On a gray Monday morning, more than a dozen people gathered outside Cousin Danny’s, the now-shuttered strip club in West Philly where 31-year-old Maurice Adside was murdered in February.
“It was reported eight individuals have been killed since 2009 within two blocks of this bar,” said Bilal Qayyum, chairman of the new Philadelphia Anti-Violence Coalition, which is bringing together more than 35 community groups to coordinate efforts to deal with the rising number of murders.
While violent crime in the city has been on the decline over the last decade, homicides went up 13 percent in 2015.
Surrounded by members of the coalition, Qayyum vowed to change that statistic and to reduce the number of shootings this year.
“Everybody who’s standing around us are individuals and organizations out in the street every day trying to make a difference,” he said. “You can imagine what’s going to happen now that we agree to work together.”
Qayyum and coalition vice-chair, community activist Taleah Taylor, first discussed the idea of uniting anti-violence groups across the city in November. Taylor said group leaders have met with Police Commissioner Richard Ross and have his support. A department representative confirmed the meeting.
The coalition’s plans include creating programs for young people, pushing for gun control legislation, and organizing street teams to go door-to-door in neighborhoods affected by violence. Organizers hope that by bringing these groups together, they will be able to serve victims’ families better and more effectively work with those causing problems that lead to shootings.
“A lot of organizations are doing it off the muscle,” Taylor said. “We’re not funded and we do it on our own and out of our own money. It’s easier for us to come together collectively … because a lot of people aren’t getting the resources they need to help these families.”
The coalition includes individuals and groups that have been working to combat gun violence for a long time, including Dorothy Johnson-Speight who founded Mothers in Charge after her son was murdered in 2001.
“We’ve been on the ground doing this work for quite a while,” she said. “It doesn’t feel different, it feels good that we’re doing it with a collective body.”