Nineteen local anti-gun violence leaders got some much-deserved recognition Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia City Hall.
The honorees were nominated by Philadelphia residents and have all lost a loved one to gun violence. They received a citation from Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson honored on behalf of City Council.
The event follows a violent Memorial Day Weekend, where 44 people were shot, including 15 fatally.
The Philadelphia gun violence crisis persists. As of May 31, there have been over 200 homicides in 2022, according to Philadelphia’s Office of the Controller. As of May 29, there have been over 900 shooting victims, an 8% increase compared to this time last year.
The anti-gun violence leaders sat at a round table, facing each other. They each got up and said a few words as they received their citation, mentioning their loved ones lost to gun violence.
The honorees were Archbishop Mary Floyd Palmer, Terrez McCleary, Roz Pichardo, Dr. Dorothy Johnson Speight, Williesha Robinson Bethel, Stanley Crawford, Crystal Arthur, Victoria Wylie, Diedra Counts-Burnett, Aleida Garcia, Emily Johnson, Felicia Pendleton, Michelle Parker, Joel and Cheryl Seay, Yullio Robbins, Chantay Love, Reverend Jeanette Davis, Tamika Morales, and Movita Johnson Harrell.
Aleida Garcia is the founder of the National Homicide Justice Alliance. She lost her son Alejandro in 2015.
“Sometimes our work is like swimming against the current, and as hard as we may try, our progress is not reflected in the crime statistics,” Garcia said. “So we must ask ourselves, what is wrong with this picture?”
Garcia said leaders need to listen to survivors’ voices, and that the community needs dramatic change coming from federal, state, and city levels.
Crystal Arthur started an organization for young entrepreneurs in the name of her son, Kristian.
“I’m inspired by all of these women here,” Arthur said. “I have met you several times in different places and continue to keep up the fight because it’s a lot out here … I’m more hands-on one-on-one with these guys on the street. I get more personal with them.”
Michelle Parker lost her 23-year-old son to gun violence and then created the Long Live Evan Foundation. It provides scholarships to young people who have lost siblings to gun violence.
“I’m not only inspired but intrigued. And it almost brings tears to my eyes that we should not all be here,” said Parker. “None of us should be here, but we are here today and we will stand strong and we will stand together and we will continue to fight.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.