Concluding the Hallway of Hope on “Day Without Immigrants”

In January of 2017, the Hallway of Hope project was launched to be a physical manifestation of the support that the Aquinas Center’s local, national, and global community has for Philadelphia’s immigrants and refugees. Hateful, xenophobic rhetoric was spreading at a fast pace and escalated with the rise of an aggressively anti-immigration platform. No matter how strong we stand in solidarity and how much direct action we take, we can’t control the negative voices of those who would threaten our community.


However, we can counter this negativity by surrounding ourselves with expressions of hope, love and solidarity so that each person can see for themselves as they walk through our hallways that other educators, other children, other families and other faith communities value and support them and their life here in the United States. A call to action on Facebook yielded 404 messages of hope. These notes and posters were drawn, typed, or printed out original drawings and inspirational quotes to decorate our halls; from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much to all who contributed a poster or sign. We treasure the color and brightness that they bring into this space, and especially invaluable is the noise-cancelling respite that they offer to the hundreds of folks who step into the Aquinas Center every week.


Lily Applebaum, a volunteer curator of the Hallway of Hope, shared her reflection on this project:


Every Friday morning for the past few months, I’ve started my day by sorting through colorful drawings on construction paper made by children and adults that I don’t know. Hanging these messages of solidarity, hope and love with Philadelphia’s immigrant and refugee community in the halls at Aquinas was an uplifting experience for me personally. What particularly stood out for me was how much children seemed to know just what adults needed to see. For example, one sign that moved me to tears was that one child made a little paper house, with a pop up book style door that opened to reveal a smiling girl behind it, presumably a self portrait, accompanied by a message of welcome.
Another that moved me to tears simply said ‘Love your buddy.’ Children always represent and embody hope to us, because they represent a next generation of people who might not hold the hateful opinions that some adults currently do; but they also are a reflection back to us of the educators and faith community leaders who are out there teaching and reinforcing love and solidarity, patiently explaining a complicated adult world in terms children can understand, and giving them outlets such as creating posters and signs for Hallway of Hope to express what they’ve learned and processed. That, to me, is hope!


Today, on May 1st, a day for workers’ rights and justice as well as a Day Without Immigrants, the Aquinas Center team removed the Hallway of Hope. Just as it served as a symbolic action to recognize the community of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers that call South Philly home, so too does the removal acknowledge what our community would be like without this presence.


Empty. Quiet. Absent color and life.

May today be a moment to pause and consider what kind of nation we want to be: one of inclusion and welcome or rooted in fear and exclusion? May we also look to Pope Francis who encourages us to practice mercy instead of building walls (reported here):


“No tyranny can be sustained without exploiting our fears,” Francis said. “Citizens are walled-up, terrified, on one side; on the other side, even more terrified, are the excluded and banished.”

Fear “is fed and manipulated,” he added. “Because fear — as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death — weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others, and in the end it makes us cruel.”

Francis said he believes that mercy is the “best antidote” to fear — and is “much more effective than walls, iron bars, alarms and weapons. And it is free,” according to the Catholic News Service.