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1.09.2021

Appreciating the Cultural Mosaic of Philadelphia

Philadelphia has been the birthplace of American freedom and democracy, and the epitome of striving for this ideal throughout all of American history. One of the fundamental ways in which the city has carried on pursuing this ideal and tradition is through its rich and diverse cultural background. This is most visible in one place with the diversity of food and gift vendors, with shops representing a view into the culture of every cultural group in the mosaic of Philadelphia at Reading Terminal Market.
Other points of interest exploring the city's rich cultural history are shown with black history from the start of the nation. The Underground Railroad, which was founded and flourished in the city, provided homes to to many freed people that escaped enslavement and providing help to those who continued to the border in Canada. A collective effort and a courageous legacy was created between people of all racial and demographic groups in the city at the time, from the working class up to the highest levels of business and government, including Richard Peters Jr, a former Pennsylvania Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, Pennsylvania State Senator and Judge of the United States District Court. He lived at the Belmont Mansion, which is located at the top of Fairmount Park's Belmont Plateau, overlooking Center City Philadelphia. He had provided shelter for formerly enslaved people within his mansion, which now serves as a museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad. A list of 23 specific sites that were critical in the fight and struggles for Civil Rights can be found at The Constitutional
It is pretty incredible to think that this view from Belmont Plateau at the Belmont Mansion, over Philadelphia is the first sight of true American freedom that many formerly enslaved people saw. It is a humbling and incredible thought.

The slow, but steady growth of both self determination and cooperation in fighting for civil rights for all within this nation has been a steady drumbeat throughout the city's history. The city was home to the largest neighborhood of free Africans before slavery was abolished. The 226 year old Mother Bethel AME Church, dating back to 1794, is the first American Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black American Christian Denomination, and it is on the oldest continuously black owned parcel of land in the city.  Harriet Tubman found her freedom in Philadelphia and the Underground Railroad thrived in helping enslaved people escape before slavery was finally outlawed.
Friendship Arch in Chinatown
Cultural sites abound across Philadelphia, one of my favorites of which is the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park. The following are some of the many traditional cultural neighborhoods throughout the city. 
  • Italian neighborhoods in South Philadelphia, as seen in in Rocky
  • Koreatown
  • Little Saigon
  • Italian Market
  • Chinatown: Home to a number of different Asian cultures. Some restaurants in the neighborhood to check out include: Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine, Dim Sum Garden, and Terakawa Ramen. One of the coolest landmarks in the city, the Friendship Arch, welcomes visitors to the neighborhood. 
  • El Centro de Oro: A Spanish section of the Fairhill neighborhood. Some cultural restaurants in the neighborhood to check out include: El Bohio, Freddy and Tony's Restaurant, and Taco Riendo Restaurant.  
The "Flags of the World" alongside beautiful Benjamin Franklin Parkway. They were added during the nation's bicentennial as a celebration of international cultures. 

The most enduring legacy of the great American city of Philadelphia is found within it being a a diverse hub that is reflective of the many cultures that are found across the country. It is impossible to miss all of it as you explore the city and it should be a draw for anyone to visit. 

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