A historic, exciting transformation is occurring in this unique neighborhood, South Philadelphia, the original destiny for immigrants arriving in this city during the last decades of the 19th century and early 20th century. This diminishing population of descendants of European immigrants from over a century ago are being replaced today by immigrants from a variety of other countries, but bringing the same energy, values and hopes brought by their predecessors a century ago. As a Jewish community that some once estimated at a quarter million evaporated and the Italian community slowly shrinks, they are being replaced by Indochinese from Cambodian, Vietnam and Laos; by Indonesians of both Christian and Muslim faiths; by Mexicans and most recently by refugees from Nepal and Burma.

South Philadelphia is a microcosm of what is occurring in old neighborhoods of many large cities throughout the country. New immigrants and refugees are revitalizing urban neighborhoods with their energy and commitment that emulate what prior immigrants brought. Homes, shops and restaurants, once vacant and deteriorating are being regenerated; schools are being refilled; even religious facilities are being restored or constructed to reflect the varied belief systems of these new arrivals. Simply put, they work hard, want to live in safety, raise their families, educate their children and worship without fear.

This is a unique historic moment. The issues of immigration are once more at the forefront of a national discussion. Immigration will continue to be a natural occurrence throughout a globalizing world, imposing the need for major political and policy decisions. Social movements have already blossomed. An organized, informed grass roots effort can influence and enable beneficial decisions. This work can offer some small contribution to the already existing local and national discussion.

Location: The main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Timeframe: Now until 2/15/15