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Philly child shootings show we can’t wait for government to reduce violence

A 2 year-old was killed on Water Street in Kensington when a gunman shot through the front windows into her family’s living room (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A 2 year-old was killed on Water Street in Kensington when a gunman shot through the front windows into her family’s living room (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This past weekend in Philadelphia a 2-year-old was shot in the head and died. Just a day before, an 11-month-old baby was shot four times and lived.

And while my prayer is that something good can come from this assault on our children, reality says prayer is not enough.

Philadelphia’s black and brown community — my community — must do something.

We cannot allow criminals to be so comfortable that they kill our children without fear. We cannot allow politicians to offer thoughts and prayers without offering concrete action. We cannot allow guns to wound and kill our people until blood fills the streets like rivers.

We have to do something, and we have to step out of our comfort zones to do so.

Even if we’re frightened by the recent police shootings of blacks like Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson in their own homes, we must learn to work with police. Even if we wish we could fix things on our own, we have to work with our neighbors and our government. Even if we’re most comfortable clinging to the solutions of the past, old solutions aren’t good enough, because our babies are dying on our watch.

We have to do something, but before we do, we must be willing to scrap everything we tried before and restart our efforts from scratch.

We must stop pouring public money into programs that promise to stop the violence. They haven’t worked. They probably won’t. We must stop thinking the police will solve this by themselves. They can’t, and they shouldn’t have to. We must stop waiting on the government to sweep in and solve your problems. They never have and they never will.

In truth we can no longer sit still. We have to do something.

First, we must acknowledge as a city that we haven’t done enough to stop the violence. Because if everyone keeps talking about what others need to do, none of us will ever hold ourselves to account.

And let me be clear. Change requires accountability. If you know how to get a young person from a street corner to a job and you do nothing, you’re accountable. If you could’ve built a communication network among your neighbors and you didn’t, you’re accountable. If you know there are criminals in your midst and you say nothing, you’re accountable.

Fixing this problem will require us to get jobs for those who want to work, and to band together with neighbors who want peace on their streets. It will require us to find police officers we can trust, and to tell them what we know as we endeavor to save our kids.

Nobody’s coming to fix our families. We have to do it. Nobody’s coming to fix our neighborhoods. We have to do it. Nobody’s coming to protect our children. We have to do it.

In short, we have to do something. When we don’t face that fact, it costs us much more than the tax money we waste on ineffective anti-violence initiatives. Failing to act on a grassroots level costs our children their very lives.

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