What Winnie Harris planted in Powelton Village cannot be allowed to die.
She was shot to death inside her home in February. Her killers remain at large.
Harris was the glue of her block on Holly Street. At 65, she was the acting executive director of UC Green, a community group that planted and took care of trees. She also was a founder of the Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, where you can find honey locust, European hornbeam trees, spearmint, thyme, coral bells, and switch grass, among other hearty plants.
The garden has survived droughts and heavy storms, but as anyone who has worked in a community garden knows, it’s not just a place where plants grow. The Holly Street garden is a focal point for the block, a place where the deep bonds that hold a community together when times get tough are cultivated along with vegetables and flowers.
The neighborhood is honoring Harris by refusing to let the search for her killers rest. Leading the charge is retired police officer Saundra Fulwood, one of Harris’ friends, who may no longer be on the force but continues to look for clues in the murder.
Police say they are further along in the case and have a video of two men skulking through an alley near Harris’ home. But they haven’t caught the thugs.
Earlier this month, Fulwood handed out leaflets with the web address for a video of the two suspects, and how to contact police with tips. She has also affixed the contact information to phone booths and utility boxes and plans to place leaflets on car windshields.
Neighborhoods trying to rise above adversity can be found throughout Philadelphia. The spirit of these communities has been crucial to the city’s ability to survive recessions and crime waves despite the indifference, and often hostility, coming from Harrisburg and Washington.
Powelton’s love for a humble woman whose kindness inspires even from the grave will help keep her beloved neighborhood strong.
Even so, murders and other violence continue to tear at the fabric of too many communities, stressing institutions and forcing residents to hunker down within the walls of their homes.
Murders of women aren’t as frequent, but as staff writer Julie Shaw reported, they are increasing. So far this year, 22 women have been killed in the city. That’s 37 percent above the number of female victims by the same time last year.
As of Friday, police reported that 152 male victims had been murdered this year, a jump of 16 percent. And the typically more murderous summer season is just getting started.
Powelton Village’s refusal to let Winnie Harris’ murder become just another unsolved case is a testament to the neighborhood’s strength and sprouts hope for its continued vibrancy.
There is no better way to honor Harris and her family than for her murderers to be brought to justice. This city can’t let Winnie Harris and her neighborhood down.