Decades ago Chester was once a predominately white community with a thriving economy built around ship manufacturing. Decades following that industry's collapse, and after years of white flight, the population of the community is now over 75% African-American. The town of around 37,000 faces many crises, including one of the worst public school systems in the state, extreme levels of pollution that have caused overwhelming illness and death, a poverty rate of 25% and an unemployment rate of 16.7%, both three times the national average, and a staggering murder rate seven times the national average.
In the face of these challenges, there is a revitalization movement led by the religious community, which includes over 200 churches. Essentially, faith is major stabilizing force in Chester and keeps the community from unraveling completely.
The corner of Front St. and Thurlow St. in Chester, PA, is where kids from the block often play on and around the train tracks.