Earlier this summer, I was able to connect with high school-aged youth in Philly through the Education in our Barrios Project. After spending time in North and South Philly, some of the high schoolers said they appreciated being in parts of Philadelphia that they’d never really spent time in before.
“You all know more about Philly than I do,” one of them commented.
As diverse as cities like Philadelphia are, we don’t always cross borders into other neighborhoods or surrounding areas. Sometimes it’s because of turf wars and cultural differences, or we may not feel comfortable because of economic differences. Sometimes it’s just misunderstandings.
For folks who grow in a specific place, it makes sense that you develop these borders or, at the very least, biases around what you are familiar with. Being new to the area myself, it’s very apparent that people born and raised in Philadelphia and its suburbs love their neighborhoods.
I’m not naive to the fact that some communities are not always welcoming of outsiders, but if we don’t think about being border-crossers, we might really be missing out on the richness of the people and places that we call home.
So try to plan a “staycation” and cross some borders this summer. Here are few things to keep in mind while planning.
Be very intentional about fostering an openness and interest in crossing borders. For grown-ups in particular, we sometimes have to do some un-learning of the borders we have built up in our head. For younger kids, you can build on their curiosity about the world, by suggesting places to visit and events to go to.
Before you cross into another community, it’s also important to use cultural differences as opportunity rather than an obstacle. In other words, it’s important to recognize that crossing borders often means you are going into a community that may be culturally different from your own. So the key is to focus on maintaining a tone of respect by observing and asking questions about the context rather than assuming you already know all you need to know about a neighborhood.
Do some homework
Finding events in specific neighborhoods is key. And yet, when you open up tourist material you’ll see some neighborhoods are completely missing. Successful border crossing happens when you do some additional homework. You might want to start by checking out the city’s top 50 events and exhibits of the year.
The more helpful thing to do is to find neighborhood-based organizations. A great place to get more information from is the Philadelphia neighborhoods page. Some community-based organizations like the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Asian Americans United and United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia are also good sites to check out.
And for those teens who wouldn’t be caught dead with a parent, encourage them to consider getting a Students at Museums in Philly (STAMP) pass.
Do you have any suggestions for crossing into different communities? Are there neighborhoods and places you recommend?