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Old 04-27-2014, 09:21 AM
 
610 posts, read 600,825 times
Reputation: 1300

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Hello,

Last year, I used this forum to find out information about Colorado Springs, where I moved from IL with my girlfriend in July 2013. I had basically tried to find the most "urban" area of the city, and the people on that forum made it sound like I was walking into a war zone. I grew up in Aurora, IL, which always had a reputation. When I got here, I can say that the "worst" neighborhood here would be perfectly normal, or even decent, back home. So I'm going to start this post by asking anyone who answers please not to give me some overblown negative hyperbole; I just want a realistic assessment of what I'm doing.

That said, here's what I'm looking for:

I have recently gotten involved with a nonprofit who works with local grassroots community groups in West Africa to help locals start businesses and manage their own local economies. We are eventually hoping to expand into rural areas of Guyana, Suriname, Haiti and Jamaica too. This will involve a lot of travel back and forth between Africa and the U.S., and eventually the Caribbean and the U.S. So I need to be somewhere further east to cut down travel costs and times (680 RT from ATL, 1400 RT from Denver). I also would like to live somewhere that has an African or Caribbean immigrant population. I've cut it down to Miami, Philadelphia, New York or Atlanta. And I really have the option of just picking the best one. I've made this same post on those other cities boards too. So I have a few questions.

1. This is vague, but in a few sentences, could you sum up what defines Philadelphia as a city to you, personally?

2. How well represented are various Caribbean cultures in Philadelphia? Are there any African immigrant communities? How open or vocal are they about their own national identities? For instance, in Chicago, there are many people from Ghana and Nigeria. They don't, however, seem to congregate together in their own little ethic enclaves, or display the flags of their native countries and speak in native languages as openly and obviously as, say, Mexicans do. Do certain groups stand out strongly in the cultural fabric of the city? I assume Cubans and Haitians do, especially.

3. I like to ride my bike to work, rather than use a car. It tends to keep my stress low while I'm working. Colorado Springs is EXTREMELY spread out... in terms of land area it's an enormous city. So distance doesn't concern me much, but how about the weather? Is it feasible to ride my bike to work in Philly?

4. Can you give me the names of some neighborhoods where either Caribbeans or Africans are represented so I could look to get an idea of housing costs?

Thanks for your answers.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:48 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
2,377 posts, read 2,695,391 times
Reputation: 1492
Quote:
1. This is vague, but in a few sentences, could you sum up what defines Philadelphia as a city to you, personally?
Philadelphia to a normal US city is to what a normal US city is to a rural town. It simply has a complete tier of cultural and lifestyle improvements that are non-existent in most US cities. Also it is still dramatically misunderstood and undervalued. You don't begin to notice what philly is until you start becoming apart of multiple communities and you find they are fully functioning in their own world while still being apart of the bigger philly. Philly people might also be the easiest in the nation.

Quote:
2. How well represented are various Caribbean cultures in Philadelphia? Are there any African immigrant communities? How open or vocal are they about their own national identities? For instance, in Chicago, there are many people from Ghana and Nigeria. They don't, however, seem to congregate together in their own little ethic enclaves, or display the flags of their native countries and speak in native languages as openly and obviously as, say, Mexicans do. Do certain groups stand out strongly in the cultural fabric of the city? I assume Cubans and Haitians do, especially.
There is definitely a native african presence here and I'm sure they'll have a few pockets but I don't know where they are.

Quote:
3. I like to ride my bike to work, rather than use a car. It tends to keep my stress low while I'm working. Colorado Springs is EXTREMELY spread out... in terms of land area it's an enormous city. So distance doesn't concern me much, but how about the weather? Is it feasible to ride my bike to work in Philly?
Biking is actually the most efficient and practical way to get around in most cases. That mixed in with some subway / bus usage.

Last edited by MikeNigh; 04-27-2014 at 02:08 PM..
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:07 PM
 
884 posts, read 1,331,563 times
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Mike Nigh gives sound analysis. My friends from Chicago have greatly enjoyed Philly. Unless you are in one of the far neighborhoods, it's easy to bike (or even walk), though the city could use more bike lanes (there's not quite enough room for bikers, trolleys, and cars on Girard Avenue, for example). In terms of personality or 'vibe,' it can range from post-industrial hipster chic to upscale Manhattan-esque to quaint Victorian or colonial. I'd imagine the most West African or Carribean populations would be in West Philly or Southwest Philly. You might do well somewhere off of Baltimore Ave...a bit rough around the edges the further west you go, but not bad at all if you're used to urban living, and still fairly close to everything in Center City and UCity. It sounds like you're pretty comfortable in transitioning areas, so you might even think about Point Breeze or Mantua.
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Old 04-28-2014, 11:54 AM
 
316 posts, read 886,598 times
Reputation: 133
Not sure if you are planning to visit Philly during this search but there are times of the year when you could visit to easily meet more of the population you are looking to work with to find out more information to see if it's the right fit. You just missed one of the big ones (Penn Relays - just about all of the Jamaicans in the area come out for it and there are a wide variety of vendors during that time scattered throughout University City - that ended on Saturday).

Another opportunity is the Odunde Festival, which takes places in June every year. This is an African and African-American festival but draws a large crowd and has a ton of vendors and visitors who are African and Caribbean.

There is a Caribbean Festival in the summer, that's newer, I think it's still going on, but the other two those our annual events that have taken place for some time in Philly and provide an opportunity to interact with the populations you want to connect with and easily learn the things you want to know.

In terms of Cubans and Haitians. In my experience, your assumptions would be wrong. I'm unaware of a strong presence of either in Philly, some here and there for sure, but I haven't encountered anything sizable. But I do know there's a small Haitian population in the Germantown area.

For other areas where African and Caribbean populations are living, Germantown is one, Olney, East and West Oak Lane are others, along with West Philly and SW Philly mentioned above.

All that being said, I would caution against choosing Philly without checking on direct flights to the areas you travel to regularly. Although there are going to be direct flights from here to Caribbean cities, I'd guess there aren't as many to West African countries and South America. Atlanta and Miami may be better for that though not sure how it matches up with the other things you're looking for outside of Miami and their Cuban population. NYC obviously great for all of it but more expensive than the other options if that is a concern.
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Old 04-28-2014, 03:00 PM
 
610 posts, read 600,825 times
Reputation: 1300
to the above poster... my remarks about cubans and haitians were accidental. i copy pasted this from te miami board where i first posted it and tried to edit it to refer to philly. i missed that sentence though, hah! im going to see if this forum lets me edit that out. and im definitely planning on visiting
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