'This has to stop': Group calls on Philly communities to stand together to prevent gun violence
PHILADELPHIA - Several groups throughout the city of Philadelphia are trying to make our streets a safer place, but they rarely work together. Recently, one local non-profit is trying to change all that.
"We banded together. We're, you know, collaborating. We're saying in unison, saying this has to stop and not just in word," said Reuben James leader of the organization Frontline Dads. "Everyone out here is a symbol that they are active participants in preventing gun violence in some form."
Frontline Dads providing all kinds of anti-violence initiatives, from violence intervention to parenting classes.
However, now the organization is taking it a step further, owning that our communities, our city, needs all of us. And while James doesn’t let police off the hook, he doesn’t view them as the biggest solution.
"This is about community has nothing to do with police. Police going to do what they do… We need caring community members to stand together," James said.
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As community activists, elected officials and candidates and concerned citizens gathered together inside the Frontline Dads headquarters, they started looking at some of the underlying causes of gun violence.
"If you do a map overlap of gun violence, poverty, crime, unemployment, addiction and homelessness, it would concentrate right here in North Philly, Kensington, Mantua West Philly," he said. "Some areas we can identify that have been historically neglected, and all that neglect adds up to what we see here."
Identifying the problem was step one, then the focus shifted to what everyone is willing to do; understanding that people are afraid, but the people in this room are fully invested.
"People are scared, and it's real because retaliation is real, labeling is real, and gun violence is real," James said. "At the end of the day, somebody could fire from when he's moving, cause any of us could be here in the middle of a march, a protest, the middle of a rally. But we operate on faith. I'm man of God, so I move in the direction that my God dictates to me. And I don't have that kind of fear. So if I die, die."
The meeting was the jumping off point, giving local leaders the opportunity to agree and try to establish a presence in known city hotspots.
"Two blocks away, three blocks away, 1800 block of Susquehanna. It is one of those hotspot listed in the 57 blocks where we know it's a high rate of gun violence," James said. "There's a there's a high concentration of gun violence, and we can address it through city resources, community effort, collaboration, and just trusting that we can change."
The 57 blocks is now the initiative that communities are working on together in hopes that everyone will support, demanding direct investment from government into the neighborhoods that need it most.
"Even if you're scared to come out of your home, even if you don't have the mobility to to march, if you don't have time to support one of these initiatives, you can make a phone call to shoot an email to your elected official and say, we need you to support the 57 blocks in this city."
Another way communities are stepping up trying to Save Our Streets.