Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 4: "Connecting with the Enviornment"

Today marked four days of my attendance at UPenn, and within those four days I feel that I have not only been enlightened but have also grown immensely as a person. It actually surprises me, the velocity at which this week has gone by. It seems like only yesterday we were saying goodbye to Mr. Hillyer to begin our journey.

The morning session for today was set to be very exciting as it consisted of our very first field trip as part of the class. The location was Downtown Philadelphia to visit Independence Mall and learn about a variety of the social differences that existed within the community. We rode the trolley, a form of subway system, that took us directly to the edge of the Mall. We saw the magnificent glory of Independence Hall and were informed that out of any location in the country, this is the only place that your first amendment right to peacefully assemble cannot be hindered or abolished in any way whatsoever. During our discussions, led by guest speaker Katara, we talked a bit over major issues such as the juxtaposition between the Mall and the surrounding corporate buildings, the concept of freedom within the US and the definition of Philadelphia as a city of struggle. A major concept brought up during our discussion were the original basis of the American Revolution. The founding fathers decided to declare independence from oppression and in the pursuit of Liberty and Freedom. However the reality was that these goals were not fully achieved as racism, classism and sexism were still prominent factors in the early days following the revolution. For example, we learned that, although many of the founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, believed that slavery was wrong, they still retained slaves. As the discussion opened up to outside comments, many began to critique the phrase "and Justice for all". The concept of who qualified under "all" is one that has consistently changed over time, as at the time, woman were still not eligible to vote, slavery was still existent and only white males who owned property could be eligible to vote. One of the most interesting deviations that the conversation took was the underlying basis for the majority of the rights that were guaranteed to citizens-- they all revolved around property in some way. While still protecting individual rights, many rights were developed to provide protection for private property.
Independence Hall

Interactive class discussion
After walking a bit more, we deviated over to another section of the area, in a rose garden. We all gathered around as Katara began to give us very valuable information on urban renewal and the almost-cruel steps the city took in an attempt to enhance the attractiveness of the city. We were told how in the past, many of the citizens living within the area had been forced to move out because the city had pushed a movement to make the area more attractive. It was a cruel reality and one that has been entirely true throughout the history of this nation. She also touched upon "creative destruction" which involved taking down the beauty and personality embedded within the heart and culture of a city with new buildings to please higher society. After a while, we moved on and continued exploring that part of the city. As we basked in the culture and history associated with this part, we were taken aback at the realization how there were large differences between two sides of a street. On one was the traditional style layout for the city, very open and inviting to all. However on the other, the area was more enclosed and possessed the intent of keeping out certain individuals.
Juxtaposition of old and new Philadelphia
During lunch, we met with Mr. Hillyer where he provided us with our weekend allowance and checked in our progress in our classes and at UPenn in general. For the most part the others reported similarly in their enjoyment in the program and how it was already beginning to affect their ways of thinking. However, we could not leave without presenting Mr. Hillyer with a wonderful birthday present as an homage to the great chaperone he has been so far to us. He has had such an impacting influence on our lives and has become our parental figure whom we look to for guidance.

In the afternoon session, it was back to presentations in the classroom. Today we were going to learn more about the environment and how that influence affected the society we live in. In order to assist in our exploration of the subject, we were presented with a new guest speaker, Nati Passow, a founder of a the Jewish Farm School in the local area. He elaborated on the bond between humanity and farming which stretched back all the way to the biblical times of Adam and Eve. He explained how the events behind Adam and Eve represented an "Agricultural Revolution" as the garden of Eden was a form of early agriculture. In order to further our understanding, Mr. Passow shared with us the Jewish response to farming. It was based on sweat equity and food security. Sweat equity meant that an individual could work their own food rather than receiving handouts. Food security meant having certainty of knowing where your next meal would come from. According to him, Philadelphia possessed a food supply of three days, which is remarkable to think considering the possibility of such a need is very feasible in society today. In Mr. Passow's mind, the main goal we had to set for ourselves was reconnecting with our food system, since the U.S wastes 50% of its food production.

After four very long, exhausting, and draining days, I decided to take the afternoon off from any major event and opted for spending time with my floormates in order to develop a better connection with them all. I find it incredible how we could go from total strangers to complete friends who look out for each other in less than just four days. I cannot wait to see what each day brings now and tomorrow will be no exception.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're enjoying your time. I wish I was in that class!