Tuesday, September 8, 2009
"You learn something new everyday." This is truly what I felt at the end of my day in Northeast Philadelphia. It had been an experience--not a bad one, but an experience nonetheless.
Taking the train was the first learning experience of the day. I was told to catch the “L” to Frankford and so about 15 minutes were spent waiting for a train with the letter “L” on it. After only seeing A and B trains, I headed over to get help and was told that the train was called the "EL" (not L) because it was "elevated." Embarrassed, I sunk my head and rushed back over to the platform, jumping on the next B train that came along. While I sat there waiting for the last stop, I could not help but have a strange feeling that this was the start to a bad day.
About 20 minutes later, I arrived at the Frankford Transportation Terminal. At first, it seemed that I was amongst predominantly middle-class African Americans. However, when I got outside, I noticed that I was in a pretty mixed neighborhood. Standing next to me on Bustleton Avenue were two ladies--one Caucasian and the other African American, and across the street I saw even more of a diverse setting: waiting at a bus stop were a few Hispanics, Caucasians, and a group of African Americans.
I met up with Shannon McDonald, founder of Northeast Magazine, who showed me around. During our drive I learned that Northeast Philadelphia was really not as bad as I had anticipated. It is made up of about 30 different neighborhoods—most of which are residential. We drove around for almost two hours visiting neighborhoods such as Mayfair, Torresdale, Lawncrest and Oxford Circle, and I learned about the large Russian and Italian, as well as Jewish and Roman Catholic populations in some of the neighborhoods. There were also many cookouts and block parties taking place that day—not surprisingly since it was Labor Day weekend and nice out—and I really got a feel for the kind of people whose stories I would be covering for the next couple of weeks.
In the end, my assumptions were completely wrong. Northeast Philadelphia was actually quite nice and I had a good day driving around and getting to know the neighborhoods. It will be interesting to sort of become the voice of the people and see what kinds of stories we will be able to dig up this semester.
-Christeen Vilbrun and Sean Supplee, Group 20, Northeast Magazine