PHL250 Hits the Streets to Learn What the Community Thinks About the 250th

PHILADELPHIA250
4 min readOct 25, 2023

As the nation approaches its 250th anniversary, PHILADELPHIA250 is on a mission to showcase the breadth and diversity of Philadelphia’s people, its neighborhoods, and rich cultural and heritage to help deepen our understanding of America’s many histories and lived experiences. To truly capture the essence of this occasion, PHILADELPHIA250 staff members went into the community this past summer to engage with the people of Philadelphia, gathering their thoughts on the 250th anniversary and their visions for the city’s future.

In the beginning of August, we attended the 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties. This annual event, a cherished tradition in Philadelphia, transforms the neighborhood into a bustling hub of activity, drawing thousands of visitors who revel in the wide array of foods, drinks, and live entertainment. Surrounded by over 200 vendors from Girard Avenue to Spring Garden, we came across local Philadelphians and tourists who wanted to learn about our organization. PHILADELPHIA250’s staff — Jane, Debbie, Charity, and Rae — set up a table and asked the question, “What revolutionary actions will you take to help fight injustice?”, drawn from our Dare to Declare conversation cards. We engaged in lively conversation with festivalgoers and the responses we received resonated deeply, reflecting the spirit of a city filled with history and the pursuit of justice. Some of the answers that people shared included:

  • “Speak up for those whose voices are being silenced.”
  • “Accessibility to all systems and services for people of ALL abilities and disabilities.”
  • “I will try to find a way to share food with others when I see that they are hungry.”
  • “Strive to keep positive minds, decrease negative reactions, bring unity to our community, and enjoy life abundantly.”
  • “I will give voice to those who cannot be heard.”
  • “I will vote!”
  • “Raise important issues when needed.”
  • “Be an active listener!”
  • “I will keep an open mind to all voices.”

As we expected, many people were not yet aware of the upcoming 250th anniversary in 2026. Once they realized what we were talking about, the level of excitement surrounding the celebration was mixed, mirroring the complex emotions tied to our nation’s history. While some embraced the opportunity to celebrate stories that often go untold, others immediately wanted to talk about the historical injustices and exclusion of certain groups. The reactions to the 250th anniversary were a mixture of positivity and negativity at the 2nd Street Festival, but overall the tone remained positive: filled with hope for a better and brighter Philadelphia, one that is committed to helping atone for and fix the mistakes of the past.

As September rolled in, PHILADELPHIA250 attended Strawberry Mansion Day, when residents from the surrounding neighborhood come together to enjoy an afternoon that included live entertainment, free food, recreational activities, and information on local services and resources. Hosted by the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, Danielle, Charity, and Rae joined other organizations at Mander Recreation Center to talk to families about the 250th.

At this event, we were able to talk to a lot more kids as well as their caregivers about the 250th. Children drew pictures on the ground with chalk and filled in coloring pages that featured ideas and themes from the Declaration of Independence, and adults learned more about PHILADELPHIA250 and how they can get involved. Everyone was excited that this anniversary would elevate the stories and accomplishments of all people, especially leaders and heroes of Philadelphia’s African-American community. The children had a great time coloring.

Being in community and taking part in two iconic homegrown Philadelphia traditions was incredibly rewarding for PHILADELPHIA250’s staff. More importantly, however, it helps keep us — as individuals and as an organization — grounded in what matters: the voices and views of all Philadelphians, of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the city. A common theme emerged from our experiences in Northern Liberties and Strawberry Mansion: the importance of unity and community. People were eager to emphasize the significance of collective action, with a vision of a Philadelphia where everyone works together for the betterment of each other and the city as a whole. As we approach the 250th anniversary of the nation, PHILADELPHIA250 is committed to staying closely connected to the community, ensuring that the voices and hopes of Philadelphians are heard and acknowledged.

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PHILADELPHIA250

Coordinating the United States’ 250th anniversary in Philadelphia. Creating a commemoration that is truly by the people, for the people.