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Burning Spear News

Africans in Philadelphia forced to live in subway stations during pandemic

May 11, 2020
Matop Nyungu, Secretary, Philadelphia Unit, APSP-USA Northern Region

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has the sixth largest U.S. rapid transit system by ridership and the fifth largest overall transit system. Sixty-four percent of its workforce is African, as well as forty-eight percent of its overall ridership of 4 million people. 

As the death toll increased for their employees, with nine having died and over ninety-six having tested positive for the colonialvirus at the time of this writing, SEPTA moved to what they refer to as the “Lifeline Service Schedule,” intended to increase safety for riders and operators.

The decrease in the number of people frequenting the subway stations and subway trains coupled with a reduction in the SEPTA workforce, however, has created a multitude of safety and health issues.

These issues affect not only the primarily African essential workers who rely on SEPTA to travel to and from their jobs and the SEPTA workers but also one of the city’s most vulnerable populations, the homeless.

According to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “[Homeless shelters] across the city have had to overhaul and, in many cases, drastically curtail their programs, struggling with the reality that social distancing isn’t built into their service models.” 

When asked if it was safer to sleep in a shelter or on the street, physician’s assistant Katie Huynh replied, “I had to tell them it’s safer, for the coronavirus, to sleep on the street. So I think that we’re going to see a lot more people avoiding shelters,” she said. “But then, that leaves you vulnerable for more violence, that you’ll be injured physically or have your belongings stolen.”

In Philadelphia, where Africans represent seventy-nine percent of the homeless population, many of them turn to SEPTA subway stations and/or subway trains for shelter where social distancing is somewhat possible. Some ride the trains continuously day and night.

Sadly, that’s the good news.

The SEPTA workforce reduction includes the maintenance crews who are responsible to clean the stations, which means the riders and homeless are forced to walk through and reside in complete squalor. 

SEPTA workers, meanwhile, fear contracting COVID-19 on the job. Their workers' union accuses the transit agency of not doing enough to keep them safe.

What all of these glaring contradictions point to is Africans are in constant peril no matter where we are located or what we do. The colonialvirus is a political problem that carries with it potentially deadly medical consequences, especially for Africans.

We need power over our own lives! We demand to have the ability to feed, clothe and house ourselves!

The fight for self-governance and a liberated African nation is the aim of the African People’s Socialist Party! It is a fight for all humanity.

Join the African People’s Socialist Party at

“We want an end to U.S. colonial domination of African people within the U.S.,” - Point #13, The Working Platform of the African People’s Socialist Party: What We Want – What We Believe



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