The Philadelphia City Council Committee on Public Safety held a public hearing about gun violence prevention at the Christian Stronghold Baptist Church in Mill Creek on Feb. 11. Hundreds of residents attended the hearing, which was authorized by a resolution introduced by Councilmember Derek Green.
“We can’t continue to do the same things we’ve been doing in the past,” Green said. “We have to look at new ideas and new ways to communicate between elected officials and people in the community.”
The homicide rate in Philadelphia has increased in 2020. According to data from Philadelphia Police, there were 50 homicides so far this year as of Feb. 17, a 28% increase from 2019.
Councilmembers and advocates discussed the anti-gun violence and mentorship group #ManUpPHL and its efforts to help young black men at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence.
Radio host Solomon Jones created #ManUpPHL in November of 2019 after he attended the funeral of a 15-year-old friend of his son.
“I felt like we had to do something because, as I looked at that boy in that casket, I realized that that boy could have been my son,” Jones said.
#ManUpPHL is a volunteer peer mentorship organization, and Jones testified that it has helped between 25 and 30 black men under the age of 35. Organizers developed a 12-week curriculum covering, among other topics, conflict resolution, job readiness, financial literacy, mental and physical health, character building, and education.
“It’s time for us to stop waiting for someone else to care more than we do,“ Jones said. “It’s time for us to do whatever’s possible to save our own communities.”
Stanley Crawford, a member of the Black Male Community Council, testified that more must be done to prevent shootings and to support the families of victims. He distributed a pamphlet with a photo of his son, William, who was shot and killed in 2018, to City Council members.
“That picture you’re looking at right there is the son that I loved,” Crawford said. “I raised him from the age of 3 as a single father.”
His son’s murder remains unsolved, and he and other testifiers expressed frustration with the high rate of unsolved homicides in Philadelphia, especially when the victims are black. In 2018, the year Crawford’s son was killed, less than half of murder cases in Philadelphia were solved.
Crawford said that the families of gun homicide victims are already suffering from the trauma of losing a loved one and need closure from investigators.
“I know what it feels like to have your son murdered and then not even get a phone call from the so-called detectives, and when you call them you get smoke blown up your rear end and nobody seems to care,” Crawford said.
Dr. Patricia Griffin, a member of the gun violence prevention group Mothers in Charge, held a poster with a photo of her son, Darien Griffin. He was shot and killed in 2003, and his murder is still unsolved. She and other advocates in the audience hoped that the new police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, will increase the transparency of investigations.
“She should meet with people to find out what their agenda is, what they’re feeling,” Griffin said.
The meeting, which was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., extended past 8:30, and several testifiers and members of the community did not have time to speak. The audience, councilmembers, and advocates began to exit after flickering lights prompted them to leave the room.
Green announced there will be a follow-up hearing so additional activists and community members have time to testify, and he will invite Outlaw to the hearing. Green also said the concerns and priorities of those working to prevent gun violence would be considered during the upcoming negotiations over the city’s annual budget.
“When we go through the budget process, we need to be able to ask these questions about how we’re addressing these issues, and here’s some real information and people who have been dealing with these issues,” Green said.
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