Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a city with a fascinating, complicated history. On of the oldest cities in America, Philadelphia is rich with American cultural landmarks, untold stories, and a vibrant history of artistic contributions. Philadelphia is also home to the largest percentage of Black residents of America’s largest cities. Making up 43.4% of the population, Black people have an inextricable connection to this city’s foundation and it’s growth over decades, even centuries.
In recent years, however, the fullness and diversity of this population has gone largely ignored in favor of pathologizing and lamenting the difficulties they face.When people speak of Philadelphia these days, the focus is almost always on the gun violence and the poverty. Of America’s largest cities (1M+ residents), Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate (25.8%) and the highest deep poverty rate (13%). In 2017, 315 people were killed in this city, with 82% dying by gunfire. While the mayor and local government work to find solutions, the city continues to struggle; high poverty and high crime go hand-in-hand anywhere you go. The outlook often seems bleak and there are many who struggle with holding onto hope, but I know, for certain, there is more to Philadelphia than negative statistics.
I moved to Philadelphia in 2016, deciding to return to the city to help fight the fight against poverty. I went to the University of Pennsylvania for undergraduate school (CAS’02) and returned for post-grad work (SP2 ‘17). I became familiar with Philly’s struggles 20 years ago and now, I remain committed to elevating the stories of the people here–the Black people. When I moved back, I worked at Drexel University’s School of Public Health, managing the Witnesses to Hunger project, an anti-poverty advocacy project that elevates the first-hand testimonies of people living in poverty to influence legislation and push for change. After leaving there, I worked as Director of Community Partnerships & Strategy for North10, Philadelphia, an organization committed to revitalizing the Hunting Park neighborhood.
Now, I am taking a bit of a ‘life sabbatical’ to focus more on my own passions, including my writing, which is what most people know me for. I’m here to tell stories. I’m here to help. I’m here to make life better for as many people as I can.
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