WEST PHILADELPHIA - With so much violence in Philadelphia involving teenagers and targeting children, how can adults keep them from getting swept up in the epidemic?
"We have, over the years, only developed more methods and easier ways to kill each other. That’s not progress," Falaka Fattah stated.
Fattah says she’s up for the challenge of keeping children safe. She’s developed a program she hopes will help lessen murders in Philadelphia, a decades-long epidemic.
"In 1969, Philadelphia was known as the year of the gun. We were distinguished by having the most killings in the country," Fattah said.
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Known as Queen Mother, Fattah is the President and CEO of the House of Umoja, located at 56th and Master, in West Philadelphia.
Umoja in Swahili means unity.
For 40 years, she ran a residential program for at-risk males. Her new program will focus on 15 to 18-year-olds. "They are the ones doing the most dying."
Fattah says they have trained professionals coming in who will teach things like coping and forgiveness.
"Social media has now become the parent. I noticed that this is a drug society and that whatever is wrong, you just take a pill. We have to begin with you think before you act and so how does the brain operate? How do you go from saying that you have a right to kill somebody to understanding that nobody has that right?" Fattah questioned.
So, the Value of Human Life after-school program was born.
"Hurt people, hurt people and we, as a people, in our DNA, are very hurt people. Over 400 years and we’ve experienced a great deal of hurt. So, we’re going to begin with trying to deal with what do you do with that hurt? How do you handle it?" Fattah commented.
Fattah and her team are also looking at a different approach to teaching compassion by bringing in a professional dog trainer, for example, in the way that it’s helped veterans and people with disabilities cope.
"When you have a pet, you know you have to take care of that pet. It must be fed, he has to have exercise. So, you’re learning how to care. If you care, you don’t kill," Fattah remarked.
She says gun violence will never be eradicated, but we can’t stop working on solutions.
"I don’t know too many families in Philadelphia where they don’t know somebody who has been shot at or someone who has been killed," Fattah added. "I’m very hopeful. I’m optimistic."
More information on the program can be found here.