Sixers’ New Play in Chinatown: Head Fake or Slam Dunk?

Facebook debate: should boosting Black business help this controversial project move forward? 

The proposed 76ers arena has been a controversial topic for a long time. Since the project was announced, community members have raised concerns about the impact on the Chinatown neighborhood, which has since voted nearly unanimously against the stadium.

Recently, the 76ers have proposed an “Everybody Builds” incubator designed to boost Black business involvement. Some Black leaders and business owners have been quick to voice their support for the initiative. They’re excited to seize upon a historic opportunity for Black interests to have a seat at the table in a major development project.

Not so fast, says social media. A compelling Facebook thread took off recently in the comments section of a BillyPenn.com story on this new twist in the 76ers – Chinatown saga. The discussion was initiated (and moderated) by Eric Marsh, Sr., who happens to head WHYY’s N.I.C.E. program but he’s also a lifelong Philly resident, and a community leader with a unique understanding of grassroots dynamics.

Eric Marsh  This is shameful and an embarrassment. This is the oldest trick in the book. Using a Black face as a front for wealthy people to get Black community members to agree to something that’s going to harm another community under the guise and promise of a future financial benefit.

We used to call this the “Okie Doke!” 😖

Sure, “Everybody Builds Together” but some build more than others and most of the ones who build in this city drive their trucks back to Jersey at the end of the day. 🤨

The Chinatown community has voted nearly unanimously that they don’t want this stadium. Why are these Black Philadelphians willing to blatantly go against that?

These promises of economic and business development for Black business owners could have and should have come a long time ago without being attached to a project that is going to decimate an entire community’s way of life.

It’s sad to say but this has all kinds of trauma written all over it. Stockholm Syndrome, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Misery loves company, crabs in a barrel, etc.

Philadelphia’s Black and Asian communities have always had a tense relationship. America has fostered the idea of the “model minority” in the minds of citizens as a way of contrasting acceptable behavior from marginalized Asian communities against what Black communities look like and do. At what point do we stop and ask “Who’s behind this? Who’s profiting the most from this?”

There are not enough Black businesses that would benefit from this project to warrant throwing an entire community under the bus of “urban development.” These labor training programs and business incubators (which should be a standard part of our public school curriculum) can not churn out enough graduates fast enough who are capable of sustaining businesses of enough size to offset the economic and cultural damage that would come from this.

Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer “Sixers New Arena Would Demolish Part of Fashion District

And if you are of the mindset of “well no one helped us when it was happening to Black people” then I would say to you that I know your gran’mama taught you better than that, two wrongs don’t make a right, an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind and you have been lied to.

The arena owners are promising Black business leaders and clergy a $2 million fund for small business help while the developers benefit from a 30-year property tax break valued at $127.5 million. Plopping this arena down on top of an already bad idea that was “The Fashion District” (It’s STILL The Gallery to real Philadelphians) will not save downtown Philadelphia. City’s across the country have decades of evidence to the contrary (see Atlanta).

In a city that is majority minority with 41% being Black, we can not continue to allow ourselves to be played as pawns in the schemes that only help the rich get richer and that continue to disrupt and destabilize other communities.

There is a better way than this.

COMMENTS

Brent J.  Question: Why do we choose to follow the narrative as it pits one against another? Chinatown is literally getting set for an economic burst with the traffic the center will bring. The Sixers aren’t disrupting or moving this neighborhood like the city does with gentrification. For the last 15 years, black communities have been uprooted and moved wherever for nothing… where the hell has the Chinese community been as this took place? Where were leaders screaming unity with us as we had hundreds of schools closed in our area? Hell, the Chinese community rarely even votes. You can say the Chinese community makes more money in the black community probably than any other group, and do they support anything? Do they give back to our communities? Nooooo!!! So solidarity is a one-way street in Chinatown? Sixers announced 40% of all vendors in the new stadium will be black-owned. This has never been done in the history of sports or large arenas. This will create wealth like we’ve never experienced in this area. But all I see is black leaders saying we stand with Chinatown, etc… Do you really think if the shoe was on the other foot, their leaders would be saying I stand with the Black Community??? HELL NO!!!

