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Letters to the Mayor of Philadelphia

Aug 10, 2012

In August 2012, youth researchers at Mixplace Studio, an urban education initiative organized by Slought, People's Emergency Center (PEC), and PennDesign, began a letter writing campaign addressed to the Mayor of Philadelphia.

Their letters - two of which are shared below - advocate for neighborhood issues such as reducing violence and promoting environmental sustainability.


August 9, 2012

Mayor Michael A. Nutter
City Hall
1501 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Dear Mayor Nutter:

In my neighborhood, including others, there are many problems, but the one that I can most relate to and I want to address is the lack of communication. I know all you receive is letters about violence; I'm also not the type to complain. I also don't want to write a letter that is not informative. But I do want to communicate to you what its like to be under pressures. Have you ever seen crabs in a barrel? I feel that is my situation, but also the problem of my community, which is fighting to climb out and become better. But it is always being pulled back down at the moment when it could possibly make a change for the good and get to the top of the barrel.

I still want to tell you about a day in my life and to communicate some of the specific pressures I face. In my neighborhood, including others in this city, there is a self-defense problem. You either kill or get killed, and this problem causes innocent young people to illegally buy weapons. Now in this reality, believe it or not fighting is a good thing versus being shot. It's very rare to find a fight though. People would rather kill other people, and this is the atmosphere I continue to grow up in and live with as I work towards being an architect. For these reasons, it isn't easy to survive in my neighborhood. Like I said, you have to kill to survive, because people that don't know you want you dead. It's not because of your belief, religion, or race, but for the simple fact that you're from a place 5 blocks away from them.

This is no cry for help. Its just so when you think about how you grew up in a good area, appreciate it and be grateful. You were lucky because that black man with a degree had to survive and fight with the wolves to get out of the jungle. There is no other way but to kill them or they will find you and take you out. If you saw me and how I smile and I act like everything is ok each day. Its not okay. I hear sirens all through the night, and privileged people complain but they had it good growing up a nice suburban house or non-violent area where they lived.

I would rather kill before being killed in this hard world. Sorry for being so bold, but I'm emotional and I have been up all night. Near where I work, people are killing people from my community, even as I walk past in the afternoon in daylight. I am next, and I don't want to die. I want a PhD and a nice house. I deserve that. I work hard every day to become successful. I just hope I live to see twenty-one!

Now lets talk about the good. I hope Philadelphia's goal to be the greenest by 2015 is accomplished. Philadelphia needs to be a greener place, and people in Philadelphia need to eat healthier. I think that the city needs to be more green but also less red. There's just too much red right now, meaning violence, and I think you should take this into consideration. You have accomplished a lot since you became mayor, you should be proud. There are a lot of problems, and complaining isn't going to change them. I fully understand that it isn't easy to be mayor.

I want to tell you about a small organization, called Mixplace, that keeps us out of trouble; we are young intelligent youth that are interested in many things. Architecture is one of the main things in the curriculum. We work to change the neighborhoods. We have many teachers, famous architects, even Harvard students, activists, etc. We're very anxious to reach out to you. All I see on the news is negative things and crime. None of those things are positive, and the people of Philadelphia need to enable a positive environment for young people. I'm tired of being feared because of where I'm from.

My love for my city is unexplainable. I wanted this to be a non-formal letter because as mayor I understand that you got a lot of formal letters and that's all you see. Mixplace changed my life, because I thought sports was the only way to make it. I see that you're an African American man of power and I respect you. You give me hope, just like this program helped me gain knowledge of architecture and urban studies. I am staying out of trouble and talking to many people and sitting in meetings with Philadelphia's most intelligent people.

I understand the job of mayor is an honor but also a lot of work. All I ask is for you to take my view into consideration and do everything you can about the red. I am referring to violence as red because in my thinking, using the word violence only causes more conflict and doesn't stop the violence. Using the word red creates a conversation, and opens one's mind to think critically.

Sincerely,

Kyshaun Parker
Mixplace Researcher

August 10, 2012

Mayor Michael A. Nutter
City Hall
1501 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Dear Mayor Nutter:

When you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you learn the things you never knew you never knew....

As difficult as it may seem, nature is as exquisite as the daily lives of us human beings. As you may know, our world is an everlasting cycle, and with cycle comes changes and changes, comes along time and so it goes. I Am enthralled if not fascinated with our mother earth and although I am a city girl, I long to explore the realms of our amazon, run with the wolves, to feel the very essence that makes our planet hum with life.

My name is Latoya Delbridge and I live throughout Philadelphia, but at this moment in north Philadelphia, living the city life, and that's why I am writing to you, to speak upon the environmental and not just the industrial city. I am a mixplace researcher and exploring the challenges and hopes of the community around me. I would love to find out more on the issues surrounding our environmental challenges and get to know the facts that make our economy horrible for the environment.

Every day on my way home I experience a trash filled reality, I walk through a landscape full of thousands of vacant spaces filled with trees, weeds and little flowers growing wildly amongst homes and empty buildings, and it makes me feel dirty and that the people around me are not cared for by the city, and in return they are careless.

But maybe just maybe, could they have some connections to the larger more vast plant populations and sheltering homes within the amazon rainforest and what would happen if the amazon, instead of disappearing, were to expand globally, and spread across the world, and not just in the South Americas? If here in Philadelphia we could have the same lush atmosphere as the indigenous natives that live in the amazon? How would that affect city life, pressures and hopes? Small privately owned businesses and large franchises, what would they become? Would people become afraid and flee that oncoming evolutionary change? Would they stay and thrive amongst the beautiful and natural resources right under their noses?

Although it is not that simple and I know the problems we face aren't that simple to solve, really, why must we have such trash and pollution in certain neighborhoods of our cities, but not in others? Shouldn't all neighborhood be treated the same? And simply, what makes a city a city, if not its neighborhoods? I know it goes beyond stores and businesses, vehicles and buildings, citizens make a city, and they make and break it. So, will we citizens ever stop the pollution from the cities that causes harm to our beautiful environment all around the world?

All the horrors and disasters of this world but if we do not take care of our earth we will not have a place to live nor a planet for that matter, more people needs to understand and acknowledge the very place that's holding us, and it is our earth.

As to this generation, I ask if you may inform the public about environmental issues and tackle the main environmental challenges that it is in your power to change, such as pollution, the extinction of animal species, and violence in general within our nation. Please we must save our world, our planet is our only home, and only we can make that change by starting with the wastelands throughout Philadelphia – the vacant lots I walk by every day.

Overall, I believe that passing more laws on environmental issues would only do half the justice; it needs to be set in action. It is not just about laws and money, its about coming together and having the love and respect for the places we call home, for this whole world.

Sincerely,

Latoya delbridge
Mixplace Researcher