. "We will watch the walls of gentrification come tumbling down.

"They can't come into our community and gentrify it," said Johnson, senior minister of Bright Hope since Feb. 1. The area on Broad Street between Oxford Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue - near Bright Hope and the school - has been home to a $100 million entertainment complex, Avenue North, since late last year.

"The American Dream is about people being homeowners," he said. "I'm afraid North Philadelphia residents are going to be cheated out of those dreams." *