Eric Marsh  Brent J So, this support of the stadium is because Asian people haven’t been vocal supporters of Black people? That 40% number of vendors is only a promise that’s not based on any actual number of current Black-owned businesses.

Brent J.  Eric Marsh, it’s based roughly on the population. Support the stadium because it’s happening. Support it because a black-owned construction firm is also already contracted. Support it because in what major arenas have 40% representation of black-owned vendors. Sixers are committing 50 million to this community, bringing them more business and have no plans of running this community out. Again that community has had plenty of opportunities to show solidarity back and hasn’t on a large scale.

Ronald B.   They should have made these gifts years ago and they should not be dependent on the development in Chinatown…. folks should look at Penn and Drexel….. look at how they erased the African American residential community from the Schuylkill to 55th streets with promises, promises and more promises .. and then there is still the Temple football stadium…. NON RESIDENT WHITE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS AND COMPANY OWNERS BENEFIT FROM DEVELOPMENT….ALWAYS

JT C.   Why are Black groups backing Chinatown when 1. They never back us on anything. 2. Black businesses will gain hundreds of millions of dollars from this?

Photo credit: No Arena in Chinatown facebook page

Eric Marsh  JT C. 1. So, does that mean we say “F them”? 2. What evidence do you have that Black businesses will make “hundreds of millions of dollars” on this deal? Over what period of time? Doing what work? Vendors? Concessions? Building trades? So far, the biggest, loudest argument I hear to justify this is “they don’t support us.” SMH

Emma T.  Eric Marsh The article states that there’s a $2 million set aside for small businesses. That’s pocket change. 😣

Eric Marsh  Emma T. EXACTLY!!!!!! 🙄

JT C.  Let’s go further. The largest group in Philadelphia is BLACK PEOPLE! We should be the biggest voice on this arena – especially since Market East is NOT Chinatown! It amazes me to see Black people bow down to support other groups while no one supports us.

Eric Marsh  JT C.  We can build wealth without harming other communities. All of the promises that the Sixers offered the Black community should be part of the city’s general economic development policy. Why do we have to be played against another community in order to get (promised) what we deserve?

JT C.   Eric Marsh I agree, we don’t need to harm other communities. But we also need to ensure that our own community benefits from economic development. We shouldn’t have to choose between supporting Chinatown or supporting our own community. We can and should do both.

Eric Marsh  JT C.  Absolutely, we can and should support both communities. It’s not an either/or situation. We can work towards economic development that benefits all communities, including the Black community and Chinatown. It’s about finding solutions that uplift everyone, rather than pitting communities against each other.

Brent J.  Emma T., JT C., Eric Marsh  I appreciate the conversation and the passion for our communities. We need to hold those in power accountable and work towards inclusive economic development that benefits everyone. Let’s continue to advocate for our communities, demand transparency, & work towards solutions that uplift all communities in Philly. Together, we can make a positive impact.

JT C.  Brent J  Agreed! It’s time for us to come together, support each other, and hold those in power accountable. Let’s work towards building wealth and creating opportunities for all communities in Philadelphia.

Eric Marsh  Brent J  Absolutely! We can achieve positive change when we stand united and demand fairness and inclusivity in all development initiatives. Let’s continue to work towards a better future for all communities in Philadelphia.

AGREE? DISAGREE?  Please speak your mind in the comments below.🗣️🧠🙏 Pro Tip: click the links in this post to dive deeper into history, development plans, and more. 

Learn more about the rise of “stadium districts” in major US cities, and keep updated on local plans via noarenaphl.org,  a local hub with updates, stats, sources, and even a “Save Chinatown” petition you can sign to join a coalition of more than 20 organizations joined with residents in protesting the arena. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Thoughts? Questions? Please leave them below in the Comments.

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