Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Oct 17, 2011

Public Housing X-Men

by Rosemary Reeves

Most of us have seen the blockbuster movie series, The X-Men.  We enjoyed the special effects and the cool displays of amazing powers.  But beneath all the razzle dazzle is a poignant story that taps into an aspect of the human condition rarely explored - the potential to become evil as a result of stigma.

It is a tale of an oppressed and marginalized group.  They struggle to be accepted by mainstream society, but they are clearly different.  They are born mutants. They have super powers.  The oppression against them is fueled by fear.  They are called afflicted and ill.  Humanity searches for a "cure" for their mutation. Some mutants hide their powers and physical mutations in a desire to blend in with humanity.  Others are proud to be who they are and refuse to hide. 

The mutants are labeled, stigmatized and segregated from the rest of society.  They split off into two groups, one led by Magneto and the other led by Xavier.  Magneto has not only suffered years of oppression by the general populace, but as a boy was placed in a concentration camp during the Nazi era.  He is seething with anger and hatred for the humans.  He has given up on humanity and seeks to destroy it before it destroys his kind.  Magneto's group wants revenge against the society that rejects them.  They run amok, unleashing their super powers for the purposes of destruction, hellbent on conquering the human race.  The oppression they endured turned them into villains who want payback.

On the other hand, the wheelchair-bound Xavier believes that humans are just "uninformed."  He desires to work with the humans toward a goal of peaceful co-existence.  He builds a school for mutant children and teaches them how to use their powers for good.  He is convinced that humans can overcome their fear of the mutants, with the mutants' help.  "We're not what you think," he tells the humans, "Not all of us." The mutants who have chosen to join Xavier's group strive to protect humanity from the bad guys and all sorts of exciting battles take place.

Now, imagine being born underprivileged and segregated into a neighborhood of concentrated poverty.  You are stigmatized, rejected by the society you live in and deemed a danger to that society.  Would you become well-adjusted under the circumstances or give in to feelings of anger toward the society that rejects you?  Would you become a villain?

Many young adults who live in housing projects and poor neighborhoods must make a fateful decision.  They must choose between good and evil.  They must ask themselves if they will strive to fit into the society that rejects them or unleash their anger and wage war against it.  Just like the mutants they join gangs, only instead of having super powers they and their fellow gang members carry guns.  The labels they were born with become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They wreak havoc, committing crimes and ruining neighborhoods.  They harness the only power they can come by, the power of evil.

On the other hand, their benevolent housing project counterparts, like Xavier, believe that mainstream society is just "misinformed."  Many of them make it out of public housing and live the rest of their lives under the radar.  Others feel called to help those who are floundering.  They volunteer for charities that care for the poor.  They teach welfare moms how to use a computer.  They coach basketball teams for underprivileged kids, to keep them away from the gangs and on the straight and narrow.  They do this because, by choosing good over evil, the first life they saved was their own.   

We're not what you think.  Not all of us.

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