(1) By A Different Mission (5/7)

“A life of wisdom consists of constantly being engaged in letting go.”
Francisco Varela

Average Salary = $25,000/year

Not much by today’s costs, but
That’s the stat for West Philadelphia today.

West Philadelphia High School graduated
Back in 2011.
Financial difficulties forced tough decisions
And schools shuddered.
The building again was a symbol of the neighborhood,
This time reflecting the demise and absorbing the decay.

Finally, the school district sold the building
So urban renewal, renovations, gentrification,
Whatever the politically charged term,
Could begin.

Rent = $1,600/month

The builder’s vision was such that the community
Could stand swallowing the changes that were coming.
The guy’s grandmother was a West Philly high grad,
He promised to honor her time there and the legacy
Of a great institution.

That of a community hub,
A place where more than book skills were learned…

The changes came,
Classrooms to apartments,
A boiler room to a hotel quality gathering place,
The old gym, still echoing with the sounds of basketball,
Now a modern fitness center
With treadmills, televisions, and chrome plated dumbbells.

The learning circle had been broken.
The connection to a free public education
Broken by the weight of commerce, bills, and capitalism.
The social significance stripped away
As a community struggled to gain footing
In a system stacked against it.

This is where West Philadelphia High School is today.
An example of what happens when things are let go
Or maybe better yet, when things are not let go.

Maybe the school would still be open
If the leaky roof and balky boilers had been replaced sooner.
Had the school been more open to the community,
Perhaps its importance would have been more significant.

Now it’s just another apartment building
In a community that has not figured out
How to grow.

Maybe the new school will be significant for the hipsters
Or whatever new economic juggernaut
Hits while the community is down.
I just wish the hawks circling the declining property values
Would think of those who are being displaced
By bringing them jobs
Instead of eviction notices
Or high priced condos
That can’t be afforded.

Certainly, that is an idea that should not be let go.

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