The following comes to us from Sophilia Hubbard, a volunteer with People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia. Hubbard attended the April 21 public forum, “Philadelphia Neighborhoods in Flux,” and wrote this in response.
My name is Sophilia Hubbard. I am originally a native of Virginia, but applied to a one-year program called Mission Year which brought me to Philadelphia!
In Mission Year, you volunteer 35 hours a week at a non-profit or a school. My volunteer site is located in West Philadelphia. It is called People’s Emergency Center. PEC is a community development corporation. PEC’s mission is to nurture families, strengthen neighborhoods and drive change in West Philadelphia.
What struck me as interesting Tuesday night is the comment Mr. De’Wayne Drummond [president of the Mantua Civic Association] made concerning gentrification. Gentrification is definitely a heart-breaking concern in the black community. It is a topic that I do not fully understand and that I wish to continue to be open to deepening my understanding of. But all the while I am trying to be okay with it, the facts and what I see ring true. My people (black people) are being forced out of their neighborhoods, because developers see potential that my people can’t afford. (Taxes go up among other changes that start to affect the places we used to call home.) Things are changing and we (black people) are just overlooked and forced out, and said communities are being redeveloped, and not with our (black people’s) best interests in mind.
This is why it is important for youth as well as entire black communities to speak up, attend meetings, vote — and then stay on our legislatures to help to provide resources and help us build stronger communities with black people, or just low income folks in general, in mind.
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.—Frederick Douglass
Education was also a hot topic at our table discussion. Philadelphia schools and children are deprived of knowledge. Everyone wants the best for their children no matter the thing that divides us (race, economic status, nationality etc.). We must do better.
Sophilia Hubbard is an administration and outreach assistant at People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia.