Black male leaders call for cease-fire to halt city shootings

Original article by Michael D'Onforio can be found here http://www.phillytrib.com/news/we-are-in-a-crisis/article_8cb69084-2a8d-5110-b9b4-eadd81d096d0.html

 

Gun violence has scarred John Solomon.

 

One scar runs nearly 6 inches up Solomon’s left tricep toward his shoulder, the result of surgery after a bullet struck him on its way into his chest when he was 15.

 

“But the true reminder is inside of me,” Solomon said as he stood at the intersection of West Huntington and North Chadwick streets in North Philadelphia on Monday. “It’s not a physical thing,” the 26-year-old added. “It’s the trauma that I went through. It’s the trauma: That’s the biggest reminder.”

 

With shootings on the rise in the city, Solomon joined a coalition of Black men and community groups — along with Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams — who called for a cease-fire and halt to the shootings. “We are in a crisis, particularly the African-American community,” said Bilal Qayyum, founder and president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee.

 

The city has logged 234 homicides this year as of Sunday, an increase of 8 percent from the same time in 2017, according to the Philadelphia Police Department’s online database. About 84 percent of those killed have been overwhelmingly Black: 177 Black men and 20 Black women, according to a police spokesman.

 

Through Sunday, there also had been 1,193 shooting incidents with 961 shooting victims among them, said the police spokesman. One of the most recent shootings happened at the location of the press conference; a 32-year-old man was shot and killed there last week. A makeshift memorial — a photo, balloons, candles and stuffed animals — sat at the base of a telephone pole nearby. Resident Taaj Hall, 30, said that man was his long-time friend, Earl McCormick. Philadelphia police did not respond to a request to confirm the identity of the man who was killed.

 

“People are dying; people are losing their life,” Hall said. “You can’t get your life back. You can’t push replay. You can’t get it back, so we need some people to care to get together to try to stop it (gun violence).”

 

Williams, the sheriff, said he and groups have been working for years to reduce gun violence, “but the message is just not getting there.”

 

“So we’re calling on people to talk it out, and don’t shoot it out,” Williams said.

 

Mell Wells, president of One Day at a Time, said Black communities have to admit there is a problem. “It’s time to start raising hell about what we’re doing to one another,” he said. “About these babies who are dying in our street. … we’ve got to start ... putting down the guns and start helping out one another by watching each others’ back.”

 

Terry Starks, founder and executive director of the Urban Crisis Response Center, said neighborhoods need more community organizing, community engagement and youth programs. “Once the community comes out, then — like I said, aunties and uncles comes out — a lot of times guys aren’t going to do dumb stuff because their family is out,” Starks said.

 

Qayyum said the coalition will initiate jobs projects and programs to encourage the proliferation of Black-owned businesses before the end of the year with the goal of reducing gun violence. After wielding guns himself in his youth and spending five years in jail, Solomon co-founded Endangered Kind, a community group that he co-runs that addresses issues in the neighborhood.

 

Solomon said North Philadelphia neighborhood was in a “state of survival,” where residents were fearful and many carry guns because of that fear.

“When I wake up and come out here, I just know it’s danger,” he said. “There’s good things about the neighborhood, but you can’t deny the fact that it’s dangerous out here.”

 

Solomon said he believed there remains a disconnect between community leaders and those causing the violence. “We haven’t been effective at being proactive,” Solomon said. “We can come to a rally or press conference, it doesn’t take any work to do that,” he added. “You know: Somebody gets killed, we come out here and we speak. That’s easy; that’s the easy part.

But to actually be proactive and connect with these guys on a personal level to even begin to have a chance to stop the issue, that’s a whole other ballgame.”