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The Truth About Philadelphia

Ken White
Social Worker, Germantown

Question #2 If you were going to create a film titled The Truth About Philadelphia, what would it be about?

Glenn: Then all these responses. It, they're just finding their own way to, and they can fit int very nicely. Well, you know, our project is tentatively titled, "The Truth About Philadelphia," if you were gonna author such a, a, a film what would, what would it be about, "The Truth About Philadelphia?"

Ken: Umm, well it, it does two things. I had two responses to that. Uh, the first one is I would have subtitled it, uh, "A Tale of Two Cities." Umm, and I would have done that and looked at Philadelphia a, again from what I was mentioning earlier from the perspective of a poor person surviving versus someone, uh, more economically able, or middle class, who may very well be thriving in these economic conditions. I mean, the economy's growing. All of these wonderful things are happening. We're seeing growth. I mean we're getting all kinds of conventions. There's, there's a lot of economic growth in the City which is wonderful.

Umm, but yet I am really concerned that there's a whole 'nother Philadelphia. That we want to look at the really positive things and (LAUGH) folks, you know, 25% of our population is elderly, you know. And I'm not certain what the experience of being an older person in Philadelphia might be. There may be some unique challenges to that.

But the other one that really does bother me, and I guess the fact that I'm a Social Worker shows through at this point, but that is what's happening with the poor in this City and how are we, uh, responding to that.

Umm, so anyway I, in terms of thinking about the truth of Philadelphia, which Philadelphia becomes the first question for me? And, and again, it's that view from the story of, you know, which lions are you talking to, umm, to get you perspective on who the City is. Umm, you know, I'm impressed that you've, you're speaking to an out gay man (LAUGH), because we make up a, a, a large portion of the City as well. Umm, and yet we've become invisible just like, I think, the poor in Philadelphia sometimes become invisible. And the elderly become invisible.

Umm, so my second take on that. Umm, "The Truth About Philadelphia," was, uh, and this comes because of my interest in religion, is really looking at how religion has shaped the City and how we respond and how the diversity that's resulted because of the religious founding, remembering that, that Philadelphia started out as, you know, a very much of a hot bed (LAUGH) of, of Quaker or Friends, uh, religion. Uh, and so the whole way that the City initially got set up or our whole early penal system. All of that grew out of the philosophy and the theology of the Quakers.

And then also, the other Churches were born here. I mean, the Brether, the first Brethren Church is down the street, the first Mennonite Church is here. Uh, I think the first African Methodist Episcopal, uh, Mother Bethel?

Umm, so it's kind of interesting to look at how has religion influenced the City? How has what we believed influenced us? And then how is that changing? Umm, and uh, as that influence has lessened and changed. Uh, so there is the part of me that. And again, I, I (LAUGH) apologize, but seeing it from what do people believe, what do people believe about other people. That has everything in the world to do with how we relate on the street. And, you know, and I feel like the Church, and in some cases rightfully so, is losing moral authority. And I'm not certain that they always deserve it given my experience.

But I'm still concerned about we need to begin having conversations about values and ethics. So what is not happening in the Church, I think, now needs to become part of public discourse. And how do we have public discourse? How do we have conversations that are civil with each other? I mean, I have not been terribly impressed with the conversations that President Clinton has called for on race, because I see African Americans talking with African Americans, and I see Caucasians sometimes talking with Caucasians.

But I don't see all of the, the interaction. And how do we begin, you know, talking about what we really value, uh, and knowing that that's going to be culturally influenced? Umm, (LAUGH) I don't know. I'm back I, I think a lot grows out of our religious belief systems, the whole way that we move and operate in the world.

And uh, I am just concerned as we get more and more diversity, that there is not that sense of what holds us together. So we may need to revisit that and have ways, you know, if the Church is not gonna be, or Churches are not gonna be the place for that. If they can't (BREATH) somehow tolerate the diversity of those voices, they clearly can not be the place that conversation happens. Then I think it has to happen in other kinds of public arenas and we need to begin to say, you know, how are we going to take care of the poor? Umm.

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