By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The number of rallies, marches and vigils are adding up as community members react to recent homicides that claimed the lives of young children in North and South Philadelphia. Repeated acts of violence are taking their toll.
Stuffed animals and balloons still mark the spot where three children were run over during a carjacking in Tioga last month and a similar scene sits on the street where a three year old was killed by a stray bullet in Grays Ferry five days ago.
“If we cannot protect our children– it speaks to the crisis in our neighborhoods,” says Bilal Qayuum of Father’s Day Rally Committee, who is organizing a march and rally in Love Park today at 6pm.
“We want to raise awareness through this march to focus the city on our violence problem,” he says, “but the long term goal is to get to these young men using guns to solve problems.”
Many experts say gun violence leads to trauma and more conflict– both for the families of the victims and for residents forced to live in high crime areas.
“The pain was so great that I did not want to live,” says Victoria Greene is founder of Every Murder Is Real Healing Center. Her son was murdered in 1997– and she marched with the Father’s Day Rally Committee last week and plans to march again today in Love Park at 6.
“Our communities are traumatized. Our children are traumatized,” she says, “we need to heal.”
“Folks want to do something about it, but folks just don’t know what to do,” says Joseph Purnell, executive director of Neighborhoods United Against Drugs. He says marches and vigils raise awareness, but communities need grief counseling and violence intervention.
“Changing behaviors are not something that happens over night,” he says, “its going to take work, it’s going to take commitment it’s going to take faith.”
NUAD recently started a Barbershop initiative pilot program, where they worked with young people providing the life skills that produce better choices.