Last night's concluding segment of the 10-series "Greater Philadelphia Roundtable," presented by The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, sought to wrap up much of the previous proceedings with a presentation called "City of Neighborhoods, City of Homes."
Held at the recently renovated (and renamed) Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent (to be officially unveiled in June), the panel riffed off of the Encyclopedia's most recently added essay, which addressed the same topic.
Joining the essay's author, Linn Washington, a journalism professor at Temple University, were Domenic Vitiello, a University of Pennsylvania city and regional planning professor, and Thoai Nguyen, of SEAMAAC, a community organization whose mission is to provide assistance to immigrant and refugee populations. The panel was moderated by Carolyn Adams, a professor of geography and urban studies at Temple.
Although panelists touched upon some of the points that Washington examined in his entry — everything from geographic boundaries to urban renewal — eventually the three seemed to settle on race and ethnicity as the driving forces (or, at least, the most interesting ones) in how neighborhoods develop and change.
Vitiello who specializes in studying immigration patterns, for example, spoke of growing up in Mt. Airy, where he still lives, and how he eventually came to understand how "very strange" the neighborhood was. Its ability to remain ethnically diverse through the decades is, he said, "exceptional," making it one of just a handful in the country to do so.
Race baiting and the like, he said, had never been tolerated and person-to-person relationships had always been emphasized. There's a lot of value, he said, in bringing people a welcoming "casserole".
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