On Wednesday, City Council called a special hearing regarding the increased gun violence and death in Philadelphia. Panelists ranging from D.A. Krasner to Police Commissioner Ross to the Department of Health were tasked with providing solutions to address the increasing gun violence in the city. While this hearing was billed as an opportunity for Philadelphia City Council and the community to come together, that did not happen; after three hours, despite the large showing, no citizen had been given the opportunity to speak.
The options offered by the various city departments largely revolved around increased policing and surveillance and aesthetic changes such as cleaning and securing vacant lots and buildings. While some attention was paid to the idea that job creation and increased open public facilities in the summer for teens and young adults would help, there were very few practical approaches. In fact, there didn’t even seem to be an available map of community centers with extended hours.
This hearing greatly lacked the insight of educators, community members, and others who are most impacted by poverty and the other root issues of the increased gun violence in Philadelphia. While there was passing mention of Dr. Hite, this was not attached to any actual proposal or plan to address gun violence and trauma through our city’s schools, a public institution that allows for the greatest opportunity to reach communities most impacted by these issues.
It is clear that the city does not have a plan for improved funding around education and poverty. Starting in elementary schools, students need to be receiving social and emotional education and exposure to genuine restorative justice. Schools, as stated by Councilwoman Helen Gym, need more funding to provide for counselors and social workers for all of the students who are experiencing trauma right now, this summer, because of the increased violence and death.
Educators and parents in this city have had enough. Over the next few weeks, we will continue meeting with representatives from city council and are in the process of planning a Town Hall that will bring youth, parents, community members, and educators together to discuss actual solutions to this onslaught of violence stemming from decades of poverty, racism, and disinvestment of Philadelphia’s Black and Brown communities.
If you haven’t already signed on to our statement about gun violence, it’s not too late. And you can share the statement using this link: http://bit.ly/phlgunviolence
While the response time is unclear, you can provide information if you notice increased activity in your area via telephone 215.686.TIPS (8477).