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The Truth About Philadelphia

Kathy Tomasky
Community Activist, West Philadelphia and Manayunk

Question #5 What do you believe is the secret to living together peacefully in the city of Philadelphia?

Glenn: Well you've.. you sort of touched on it a little bit, but if you, if you look, umm, if I ask you what do you believe is the secret to living together peacefully in this City? Because there are problems in this City, there are problems between, you know, people to trying to get along and races and all...

Kathy: Again, again, economics. Uh, I think you get a person buys a home, and then they don't have the money to afford the house. The next thing you know, uh, the, uh, uh, the gutter falls down. And then they leave it that way. And then it needs to be painted, and then they don't paint it. And the deterioration. And the other people who're keeping up their homes are saying, hey, what, you know, what are they doing over here? You know that's, that's not what. We're paying to live in a nice neighborhood and why aren't they? So it starts to cause. Then they'll say well we don't like it here any more, cause these people aren't taking care of their homes. So we're gettin out. And then they'll go to Montgomery County or whatever.

So I'm. I'm for street 'scaping. I'm. I'm really believing. And I believe that you could live peaceably. Like, I see a lot of black and white people living on the same lot, getting along, because they seem to be on that, I know this sounds really crazy, main, the money angle. Like, they're all professional people. You know what I'm saying? Where they have a stake in the community. They're, they're not renters. They're not there on Section 8. They're real, they're homeowner's and they have the same incentive and goals as the white person who started that, the neighborhood. And that's what I think.

And as far as peace, well I think it starts with economics. And it's a cruel thing to say sometime, but I think economics plays a role in everything we do, because it doesn't, it seems like white people don't mind black people moving in, as long as they're on the same status they are. But as soon as they see, like what happened in South Philly, with maybe they think it's a Section 8. Then everybody gets crazy.

So they're, so the Government, by having Section 8 housing and putting them in a stable neighborhood where they should have sold the house, then I think it hurts the neighborhood, because they're saying these people are here for nothing. And we worked our butts off to buy this house. And I think that starts a resent.

So I think sometime the Government plays, uh, the part of the villain. Where the people aren't. I think they're, they throw it in your face. And they say, you know, uh, well this is how you have to take this. But it seems like, when another group or another race comes in, whether it's Chinese, or Vietnamese, or whatever; they don't seem to mind if they're on the same economic uh, uh, ladder as the person that's already there. That's what I think.

I think they resent, uh, not poor people, but people that are coming in with fringe around the, around the, the windows of their car, you know. And I think that's what a lot of it is too. But I find that changing a little bit. Umm, I don't see too much unless it's over and the neighborhoods are shot.

I was just thinking when, before you guys came, about the Boulevard. You know, in the old days, the Boulevard was the place to be. And then as, you know, as the neighborhood went, as they say, everybody started moving up and up. And that's the same way it was in West Philadelphia. When things got bad in West Philadelphia, they sort of moved up to Overbrook Park. And then the next step was in Wynwood. And that's the same way it is, it looks like in the Boulevard.

When things got bad, you know, the, we used to have a saying from welfare to Mayfair. (LAUGH) Like a joke, you know? But anyhow in the mean time, they move up, out, further and further out. You know? Because the, by that time, it's too, either too dangerous or your home value has deteriorated so bad, it isn't worth staying any more.

So I think as far as living peacefully again, the question I think, we're never going to live peacefully if we don't live together economically. And that doesn't mean you have to have money to, to survive. But you, you should, you do. I could see. And I see a lot of the black people couldn't stand it. And they went aw, they got away. They went away too. So it wasn't only the white. I saw black flight goin from North Philly to Mount Airy, or to Chestnut Hill. So I saw that too in my day, in my time.

I think that. So, yeah, that's a hard question. But I think it's, again, I'll go back to economics. It seems like the, the neighborhoods that are integrated, and their on the same level as money coming in, you know? I think they get along fine.

I think it's the, it's the Gray's Ferry issue. For instance, I could see what happened. Gray's Ferry people, they lived there. They worked hard for their little home. They couldn't go any further. There maybe a lot of, uh. To me, the basic makeup of Gray's Ferry was low class Irish, lower class. I mean that in money wise. And then they worked hard and they loved their homes. And then they saw the Section 8's come in. And they say, wow, you know, it, it's better not to have anything and get a Section 8. Look at this?

And I think. And it just so happened that the poor soul was black, so they are working against one another, it doesn't promote the City. And I think the people in the City are beginning to realize that there's about Philadelphia is the fact that as Latinos, we have made a significant contribution to the City of Philadelphia. We took the ng of some other incidents 'cause we did realize how open Philly is on, in both extremes. Because, you know, there's everyday I walk home from work and strangers off the street, you know, if you, if I make eye contact or if they make eye contact it's like hi. And it's a sweet smile back, always, you know. Or, umm, that one time you walked to work and some woman across the street was sneezing like crazy, loud, everyone could hear her and you could hear some guy on the other side, bless you. Somebody else, bless you and she's like thank you. (Laughter.) You know, it's so great, you know to have that on some busy, crazy street down town. And so that's, it's you know that friendliness and, okay so we, we can go back to the City of Brotherly Love. But that's so true, you know, you have that aspect and then you have the City That Loves You Back, so you really have to love it first, you know, and accept it for what it is ... (Laughter.) ... before it loves you back. And I think that there's so much, there's some truth into that. (Laughter.)

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