Saying ‘we count too,’ Southwest Philly kids call for attention to everyday shootings

Shonda McClellan speaks about her daughter Erica, who died in November, during a rally against gun violence at Bartram High School.

Shonda McClellan speaks about her daughter Erica, who died in November, during a rally against gun violence at Bartram High School. (Kyrie Greenberg/WHYY)

Protesting what they call ongoing and under-reported gun violence among Philadelphia’s youth, Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and students at three high schools took to the streets in Southwest Philadelphia Wednesday.

“I’m tired of the conversations which exist year after year and don’t mention the slaughter that’s happening in our communities,” said Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat, on the steps of Bartram High School.

To combat gun violence, he said he backs stronger background checks to purchase firearms and wants licenses for every gun sold in the state.

Shonda Dean McClellan lost her daughter Erica, a senior at Bartram High, to gunfire in November.

“No parent should ever have to bury their child,” said McClellan. “And I never thought in a million years that I would be burying my 17-year-old to senseless gun violence at the hands of an acquaintance. So it has to stop, something has to be done.”

For many at Bartram High, gun violence is personal.

“I’ve lost both my brother and father to gun violence,” said Bartram Principal Damon Warren, whose school has a metal detector at the entrance to prevent students from carrying firearms into the building.

But violence often follows kids home. Earlier this month, junior Asia Walker narrowly escaped a shooting on her block.

“They started shooting just as me and my mom were getting out of the car. We had to hurry up and get in the house,” she said. “I don’t like our block anymore,” she continued after describing how she’s had trouble sleeping since the incident.

Jasaan Golden, a Bartram sophomore, said he wants more media attention for young people killed in shootings. When his friend Joshua Coleman was killed recently, Jasaan said the news came through Instagram.

“I feel like things get ‘mediacized’ when it’s bigger, but there’s a lot of lives out here getting lost,” Jasaan said. “Josh was playing football, was an honor roll student — never got in trouble ever. And to find out he got killed and it wasn’t on the news, his mom was devastated.”

Jasaan and Asia want pending policy changes to take this kind of gun violence into account, not just mass shootings, as part of their #WeCountToo movement.

“I feel like guns should just not be allowed any more, because people are using them to their own benefit,” said Jasaan. “I don’t feel like anyone is using a gun for their own protection, they’re just using it because they have it. They get the power and just go berserk with it.”

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