The first time I heard of Temple Town, it was because of a selfie.
Apple’s location feature told my friends and me that the photo we took was in Temple Town – what I did not know at the time is that the neighborhood’s nickname is covering up another community.
The neighborhood, which is bound by Broad Street to the east, 24th Street to the west, Susquehanna Avenue to the north and Girard Avenue to the south, is known to many as the Cecil B. Moore Community. Many residents of the area are opposed to the Temple Town name, and with good reason.
The name reduces the community to one that is concerned only with the students, rather than the residents who will be there four years later.
The Temple Town name may appear positive when comparing it to names of areas such as University City, which is described on its website as “the region’s leader in education, science, and innovation, with world-class universities and medical institutions.”
Some students in University City don’t see the name as significant.
“[The name University City is] just kind of there,” said Nick Manna, a third-year civil engineering major at Drexel University. Manna said he more frequently hears the area referred to as simply “West Philly.”
Although the concept appears similar, the implications of Temple Town are more severe than those of University City. Instead of becoming a mosaic of the Cecil B. Moore community’s diversity, Temple Town became a bad cover-up focusing entirely on Temple University.
University City was not put in place on top of another name. “West Philly” is not the name of a person and is not the same as covering Cecil B. Moore’s contributions.
Cecil B. Moore was a Temple alumnus, attorney and civil rights advocate who helped many African Americans who were not able to advance their positions themselves.
If University City is a moniker used to describe a thriving area, then the Cecil B. Moore community should be equally representative of knowledge, ideas and culture.
The name “Temple Town” was removed recently after residents complained to Google through a petition, although a spokesperson for Google told the Inquirer it was not responsible for the name.
One of the complaints that residents voice is that realtors and developers ignore what the community needs in order to make a profit.
“Not once … has a developer asked what is best for the community,” said Christine Brown, a resident of the community who is in charge of Beech Community Services.
Brown said there is no possibility of a sustainable community if new student housing is built constantly without adding other family-oriented resources to the community.
It is unclear exactly who or which organizations began to use the Temple Town nickname.
Peter J. Liacouras, a former president of the university, used the term to refer to on-campus businesses but never intended for Temple Town to become a term used to overshadow the Cecil B. Moore Community, according to Philly.com.
Temple has denied any involvement with the name appearing on Google Maps It even supported the name’s removal.
“It’s a good thing that they are taking it [Temple Town] down,” said James Hilty, a professor emeritus of history in a Philly.com interview.
Hilty said it was never the university’s intention for Temple Town to cover up the existing community. But even if Temple never intended to have the name spread, it remains pervasive.
Real estate companies use the name to make their apartments more appealing to Temple students, Brown said.
Realtors like Temple Town Realty advertise themselves as “a leading provider of off-campus student housing in the Temple University area.”
When the services that students use in order to rent their off-campus housing associates the nearby community with Temple Town, it is only natural that students begin to make these associations.
As a result, some students do not see much harm in the name.
“I really don’t think it could make the community any worse,” said Ryan Rosenberger, a sophomore computer science major.
The harm stems from pushing aside a community that holds a vibrant history. Dismissing the contributions that Cecil B. Moore made to the community of Philadelphia in order to profit off of a college that has not been around as long as Moore’s legacy is shortsighted and disrespectful.
Removing the Temple Town nickname is a strong first step in recognizing the importance of the Cecil B. Moore community, but it will not solve all of its problems overnight.
Brown said the community will continue to raise awareness and seek change with developers.
“All the residents are asking for is respect and inclusion,” Brown said in an interview with The Temple News.
Brown said she hopes the next step will involve the Philadelphia City Council naming the community officially after Moore and that Google will acknowledge the community’s name.
Instead of paying homage to an important Philadelphia civil rights leader and respecting a community that has long existed, the name focuses on real estate agencies and residents who will not be community members in a few years.
Heralding the area surrounding Temple as Temple Town devalues the community.
Vince Bellino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @VinceTNF