This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
From a City Council meeting on coordinating public safety responses to some 1,000 men joined in prayer around Germantown High School, new community-based antiviolence efforts targeting youth have been visible in Philadelphia lately.
"It turned out even beyond what I had thought," Rev. LeRoi Simmons, an associate minister at Canaan Baptist Church, said of the "1,000 Male Presence" he helped organize along with other congregations outside recently trouble-plagued Germantown High on November 16. Simmons says ongoing activities will include a Safe Corridors program.
Men marched from Vernon Park, at Germantown Avenue and Greene Street, to form a circle around nearby Germantown High School. They then moved to the front of the school for prayers by local clergy members and comments from School District officials. Participants hailed from 11 local churches and elsewhere.
Such alliances are also an aim of the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP), which is planning an "Emergency Safety Summit" and has sought a public hearing on establishing a systemwide approach to countering incidents of violence against children and youth, particularly en route to and from school.
During a City Council subcommittee meeting in early November, Philadelphia school CEO Paul Vallas, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, community leaders, EPOP organizers, and others expressed their support for a resolution allowing Council’s Legislative Oversight and Public Safety committees to hold the public hearing.
The EPOP-led, multi-group campaign wants a summit to take aim at issues from unsafe school zones to gun violence to the cloak of fear induced by student-on-student attacks.
"The Philadelphia Police Department has had meetings with community members and with principals from schools toward having this meeting where we can get issues on the table and have some comprehensive solutions," EPOP organizer Justin DiBerardinis said of plans for the summit, which EPOP hopes will take place as early as January.
For information, contact EPOP at 215-634-8922.