Sheinelle Jones on how Philly’s reopening can help the rest of the country

Today – Season 68
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We’ve heard the term Philly Strong a lot in the past year, and now people are truly going to see what the City of Brotherly Love is made of.

NBC’s TODAY Show is traveling around the country in a new series titled ‘Reopening America’, and their first stop is right here in Philly. Sheinelle Jones, co-host of the 3rd Hour of TODAY and a Philadelphia native herself will kick off the series live on Monday, April 12, from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum District.

“It feels really good to start talking about how we can push through this hopefully and how to get back out there again, and how to do it safely,” says Jones.

The journalist may be based in the Big Apple with TODAY, but at the start of the pandemic last year, Jones was doing interviews with the Black Doctors Consortium and her own pastor at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. Now, Jones will get to come back to Philadelphia, but in a completely different light.

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“The reality is, when you spotlight the people, places and things it takes to bring our country back to life, you have to look at some of these iconic cities…and obviously, you’re not going to get any argument from me [about Philly],” explains Jones. “The city of Philadelphia is one of those cities where when Philly thrives, the area thrives and the cities around the city of Philadelphia thrive. For me, it’s the heartbeat of the Northeast in that area. So, we’re going to go back and we’re going to do news of the day. We’re going to have a lot of fun, but we’re also going to do updates on vaccinations and travel and economics and the local government and the school system and how the city is reopening—and then we’ll take a step back. I think it’s important for the rest of the country to see the trailblazers in Philly.”

NBC TODAY’s new series will air all week, first locally and then nationally. Jones specifically interviewed a few stand-out Philadelphians for ‘Reopening America,’ and the hopes is that people from around the U.S. will get a snapshot into the people that make up the community we all call home. Guests include Ben Miller, co-owner of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico, the 24-year old health and wellness leaders Triyo Triplets Fitness and Valerie Camillo, who was recently named president of business operations for the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center, making her the first woman hired as President of an NHL franchise.

“She’s someone that Philly can be proud of, and the country can be proud of, and women can be proud of,” says Jones. “It’s one of those stories where for me, it’s an example of how, yes, we’re in Philadelphia and we’re spotlighting specific people and places, but this is America’s story and this is the country’s story. No matter where you live, you can still connect to the people and the places that we are spotlighting in the city.”

The series will also feature Philadelphia icon Patti Labelle, who will be spotlighting some of her favorite spots in the food capital of the country.

“Patti Labelle. That’s a story in itself,” says Jones. “She’s going to do a taste tour of Philly and pick her favorite places, and I know being in Philly for so long what that means and what that will mean to a local restaurant. To have Patti LaBelle say this is one of my favorites…It’s something they can have to keep.”

The series is meant to showcase what Philly is made of, but also Philadelphians themselves. The city is vast and filled with so much culture, it can be easy to take what we have in our backyards for granted. Jones hopes that the series will act as a mirror into what the community has not just for tourists when travel is safe again, but for locals as well. Take a trip to a new neighborhood, explore an area of Philly you haven’t before—it’s reopening so now is the time.

“When we think about the food, we think about cheesesteaks, and we definitely do them well and better than anybody else, but there’s so much when we talk about cuisine in the city of Philadelphia. I want to talk about that on a national level,” says Jones. “But sometimes when you live in Philly, you can rediscover parts of the city that you never really knew were in your own backyard and discover some food places that maybe weren’t in your neighborhood.”

NBC TODAY’S ‘Reopening America’ will also feature updates on vaccinations, travel, economics, and more subjects that are relevant to Philly’s reopening, as well as local weatherman Glenn “the hurricane” Schwartz assisting with weather, a segment where Philly celebs answer rapid fire questions on their favorite things about Philly and a virtual plaza that will be made up of all residents of Philadelphia.

But, what viewers from any state or part of the country can expect is a sign of hope that America is reopening, slowly but surely.

“Look, Philadelphia isn’t the only city that has been through tough times, but Philly is near and dear to my heart. So for the folks who are there and who have gone through a hard time, I just hope that they feel encouraged that things are going to get better and to hear from their local leaders and people in high profile positions who have the power to open the city back up and to do it safely. I hope that we’re able to strategically talk about how we can do that and I hope for people around the country that they will remember when they’re ready to get back out there again safely that Philadelphia is a city that they should consider.”

Catch Sheinelle Jones with NBC TODAY’S ‘Reopening America’ series April 12.