Ultimately, the organization said it hopes that Africatown can “become a ‘Tourist Destination Point’ for the global African diaspora and other interested persons” in a neighborhood that has historically been home to a major African and Caribbean immigrant communities.
Harris said he believes that this project is “extremely important” when you look at the diversity represented in Southwest Philadelphia and sees the project as necessary in order to increase business, a larger sense of community and to provide an array of services in the area.
“I thought it was extremely important understanding the diversity that we have in this part of the city of Philadelphia. We need this … All of this is going to be transformational. It is going to transform not just this part of the city, but it is going to be something that folks come from all over the city and quite honestly, around the world to come and see Philadelphia. That’s why it’s important that we do this.”
For his part, Williams said that being able to see the Africatown project cross the starting line was a great moment and added that there are a variety of ways that this concept will be beneficial for the Southwest Philadelphia community.
“An area that’s sometimes overlooked is now having development occurring, a population of Africans and African Americans will now have a place where we can get to know each other’s history and economically, obviously (it will) help the community to not only balance itself, but to grow, not from gentrification, but actually for folks who live here. So on several different levels it’s a great moment,” he said.
At the end of the day, Williams said that he has extremely high hopes for the sense of community that a project such as this can instill in its surrounding neighborhoods.
“(My hope is) that all of us, who for generations have hoped that we can understand where we come from, (can) know about our brothers and sisters rather than feel the tension and frustration that leads to violence. (I hope) that we can see some level of connectivity that will lead to a much more peaceful existence in our community.”
Alec Larson is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.