Victoria Meng: 24 Hours in Philadelphia

Photography, Text and Video by Victoria Meng, Copyright 2017


24 Hours in Philadelphia


The glare of passing cars on a wet boulevard glows, ironically, orange. I’m standing beneath the looming shadow of City Hall. To my right, a group of screaming protesters seems more comforting than the sight to my left, a row of fifteen armed police officers, leaning on their thin bike frames like stoic knights preparing to joust. It’s a cold Saturday night, shortly past midnight. Shouts muddled with static erupted from bullhorns, filling the air with complaints about small hands and big grievances. Yet, in the chaos around me, I found a source of peace.

Weaving between the ANTIFA activists and reporters and policemen, there were people. Normal Philadelphia citizens going about their nightly activities without batting an eye. Colorful beanies bobbed their way up and down the stairs of the SEPTA station, cars stuck in traffic blasted the newest single from this week’s one-hit wonder, Philly Jesus smiled silently from his post.
I went Downtown to look for signs of decay, clear beacons of injustice and hatred that have sprouted up over the past year. But I didn’t find that. Instead, I finally saw in Philly, something that I’d always wanted to see: resilience. Despite all of the tragedies and embarrassments that have befallen us as a society in the past year, Philly is still Philly. The city is no less vibrant, and the people are no less brash, diverse, creative, or phenomenal.

The next morning, as I walked through Chinatown and then to a Day of the Dead Celebration, I witnessed a new type of protest. Among these vibrant immigrant communities, there was no screaming, no posters, no Papier-mâché presidents. Instead, they fought back by simply living and loving in a city they made their home. Their very existence was a raised a middle finger to the nationalist forces that rally against them.

Old women guarded their posts in Chinatown, chattering together in brightly patterned jackets, while young children 20 blocks down got their faces painted to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Whether it was the smell of warm Pan de Muerto or the faint thump of some Taiwanese rap single, I witnessed how joy can be a form of defiance.



About The Author: Victoria Meng is a Sophomore enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Victoria Meng, click:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *