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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

“Walk Around Philadelphia” redefines Philly’s edge

Walkers participating in the final segment of “Walk Around Philadelphia” on Feb. 26, walking from St. Joe’s to the intersection of 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue. PHOTOS: MACKENZIE ALLEN ’23/THE HAWK

Philadelphia has many borders. There is the state-recognized border, the physical borders like train tracks and “no trespassing” signs, and more complex borders such as language, finance and culture. 

JJ Tiziou strives to blur these borders and barriers through his project “Walk Around Philadelphia.” The walk traces the entire border of Philadelphia and has occurred every February for the past eight years. In 2020, a walk in September was added, and the walk has been held biannually ever since. 

The 100-mile walk is broken up differently every time. This month marks the 11th walk, spread across three weekends from Feb. 10 to Feb. 26.

A “Walk Around Philadelphia” participant holds up a stop sign as walkers cross the street.

For the final weekend of the walk, Tiziou led walkers from Elkins Park toward the Schuylkill Center, where Tiziou curated an exhibit showcasing the walk’s theme of borders and boundaries, and then to St. Joe’s the next day. On the morning of Feb. 26, 14 walkers gathered in Merion Hall before setting off toward the intersection of 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue for the last segment of the walk.

Even though Tiziou has completed this walk 11 times, he discovers something new each trip around.

“This is the same walk as last February, but every time it’s different,” Tiziou said. “And there’s been more walkers from previous years coming in and supporting the walkers currently doing it. It’s really sweet, seeing a community build around this event.”

“Walk Around Philadelphia” is an opportunity for adventure and discovery close to home, Tiziou said. It offers countless opportunities for growth, whether that be through personal accomplishment, physical challenge or civic pride, and Tiziou encourages walkers to ponder themes of social and environmental justice, indigenous history and colonization throughout the journey. 

Tiziou is also working to create accommodations for people with disabilities and find ways to help people who cannot financially afford to register for the walk. Accessibility and inclusivity are high on his list of priorities in improving the walk for all parties.

“The conversations keep on unfolding and people keep on tiptoeing into it,” Tiziou said. “We’re still a mostly white group of folks, that’s a very real thing about this. We are not representative of the city at all. But we’re moving in that direction of facilitating access and doing more outreach.”

One participant, Leonie Williamson, said she loves walking, and when she heard about “Walk Around Philadelphia” from her neighbors, she was immediately interested.

“I would have never done this [without “Walk Around Philadelphia”], I wouldn’t know it was there,” Williamson said. “Actually, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being Black in somebody’s neighborhood. I don’t want to be somebody’s target practice. But I’m more comfortable now.” 

Redefining borders and boundaries not only in the physical sense, but also among the people who come along for the walk, is one of the main purposes “Walk Around Philadelphia” looks to accomplish.

J.J. Tiziou observes participants as they walk through the brush in a single-file during the walk on Feb. 26. PHOTO: MACKENZIE ALLEN ’23/ THE HAWK

Kyle DeMerlis was part of the walk segment that left from St. Joe’s. He is an investments specialist for Vanguard and described how he made an unlikely friend  during “Walk Around Philadelphia” last September. 

“I met someone whose job is actually to protest Vanguard’s climate inaction. You would think the two of us would go head to head, but we had a really nice conversation and agreed on a lot of things,” DeMerlis said. “The irony was right in your face.”

James Britt has done the walk for the past three consecutive years. Britt moved to Philadelphia in 2019 and said his perspective of Philadelphia changed completely after his first time participating in the walk.

“The very first one was my most memorable one because we went to Heinz Park, a wildlife preserve,” Britt said. “I was shocked to see wilderness, wildlife and greenery. All cities are that way, but it’s kind of weird to see.” 

This is just one of many ways “Walk Around Philadelphia” continues to broaden participants’ understanding of borders and boundaries, shifting their view of the city and of themselves. 

“When we walk fast, we miss things,” Tiziou said. “When we walk a little slower, we find opportunities for discovery in so many different ways. We’ll be looking out for each other.”

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