Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, is having “Sunday Suppers” in various communities around Philadelphia. These conversations will culminate in a student developed service project and a collaborative documentary film about civic engagement. One student participant, Lionel Dethcou, recaps his experience at the first “Sunday Supper.”
This past Sunday, we had our first Sunday Supper at the Holiday Inn in South Philadelphia. The goal of this supper was to learn more about the racial tension that occurred in South Philadelphia High School in 2009. We had the honor of having two Principals among us–Dr. Thomas Davidson (Constitution High School) and Mr. Otis Hackney (South Philadelphia High School).
The discussion was very productive because it allowed us to learn more about the issue from a primary source. We learned information that South Philadelphia has been a landing place for immigrants since Philadelphia was established. Therefore, there have always been some tensions between different races and ethnic groups. Unfortunately, those tensions made their way into schools and resulted in incidents such as the one in South Philly High.
Because there is a misunderstanding gap between races, religions etc, it is difficult to avoid the typical stereotypes given to a particular group. Our conversation led us to agree that the solution to this issue is a better understanding between each other. Dialogue is the key; as long as people do not understand why some people act a certain type of way, there will always be misunderstandings.
This discussion opened most of our eyes to the difficulties and hardships some people may have when integrating into American society. We felt very concerned about this issue and are potentially thinking of a service project, like a diversity training for students in our own school, to acknowledge this issue which is not only happening in South Philly High, but all over our city.
At the Table: Connecting Culture, Conversation and Service in Latvia and the U.S. was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with American Association of Museums. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.