Memorializing losses — violent and otherwise — at WURD event in North Philly

Latyra Blake, of The People's Paper Coop, an initiative of The Village's, helps community members make special paper with plant seeds embedded. Once the paper dries it can be buried to grow the plants.  (Darryl C. Murphy for WHYY)

Latyra Blake, of The People's Paper Coop, an initiative of The Village's, helps community members make special paper with plant seeds embedded. Once the paper dries it can be buried to grow the plants. (Darryl C. Murphy for WHYY)

The sun shone and the music blasted as people gathered in Fotterall Square in North Philadelphia to tap into their creative sides as they remembered the loved ones lost to violence.

Transit Transform is a two-day event, ending Friday, born out of a collaboration between WURD Radio and The Village of Arts and Humanities as part of the radio station’s WURD on Violence project.

The event was designed to celebrate “the lives of people lost to violence,” said Aviva Kapust, executive director of The Village. “And through that celebration, transform loss into what we want to see in the future — and a future vision of a city that doesn’t deal with violence on a daily basis.”

The activities included recording an audio memorial using the Village’s mobile studio, making commemorative portraits and ceramic tiles, as well as making paper embedded with seeds.

Inside the mobile studio people make audio memorials to their loved ones. They’ll be posted online as a permanent place of remembrance. (Darryl C. Murphy for WHYY)

Diane Bridges, a longtime resident of the neighborhood, chose to take a commemorative portrait. She has seen how violence progressed from what she described as controlled hand-to-hand combat to today’s rampant gun violence. She said the losses of her brother when he was 15 and a teenager at a basketball game last year had a strong impact on her.

Bridges said she watches the news every day, and she gets tired of hearing about “young kids getting shot or found dead.” The event is a good opportunity to raise awareness about the unrelenting violence in the community, she said.

Though addressing violence and its resulting trauma was at the heart of the project, some people remembered loved who passed away without violence.

Rodney Tillery, a resident of the Fairhill Project complex across from the east side of the park, said his mother passed away at 91. After her passing, he felt lonely. Making seed paper in her memory helped ease the pain of loss.

“This here, it was right on time,” said Tillary. “It helped me. And that’s what we need, we need some uplifting things in the neighborhood.”

“This is really poignant because people are here to share their memories of people they’ve lost to violence,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, WURD president and CEO

“People can really channel the trauma and experiences they’ve had with violence into something more productive and rejuvenative.”

During Transmit Transform local residents remember the lives of the loved ones they lost on ceramic tiles. They’ll be installed in The Village’s Memorial Park in the fall.
(Darryl C. Murphy for WHYY)

The audio memorials and portraits will be posted online. In the fall, the tiles will be installed on a wall at the Village’s Memorial Park on the 2500 block of North Warnock, not far from Fotterall Square.

“We want them to have a place they can call their own and they can go and have a peaceful moment to honor the lives of their family members,” said Kapust.

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