Learning about social issues in Philly

One of my goals during my time here is to educate myself on social issues, whether it be local or national.

This Monday, I learned about one of the ongoing issues in West Philly. To put it simply, Penn and Drexel are planning to buy up the affordable housing complex University City Townhomes, redevelop the property, and gentrify the neighborhood. This would strip the low-income citizens away from one of the very few affordable housing options in the city and push the already disadvantaged community further away from the city. The professor of my Global Studies class brought our class to the Main Building, and we joined the sit-in fighting for the preservation of University City Townhomes. We learned about the demands and newest updates from the organizers’ teach-ins, then continued our class discussion there in the Main Building.

The next day, I visited the Eastern State Penitentiary. The building was the world’s first true penitentiary, the architecture has inspired the way how prisons are designed and the mode of incarceration all around the world. The audio-guided tour also helped us to visualize how prison life was like in the Penitentiary back in the days. After my visit, I had more understanding of the different criminal justice problems that the US is facing right now, especially on the issue of racial disparity. This term, I have taken a criminal justice class at Drexel. So, combined with the materials I have learned in class, I have a deeper understanding of why there is such disparity happening in the system: how the mass incarceration rate has spiked due to tightened drug laws imposed in the 70s, and how black people are three times more likely to be arrested for drug use despite a similar rate of drug use among whites and blacks.

I believe that looking into different social issues and getting more involved in the community would always give me a broader perspective on various matters. These concerns are not all black and white, hearing what others have to say is important, especially in the age of social media, where I would find myself believing in what I wanted to believe. Digging deeper into a hole instead of stepping back to see the whole picture and think critically. I hope I would adopt the same mindset when approaching civil issues in the future, particularly in Hong Kong’s tense political climate. I will always admire those who dare to speak up and fight for justice. Thank you for your bravery and keep up the great work! #savetheUCtownhomes

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