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Dwayne Wharton | Lessons from GreatPHL

Dwayne grew up in an environment where steady income wasn’t a given, but he also grew up luckier than many of those around him. After being told he wasn’t “college material,” Dwayne pushed forward with newfound motivation to succeed in ways he was told he couldn’t.

Dwayne is the Director of External Affairs at The Food Trust, a Philadelphia organization that ensures access to affordable and nutritious food. He has worked with the Red Cross and Project Home and has two daughters in high school – one at Central High and one at The High School For Creative & Performing Arts.

In this talk, Dwayne discusses how we can solve complex issues like food scarcity and institutional racism, and from where these problems stem.

It Was Never Great for Most of Us
The harsh reality is: America wasn’t founded on fair labor and equality. It was built on the backs of the poor masses for the benefit of a wealthy few. Stolen labor, stolen land, and the devaluing of Native Americans and African Americans is an unfortunate piece of our history and heritage – one that created disparities and limited access to resources early on in America’s development. Decades later, we are still witnessing the ripple effect of problems like unemployment, low wages, poverty, and hunger.

Philadelphia still grapples with the realities of inequality every day – especially racial inequality. From food deserts to white flight, the lack of perceived value in certain neighborhoods has given rise to a variety of troubling patterns. Resources continue to be scarce in certain areas and abundant in others.

Dwayne stresses that it’s not anyone’s job to feel guilty, but it’s everyone’s job to take action.

“This is not about someone feeling guilt about their privilege and what they have. This is about structural, historical deficits that exist and have created these conditions.”

Equity in Everything

“Equity means giving people what they need to be whole.”

Is it fair – or sustainable – that our zip codes actually determine whether we’ll die young of a preventable disease? From applying for a loan to buying groceries, research continually shows that wealthier Philadelphia neighborhoods have better opportunities, financial outcomes, and even life expectancies.

“Wealth is built on the back of the housing industry.”

Those who didn’t have a chance to buy a home are left out of the loop, preventing them from gaining a true sense of security for themselves and their children. It’s a vicious cycle that we’re only beginning to break now.

Dwayne discusses ways that simple changes in state and federal policy can transform health outcomes, race and gender inequality in the workplace, and more.

How can Philadelphians take responsibility for gentrification and the role they play in it? How can we implement policy changes that yield to equity for all Philadelphians – not just a few? These are the questions Dwayne challenges listeners to consider.


Follow Dwyane on Twitter.

An amazing group of Philadelphians came together to make GreatPHL a huge success! A true ideas festival that highlighted our city and inspired thought-provoking action. Stay tuned for more events presented by Kismet Cowork.