What’s in a name? In the case of Philadelphia, a lot. Named by William Penn in 1681, the founder of the Pennsylvania colony drew inspiration from the Greek roots: phileo for love and adelphos for brother. That’s how the city got its nickname: “The City of Brotherly Love.” But does a name chosen over three hundred years ago still fit a growing city?
Most residents say yes, but with a caveat: the love is not always readily apparent.
When Sylvia Valencia was growing up, she recalled that Philadelphia was “safer,” with “no problems.” Forty-one years later, the stay-at-home mother of four focuses on making sure that her kids stay safe from the crime she feels has increased in her community.
“I want to shelter my kids from the danger here,” Valencia said. “I take them to places and try to give them positive experiences.”
Vernal Alston also noticed how the city has changed dramatically in the 42 years he has lived here. In recent years, Alston said people have grown apart and compassion for others has decreased.
“When you walk out your door in the morning, instead of someone saying, ‘Good morning, how’re you doin’, you have someone growling because they’re upset and angry for whatever reason.”
He refutes the name Penn chose, instead suggesting that “it’s not the city of brotherly love, it’s the city of hate and misery.”
But Luana Goodwin, who retired in 2000 and moved to Philadelphia, thinks that it isn’t simple.
“While [Philadelphia] might not be perfect, it has good aspirations,” Goodwin said. “We strive [to fit the name], even if it’s unconsciously.”
No matter what people say, Goodwin maintains her belief that there’s a core of goodness around Philadelphia.
“I recently had to have a hip replacement,” Goodwin said. “I was walking around with a cane for awhile. On the buses… I found people are willing to give me a seat or help me with packages or things like that.”
Andre Booker spent the first fifteen years of his life in Philadelphia and returned a year ago at 32. He said when someone is in need, others step up.
“There’s a lot of love,” maintains Booker. “It’s a good city.”