by Bradley Copeland

Less than two weeks into his term, in spite of his post-election call for a unified America, President Trump’s narrative has set the tone for an incredibly divisive administration. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, targeting sanctuary cities, a resolve to build a border wall, gag orders on federal agencies, scapegoating the media – all of this appears intended to drive a wedge through American communities.

This divisive rhetoric goes against our community ethos in Mt. Airy, a neighborhood nationally – and proudly – recognized for its integration and inclusivity.

With his first executive order, the president canceled a planned rate cut to Federal Housing Administration mortgages, which most directly impacts low- to moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners. The action effectively prevented thousands of families from purchasing their first home, and it will raise monthly housing payments on people who make every dollar count.

Our organization, Mt. Airy USA, and housing counseling agencies across the city and country help thousands of similarly situated people become homeowners every year. Our dedicated and compassionate counselors continue supporting homeowners on every step of their journey through financial counseling, maintenance and repair workshops and foreclosure diversion planning. We recognize the importance of accessible home ownership in creating and maintaining strong communities.

On Friday, Jan. 27, in his most powerful executive order yet, President Trump suspended refugee resettlement and immigration from seven countries, prompting protests at Philadelphia International Airport and airports across the country. Prior to this order, Mt. Airy USA, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Nationalities Services Center, Bethany Christian Services, and several engaged neighbors and congregations, convened the Northwest Refugee Resettlement Committee. This group believes in helping families adjust to life in a new land by welcoming them into our communities.

And, our organization, in partnership with The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and FINANTA, has helped 40 immigrants from 19 countries through our Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub program, designed to educate and provide resources for immigrants to become business owners and entrepreneurs.

We recognize the importance of intentionally creating spaces with the purpose of bringing people of different backgrounds together to collaborate and share ideas.

In contrast to the tone and tenor set by our new President’s first week in office, we in Mt. Airy and at Mt. Airy USA believe our differences make us great and help us understand one another. Sixty years ago, when cities across the country, including Philadelphia, suffered from redlining and white flight, Mt. Airy banded together to welcome people of color unable to buy homes elsewhere.

That inclusiveness has carried through several generations, a community open to everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation. You cannot build a great community – or country – on a foundation of fear and suspicion. Greatness is an expansive quality, one that only grows through compassionate action, investing in empathy, and strengthening bonds of neighborly care and concern.

Mt. Airy is but one in this great city of neighborhoods. South, West, and Southwest Philadelphia, Olney and Logan, the Lower Northeast – so many places across the city have become thriving, multicultural centers that embody the spirit of the city, and our city in particular. This is the City of Brotherly Love, after all. In the past few years Philadelphia has become home to 260 refugee families.

As Mayor Kenney said after the immigration/refugee executive order, “banning immigrants and refugees is not only unjustifiably cruel, it also puts Americans at home and serving abroad at great risk.”

We can’t let hate and fear skew our understanding of justice and progress. We’re all in this together, so we need to work together. Get involved with your local neighborhood group. Talk to your neighbors. Lend a hand.

Bradley Copeland is executive director of Mt. Airy USA.

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