By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Planning is underway to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Imani Pact” — a ceasefire agreement signed by scores of gang members who pledged, “No Gang War in ’74.”
On January 1, 1974, more than 500 gang members from across the city met in North Philadelphia to discuss a way to end their territorial blood war.
“The killings were going on, they were raging,” says Queen Mother Falaka Fattah (seated in photo), founder and CEO of House of Umoja, a community organization located ay 56th and Master Streets in West Philadelphia.
Fattah opened her home in the early 1970s to gang members. It had become a respite for young men seeking peace, and she asked them how to end the bloodshed, which was being recorded with daily scores in the local newspaper.
“We visited every prison in Pennsylvania where there were gang members incarcerated,” Fattah recalls, “and we asked them to help us plan the conference. They picked New Year’s Day. They said everyone makes New Year’s resolutions.”
“People’s mothers had gotten shot, people’s kids were being killed, little kids couldn’t come out and play,” says Falaka Fattah’s husband, David, who wrote the Imani Pledge and helped broker the peace agreement among the gangs. “We had it set up United Nations-style. We had all these people sitting in a circle, and we were resolving conflicts.”
David Fattah says they discussed their various “beefs,” which ranged from territorial conflicts to feelings of disrespect, and family feuds.
“The question of manhood changed,” he recalls. “Would you show strength by killing somebody, or could you show strength by not killing somebody and being a man of your word?”
The Fattahs say that by the end of 1974, eighty leaders from Philadelphia’s 105 gangs had signed on.
“We went from no faith in what we were doing, to having faith we could do something positive,” says Jimmy Allen, a former gang leader. “Instead of committing crimes, they started going to college and they made the neighborhood peaceful.”
The Fattahs say House of Umoja is partnering with Ceasefire PA to reconvene the “No Gang War” conference on January 1, 2014, at Temple University.
“The purpose of reconvening is to salute those men who gave their word and kept their word for 40 years,” says Falaka Fattah. “We also want to recharge the energies of these men to reach out to young people today — to save their lives and improve the quality of their life.”
The groups will meet on Saturday to plan the reunion event. For more information go to www.houseofumoja.org.