“Peace not Guns” – Too Late for Kyeir Pickens, killed March 12
Sen. Anthony Williams introduces his three community liaisons, Andre Carroll, Khaleef Alexander, and Markus Kennedy at the Peace Not Guns Call to Action March 20. Standing left is Councilman Kenyatta Johnson who organized the event at Myers Rec. Center. Seated right is Dr. Jonathan Wilson, founder of the Fathership Foundation.
By Ted Behr
Over 100 Southwest elected officials and residents were joined by anti-gun violence activists from around the city on Saturday afternoon, March 20 on the Myers Recreation Center basketball court where Kyeir Pickens, age 17, was shot and killed eight days previously.
The event was organized by City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson as a “Peace Not Guns Call to Action” in response to the gunning down of young Pickins and in the context of the 64 young people under age 18 who have been shot so far this year. Sixteen of them were murdered, several close to our city Recreation Centers.
Councilman Johnson, chair of the City Council Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention emphasized the need for all residents to become part of the solution. “There are 3000 people that live within ten blocks of where this happened. They all have a share in the problem.” In fact, he reflected, “We are all at fault, we can’t blame it on anyone else! Unless we all commit to seeking a solution, nothing is going to happen!”
The Councilman also said pointedly that the police can’t be the only resource to fight violence. He referred to the connection between the trauma produced by insecurity of just living in our inner city environment and mental health. “Everyone needs these public areas to be ‘safety zones,’” He contended. “We all have to work together to create them.”
As of March 18, 106 people have been murdered in Philadelphia, a 33% increase compared to this same time last year. A total of 499 people were killed in Philadelphia in 2020, one of the highest numbers of homicides in decades. Shootings involving children have skyrocketed in Philadelphia in 2020 and that pace continues this year.
Sen. Anthony H. Williams introduced the three young men he had recently added to his staff as community liaisons in the 2nd District, Khaleef Alexander, Andre Carroll, and Markus Kennedy. The purpose was to help him stay in touch with the needs and concerns of youth and young adults. Alexander, for instance, felt that his eight years of activism on social justice issues helped him relate to people undergoing with the stress of our current economic and health turmoil.
Among the attendees who described the practical approaches they were taking to reduce the scourge of violence was Mike Knox of Philly Truce. His organization was training residents to become conflict mediators and expected to deploy them in the community starting May 1.
Another young man spoke of his recruiting some of his peers to be a mature presence in city schools.
Yet another activist called on young women to be a calming influence in the community
In his invitation to the meeting, Councilman Johnson stressed that “ the coronavirus isn’t the only crisis impacting our city,” and that now might be the tipping point for us to organize. “Surely,” he contended, “we must find a way to address this senseless gun violence because we risk losing a generation of our youth.”
Councilman Johnson indicated he had requested the Police Department to increase its presence around city recreation centers and update security cameras as well.
He also noted his intention to partner with community groups to provide support services for youth including the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, Town Watch Integrated Services, Network of Neighbors, the Born Leader Family, New Options/More Opportunities, Every Murder is Real, and Pennsylvania CareerLink.
Johnson is planning to have public conversation to obtain their suggestions on how to increase peace throughout Philadelphia. These talks will help him form his public safety requests in the upcoming 2021 operating budget talks.
(Information for this article was graciously provided by Vincent Thompson, Communications Director for Councilman Johnson)