Before this week's Democratic National Convention, I had initially hoped for the local protesters to really make a huge statement that would make the nation focus on the big issues impacting our city. Instead, everyone was too busy being distracted by the sore-loser Bernie Sanders supporters.
Being that Philadelphia is one of the poorest major cities in the nation with a public education crisis and embarrassing poverty problem, it was a huge letdown for us to have the world stage and not take advantage to raise awareness.
Philadelphians were too busy showing off the city, bragging about our cheesesteaks, caught up in the renovations that are actually driving taxpayers crazy, anything but the urban American hardships that are far too common across this nation.
It felt uncomfortable seeing so many homeless people sleeping outside City Hall as visitors went sightseeing. It felt even worse that a lot of the big media outlets could care less about the few small groups that tried to use their voices to bring attention to these issues. America was drinking our Kool-Aid, and it served us no purpose.
As television screens were fixated on Center City, Independence Hall, and the cheesesteak battle royale in South Philly, who bothered to see how West and North Philly were doing? Time and time again, our major conventions – such as last year’s World Meeting of Families – get clobbered in the Philly stereotypes of tasty greasy food, historical political sites, and metropolitan life.
However, there were a few impressive exceptions.
One that stood out to me was the push for sensible gun control by local community leader Anton Moore. On Tuesday night, the Southwest native spoke eloquently at the convention about the persistent fatal gun crimes impacting our local community.
It was a relief to see him take the global media, including NBC "Dateline," ABC "Nightline" and BET, on a tour of the rough neighborhoods that City Hall probably didn’t want the world to see, but it was a revelation, nonetheless. His nonprofit, Unity in the Community, had the kind of serious conversations on the world stage that many of our local elected officials hardly ever want to speak out loud about to the press. Many of them were too busy at the parties trying to bump shoulders with the celebrities. I know because I was there.
Which brings me back to a sobering truth – the DNC overall really wasn’t about Philly taking advantage of a chance to possibly heal our city, but to show itself off again to the rest of the world. Sure, there were a few panels that were focused on community engagement – but nine times out of 10, the nail was already in the coffin.
Folks were given a limited scope on the true complexities that are really impacting us. This convention was about Philly looking like the Philadelphia the world assumes us to be – instead of the one we really are.