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Up South & Black Bottom: Understanding Institutional Growth from Community Perspectives



The primary focus of this program is to begin a dialogue between Penn students, administration, and Philadelphia community members surrounding the issue of urban development in residential spaces. Specifically, we aim to discuss the implications of the growth of predominantly White institutions such as Penn and Drexel, in predominantly Black neighborhoods. We chose to use the book Up South to situate participants’ understandings of the sociopolitical backdrop of Black Bottom, sharing some of the reasons why isolated residences and areas of commerce existed (and continue to exist) among the Black community in Philadelphia. In framing these spaces as acts of activism, we are able to establish a foundation for dialogue. We will draw connections between the historical implications of Black Bottom and how they continue to persist in the current Philadelphia infrastructure. We will also examine higher education’s role in contributing to – and preventing – the continuation of disenfranchisement and socioeconomic stratifications in Philadelphia.