South Reading Neighbors Keep Tradition Alive

Written by Raquel J. Capellan.

Ain’t no party like a southside party ‘cause a southside party won’t stop!

Each year, about 100 South of Penn neighbors, community organizations, and community members gather in unity, laughter, and celebration during a classic block party at the Reading Iron Playground.

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The vibe in the south of Reading has always been vibrant and it truly shows during the South of Penn Annual Block Party.

Groups like Barrio Alegría, the NAACP Reading Branch, Berks County League of Women Voters, local barbers, and many more participate in the neighborhood celebration.

Well-known SOP neighbors like Michelle Singleton, Violet Emory, DJ Shawty Rock and her team, Jeanette Buchannon, the Harris-Wright family, and others also attended the block party.

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Photo courtesy of Barrio Alegría: Last year’s block party was held in the Reading Iron Playground with the assistance of the SOP and Barrio Alegría.

The SOP Block Party and other community events demonstrate the power of collaboration, strong partnerships, and uniting the community for causes that SOP neighbors care about brings everyone together across all fronts.

Gathering like the ‘good ‘ol times’ has played a pivotal role in amplifying and enlightening the spirits of residents in the southside of Reading. When interviewing SOP neighbors, there has been a common theme on their thoughts around their childhood growing up in the southside vs. the upbringing and activities available for current generations of youth.

“Back in the 60’s and 70’s, we had like model cities in that we hosted Easter egg hunts in Reading Iron Playground, but I’d like to see more activities. I’d like to see businesses attracted to the southside, grocery stores or something (not just bodegas),” said Michelle Singleton, a South of Penn neighbor.

Many neighbors walked down memory lane as they shared their fondest memories of growing up in the southside and in other parts of Reading.

Violet Emory, Program Director at Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation vividly reminisced on some of her favorite memories about being born and raised on South 6th Street in Reading.

Photo courtesy of Barrio Alegría: When Barrio Alegría teamed up with South of Penn neighbors, it brought arts and crafts for the children at the block party.

Violet feels that her life has come full circle with her career ending in her community and in the nonprofit industry one block away from where she was raised on the 300 block of South 6th Street. She also shared that her parents were one of the first Latino families to buy a home on that block, which is why she still knows the Southside very well.

“It’ll always be a part of my heart,” Violet said. “As far as my childhood, we were united as a family, so we relied on our family. Even though we didn’t live in the same area, we lived in different areas of the Southside, we always came together at least once a week. That was a big part of our childhood.”

The Annual South of Penn Taskforce Block Party is a lively event where everyone who attended rekindled friendships, bonded with family, and connected with each other.

The SOP Task Force aims to unite the community through programs that focus on civic engagement, community development, housing, financial education, and so much more.

The next block party is slated for mid-August. To learn more about opportunities to get involved in the South of Penn neighborhood, contact the SOP coordinator at

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of “Historias del Barrio,” a series of stories written by local storytellers to highlight community members who have engaged with Barrio Alegría and the South of Penn Task Force, through a strategic partnership with The Wyomissing Foundation, to make positive impacts in their neighborhoods.

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