Super Bowl Sunday was without a doubt one of the best days of my life and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us. As we all watched the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl for the first time ever, frenzy and excitement spread across the streets of the city and history wrote itself. Penn students, staff, and faculty joined thousands of Philadelphians in just about every space of Center City to celebrate their beloved team.
Thousands of people joined each other as individuals climbed stop lights, street lights, and practically every other elevated surface in sight. And even as police officers aimed to use garbage trucks for crowd control, fans decked out in green were seen on top of moving vehicles in various states of unrest.
But what I found most interesting was the feeling I had when I first began to approach the swarm of people. Even though I didn’t know anyone there, I felt a part of an imagined community as Philadelphians celebrated not only the Eagles but each other.
I caught myself laughing with strangers amid anti-Tom Brady chants that overtook the crowd. I found myself interacting with people whom I never would have interacted with, our only connection being the Eagles and Philadelphia area. I started dancing with strangers I had never met even though there was no music playing. And oddly, I’ll never forget hugging a middle-aged woman that was crying because she never thought this day would come. I had the most fun I’ve ever had in this city. For the first time in my academic career here at Penn, I felt like a Philadelphian.
Within this piece I am challenging each and every one of us to make sure our interactions with Philadelphia this week are not our last. Throughout its history, Penn’s relationship with Philadelphia hasn’t always been the best. Many of us are unaware of Penn’s history of gentrification in the area and ignorantly fall complicit to the inequalities that exist between ourselves and those that live around us.
It is unfair for students residing in the “Penn Bubble” to interact with the greater Philadelphia community for sports while social issues that we can help to mitigate take a backseat. As Penn students, we have a huge responsibility to really engage with our neighbors, old and new, in order to redefine our sense of community on campus in a fashion that works for everyone.
If we are going to enjoy the happy moments of the Philadelphia community, it is up to each and every one of us to do a better job of addressing the sad moments we’ve pushed into this area. This week should not be the last time many of us want to interact with people in the area outside of the Penn bubble.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of ways to do this, both big and small. Maybe it's volunteering for and integrating your student group with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Or for some, it could simply be supporting a local Philadelphia business. For others it could be a conversation with those in the Fresh Grocer in the bread aisle. But for all of us, we should aim to make history in this area, not just celebrate it.
CALVARY ROGERS is a College junior from Rochester, N.Y., studying political science. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Cal’s Corner” usually appears every month.
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