Philadelphia held its inaugural International Block Party this weekend in advance of a match between Mexico and Ireland in the Unity Cup. Presented by the City of Philadelphia and run mostly by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Unity Cup pits players representing 48 nations from around the world in a citywide soccer tournament. The finale will be played at Lincoln Financial Field on November 11. (Note: Last year’s finale was at Citizens Bank Park. The original story said this year’s was as well.)
Saturday afternoon, hundreds gathered at Marconi Plaza (Broad and Oregon streets) for a daylong multicultural celebration. Mayor Jim Kenney and other members of city government were there to talk with residents, local businesses and outreach organizations and to pose with tons of little kids in decorative costumes for a pretty neat photo op. Many local businesses and community groups were there as well.
Here are some sights and sounds from the event.
Mini fields were set up by Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer to give kids (and adults) a chance to play small-sided games. EPYS also had a giant inflatable jersey for kids to shoot past the goalie. Tied in with the Unity Cup, this was a soccer/futbol-heavy event.
Mayor Kenney, below, posed with anyone who had a phone and asked him for a selfie. Here he is with several members of the group that performed Aires de mi Tierra.
SOCA Fitness had the most upbeat performance, coming down off the stage and getting those in attendance to join in with a little limbo contest.
Members from the group Modero & Company performed traditional Indonesian dances.
Several community organizations were present, including representatives from Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Philadelphia Water — with information and options for those struggling to pay their water bills and to warn residents of potential lead in the water — HIAS Pennsylvania, Ceiba, Victim/Witness services of South Philadelphia, Acción Colombia, Starfinder — a nonprofit after-school program for high school kids to stay active and learn leadership skills through soccer — and the Welcoming Center for New Philadelphians, pictured below.
The underlying theme for many of the organizations in attendance, especially those we spoke with from the Welcoming Center, was the need to develop trust within the community. Someone new to Philadelphia is often more reluctant to seek out assistance from groups like these because of fear of it leading to possible deportation, they said.
Speaking of which, local non-profit Juntos was in attendance giving out Si Se Puede (Yes We Can) t-shirts, which were being snatched up like crazy thanks to the clever Phillies-inspired design. Juntos was also there to provide information for those needing assistance with their legal rights, and hand out anti-deportation stickers that said “Dismantle Ice, Defund the Police.”
Members of the Caribbean Community in Philadelphia, part of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia, were at the event to provide information to those in the Caribbean community living in Philly, but also to speak out about the devastation in that part of the world after the rash of hurricanes this month. Their goal is to assist in aid for that part of the world, including the countries not politically tied to the United States.
While the tables offered a lot of valuable information available for Philly’s immigrant community, much of the focus was on the stage, and on families coming together with song, dance and food to have a good time.
Oh, right. And play soccer.