Shouts of “Stop the violence, increase the peace” echoed through the streets of Strawberry Mansion as community activists led an anti-violence march Wednesday, demanding their voices be heard. The “Take the City Back” march was coordinated by Strawberry Mansion High School program coordinator Matthew Johnson.
Beginning at Mander playground, located at the intersection of 33rd and Diamond streets, participants marched to Strawberry Mansion High School where they filed into the auditorium for the youth restoration rally. The initiative of the day’s events described the march as combating “the mass misery of our communities in the City of Philadelphia.”
During the rally, through forms of poetry and music, the youth of Strawberry Mansion expressed their opposition to the violence occurring around them. In addition to the youth, local community groups and city officials also took to the podium to speak.
In 2011, a total of 324 people were shot and killed in Philadelphia, including 124 juveniles, including 106 African-Americans.
Strawberry Mansion bears the bulk percentage of those shootings. “Those statistics are something we’re on the verge of shattering,“ Johnson said.
He also talked about the importance of education and “planting the seed” in our toddlers at a young age so they grow up accordingly. The youth incorporated a call and response with the audience in chanting, “Take the city back,” accompanied by cheers and clapping. Local veteran and pastor of the National Temple Baptist Church, Terry Oakman, compared the violence in Philadelphia to that of war. “I didn’t have to go to Iraq to see war. I could’ve seen it right here in Philadelphia,” Oakman said.
Philadelphia residents were not the only ones out fighting for the cause. Temple University senior Rose Andre joined the march as an intern for Philadelphia Cease Fire, holding a sign that read “education is our savior.“
“We’re trying to stop the violence within urban communities by showing the people in the communities that we care,” Andre said.
Johnson was more than pleased with the turnout of the day’s events. For him, the next step in taking the city back is to get resources to bring things into the community to “plant the seed.”
Denise Hailey, a Strawberry Mansion resident for more than 50 years, said she hopes the rally can make a change for her community. “I hope it has a great impact. It’s never been this bad, hopefully we can make a change,” Hailey said.