Thursday, July 10, 2014

...And Justice for Whom?

Oh, look. History.
After another Qigong exercise with John (they still feel kind of awkward, they're like simple yoga, but they're getting to be surprisingly relaxing), we took SEPTA into the Center City part of Philadelphia today, and ended up outside Independence Hall (home of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution), where we met Katara, the guest speaker for the morning session of class. She would be walking us around Society Hill (a part of the Center City), and would stop us at different places to talk about the city as a place of struggle. By the grass near Independence Hall, we gathered in a clump of students around Katara, where she and Michael (a friend of Andy's who has been here for every class and has had insightful comments here and there) told us about the limitations of First Amendment rights. 

We discussed the promise of "justice for all," (from the Pledge of Allegiance, yes, I know that's from after the signing of the Constitution and the abolition of slavery, but we used that phrase as an example of the liberty guaranteed in the Constitution) and how at the time our government was established, the definition of "all" was different. Katara and Michael pointed out that slavery was acceptable, so the main rights protected were property rights, as slaves were considered property; the focus was on protecting private property as much as it was on protecting the rights of individuals.

We got to peek at the Liberty Bell for a minute, which was also cool. After another discussion, we started walking through Philadelphia to the next lecture spot. I hung back in the group to listen to Andy, who was telling a few students about a PennMutual logo that had been on the building directly behind Independence Hall (it made it impossible to take a picture of the front of the historic building without advertising the insurance company) that took three years of complaints to have it taken down. 

At the next spot, Katara told us about urban renewal, the process of making a city more attractive to people, and how in Philadelphia, it had included relocating people. She talked about "creative destruction" another contradiction, taking down part of the city and replacing it with something new. Andy told us about zoning, and using neutral language in legal documents to divide people. He gave us the example of separating the boys and girls in the class without directly saying words related to "male" or "female," and easily listed off examples of things that could be used to put us in different groups. 

Our last stop was Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Katara pointed out to us that we were in a wealthy neighborhood that was once a poorer black neighborhood in Philadelphia. She joked that she "had the nerve" to be a black Muslim woman, but talked seriously about how these things limit people's access to opportunities. 

In case you were wondering what the back of Independence Hall looks like,
not facing the back of Independence Hall, this is it. Still pretty, right?
The actual back of Independence Hall
The evil forms
We gave Mr. Hillyer his birthday presents and card (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. HILLYER! Best chaperone ever) at the Houston Market and ate lunch in our dorm (Houston Market food comes packaged with recyclable materials, so you can eat it anywhere and not create garbage), then went back to class. We saw a map of Philadelphia by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation from the 1930s color-coded by home values, terrain, inhabitants, etc. making up the best/worst neighborhoods. I was pretty frustrated to read some of the forms that went with the map. Section five of the form indicated population, estimated family income, etc., and section five (d) just said "Negro" to be answered "Yes or No." We talked about the things that create urban renewal, and Michael brought up businesses that create pollution, caring more about profits than the environment (he mentioned the Cuyahoga river catching on fire due to waste dumping), then moved on to our next speaker, who had patiently listened, watching the class while our teachers went over this. 

The bearded man in the black hat was named Nati Passow, a founder of the Jewish Farm School. He discussed farming and the human connection to nature, and made the point that we have no food without agriculture, so it is a center of our society. He talked about food security and what we would do if there was a problem in agricultural production. If you stopped sending Philadelphia food, it would run out in three days. He told us about countering food waste (Americans throw out nearly fifty percent of their food), using community gardens and reusing food that has passed the "sell by" date but not the date which makes a food product unhealthy to eat. 
These are totally natural colors

We went straight to dinner after class. After Julia saw the stack of brownies and five flavors of ice cream (there are normally two or three), I had to demand that she eat real food first. The ILC would be disappointed in her. 

Oh, and tomorrow? We're going to prison!

1 comment: