OK, we’re on.
The next Fill The Steps Against Gun Violence gathering at the Art Museum is set for Wednesday, May 29, starting at 5 p.m. Remember, I told you to keep your calendars a little loose so when the city’s young people, who are leading the way to the steps this year, came calling, you’d have no excuses.
They’re calling. No excuses.
May 29, 5 p.m.
This is the fourth year I’ve asked Philadelphians impacted by gun violence — that’s all of us, in case you’re wondering — to come together to put a face on the city’s epidemic, but also to stand shoulder to shoulder and commit to work against the violence and apathy that are constants in this city. (As always, whether we stand or sit on the steps depends on the abilities of whoever shows up.)
Last year, I passed the torch to the city’s young people led by Parkway Center City Middle College students who continue to step into their voices and power — but more than that, who continue to make connections with other young people, locally and nationally, who fight the same fight.
This year, along with the families of Philadelphia homicide victims, who will always be at the center of this event, I’ve asked some guests to share some words:
Jami Amo, a Columbine shooting survivor, who last year suggested to The Inquirer that there should be a national clearinghouse that gun violence survivors could consult to discover all of the resources they’re entitled to. In response to that story by my colleague David Gambacorta and me earlier this month U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans cosponsored the Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would establish a federal advisory council to support victims of gun violence, and identify gaps in the support systems.
Also speaking will be Luis Berrios, left on the street to die after he was shot during a robbery in November, but who has since been spreading a message of forgiveness.
Mykia Capers will be there — she’s one of countless Philadelphia mothers of homicide victims who use the biggest loss of their lives to fight for themselves and other families shattered by deaths. Representing generations of young, black men lost to gun violence will be cousins Crystal Arthur and Raquel Bland — who have lost three family members, including their sons, to gun violence — and Sonya Dixon, who lost two grandchildren in two years.
They’ll be there to share their stories. But also to call for action.
Amo, the Columbine survivor:
“I’m speaking at Fill The Steps this year because I want the policy makers to hear me loud and clear when I say that they have more work to do to prevent gun violence, they have more work to do to support survivors of gun violence, and they have more work to help victims of gun violence.”
Maureen Boland, a Parkway Center City Middle College teacher, whose tireless work with her students has helped ignite a movement:
“I will be standing on the steps with my students because 60 percent of my students report having lost a blood relative to gun violence. This level of trauma is intolerable to me.” But she will also be there because she wants policies that would bring more mental-care services into the schools. “Teachers and counselors can’t do this alone. Our kids are hurting.”
Simone Akridge, 16, one of the student leaders from Parkway who has lost two loved ones to gun violence:
“I don’t want to be next.”
Where we stand as a city and as a nation, as 116,000 people are shot in America every year, matters. What we intend to do about it, today on National Trauma Survivors Day as every day, should also matter as Philly counts more than 120 homicides so far this year.
As Boland says, it should be intolerable to us all.