On April 18 at Girard College, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) held a meeting in response to Robert Huber’s article “Being White in Philly,” the cover story in the March issue of Philadelphia magazine. Towards the end of the article, Huber asked that race be discussed openly. While this first of a series of meetings answered Huber’s call, it probably didn’t answer it in the way he hoped it would have.
Instead, the meeting served as a forum for the PCHR to hear about experiences and recommendations to improve life between different groups of people. Philadelphia editors were invited to attend the event but declined, citing worries about their First Amendment rights. Mayor Michael Nutter attended the meeting and spoke critically of Huber’s article. He disapprovingly remarked that the article was “incomplete and therefore false.” He believed that it didn’t paint a full picture.
Members of Rising Sons, a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged youths in the community, spoke about how their work within the community helps make it better. Others who disagreed with the article expressed the opinion that the state of the community, not race, is the issue. They also pointed out that decaying and abandoned buildings are part of the problem.
Many of the areas mentioned in Huber’s article are improving building by building. Whether it is the reconstruction of the Divine Lorraine, the utilization of the lot near Ridge Avenue and Brown Street, or the new, soon-to-open Rybread location in Brewerytown, Fairmount and its neighboring communities are improving. With every lot that is renovated, the community improves on both aesthetic and property value grounds. An investment in any area shows the idea that people want to live here.
This first PCHR-led conversation in response to “Being White in Philly” had people talking about how misinformed the article appeared to be. The discussion did not focus on the article’s topic of race in Fairmount and surrounding areas but rather om how to make the community stronger. While not on the exact topic, it was still fruitful because it helped paint a clear picture about what’s going on and where the Fairmount community stands, both internally and in relation to its neighbors.
Photo by the author