Confronting Violence in All Forms
A Statement from the Project HOME Community in the Wake of the Shooting in Parkland, Florida
Like many around the country, we at Project HOME are in deep pain after the recent killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We grieve for the young lives lost in that tragedy, but we are stirred with hope as many of their friends now turn that grief into action in their efforts to demand stricter gun laws.
At Project HOME we have also felt the anguish of gun violence. Over the years, there have been countless shootings in the neighborhood where we have worked since 1995 – as in many of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods. Some of our community members have been claimed by some of those shootings. In 1999, Peak Johnson, then a young boy who would be one of the first students to participate in our Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Center, lost his father on Father’s Day. In 2006, staff member and neighbor Edwina Grant’s 16-year-old son was shot and killed by someone with an illegal handgun.
But we have also seen countless times how struggles can be transformed into power for change. Peak himself consciously said that he wanted to “turn that tragedy into good,” and became a leader in our teen program, even editing a teen-produced community newspaper. He is now a journalist published in many local and national outlooks, usually writing about issues that affect communities like the one he grew up in. Edwina and other neighbors organized bus trips to Harrisburg to demand our state legislators to take action on common-sense gun control measures – and has continued to stay active in community work as well as working at one of our residences.
This pervasive violence in our society – from gun violence in our urban neighborhoods to the mindless mass killings – is complicated, and we need to develop multiple solutions, not just one single “fix.” Much of our work with neighbors seeks to address the violence of systemic economic disinvestment through affordable housing, youth and adult education and workforce development programs, college access for teens, and quality healthcare geared to the needs of the community. We also work with neighbors in implementing community security measures – town watches, lighting, building relationships with local police. And we have joined with many groups to demand that our elected officials take meaningful action at both the state and federal levels.
We join those who call for solutions to the increasing incidents of mass shootings in schools. AND we also need a broader vision of how we address the many forms of violence that impact millions of Americans, especially in communities of color. We must name and address the other factors that underlie much of the gun violence – poverty, racism and other forms of discrimination, failing schools, lack of access to healthcare, an ineffective and biased criminal justice system.
The Parkland shooting once again forces us to confront this horrendous social crisis. And we are hopeful that, with the passionate message from these young people as well as many young people in our neighborhoods who are also raising their voices, this might be a moment of real progress. Many members of the Project HOME community, including many of the youth at our Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs will be joining with our partners in Ceasefire PA – and thousands more from around the country – to travel to Washington, DC, on March 24 to demand stronger controls on guns.
For more information on other ways to get involved, including specific information on various state legislative campaigns to curb gun violence, go to www.ceasefirepa.org/issue-action-center