Youth from all over the city gathered at the Philadelphia Masjid for the Youth Gun Violence Prevention Summit last Saturday.
Nearly a dozen speakers led panels and breakout sessions, and attendees were encouraged to connect with resources focused on mental health, civic engagement, co-victim support, art therapy, and more.
Movita Johnson-Harrell founded The Charles Foundation, an organization committed to advocacy, conflict resolution, and violence interruption. The foundation is named after one of two sons Johnson-Harrel lost to gun violence. She opened the morning with gun violence statistics from 2022.
“[There were] 516 homicides in Philadelphia. We had 1,761 nonfatal shootings. Who’s dying? Our Black sons are dying, and that’s why we do this work. This is for y’all!” she said, gesturing to the room.
D’Angelo Virgo, the founder of Civically Engaged, a non-profit, was a presenter. “There’s a direct correlation between the lack of education to poverty and from poverty to crime,” he said. “So we’ve got to find some way to stop it. And it’s going to start with our young people.”
He added that Civically Engaged is committed to creating grassroots leaders. “I want our kids to be able to be the ones who represent their communities, because nine times out of 10, we get outsiders who come in and end up running for these offices. We need people who look like the community [and are] from the community to represent the community.”
Other presenters included Zarinah Lomax of Apalouges, Power of Paint, Mighty Writers, and more.
State Senator Vincent Hughes encouraged the group of about 60 teens to make ‘smart decisions.’
“We got to make sure we love ourselves enough to grow,” he said. “Y’all have power… understand that the value of your life is enormously important because of so much potential that you have. All you got to do is use that. Share that. Work with that.”
Daniel Tyrell White attended the summit. He says the Charles Foundation is helping him to grow.
“I’m currently still changing my life around and trying to get to new experiences and just have self-discipline,” he said. “People in general beef over little stuff, and I mean about little stuff. It can be as simple as a t-shirt or a hoodie. It don’t have to be like that.”