One of the quotes that stayed with us the most while reporting Philly Under Fire came from Melany Nelson of Northwest Victim Services. Nelson spends a lot of time going out to schools and talking to school kids about gun violence.
“The disturbing part about it is I’ve spoken to many youth and they said to me, ‘Ms. Nelson, either you’re going to be the predator or the prey. So you have to pick one.’ So nine times out of 10, they’re going to be the predator. They told me that they expect to die young and they’re not afraid to die young.”
Those words were chilling. But Philadelphia’s youth is also choosing to fight back against the violence.
Some of the loudest voices begging the city to solve this problem came from some of the youngest people, the young people who don’t want to fall into the illegal economy, the ones who don’t want their friends, their cousins, their classmates to be perpetrators or victims of gun violence.
One of those young people is a 16-year-old activist named Ramier Jones, who organized marches all over the city last year of young people protesting how Philadelphia was handling gun violence. Jones is 16 and yet his perspective was sharper than so many adults in power that we spoke to last year.
In this episode, we talk to a handful of young people in Philadelphia who have spent their entire lives surrounded by gun violence and its impacts, and have had enough: They’re taking to the streets, with protests and community gatherings, to demand things to do after school and on weekends, mentorship, work, support. And we meet some of the players trying to meet those needs, from Councilman Isaiah Thomas to nonprofits like Mighty Writers and Philadelphia Youth Basketball.
This week’s episode is called “Killadelphia” because, sadly, that is what many of our city’s young people refer to it as. They even put it as their location on their Instagram and other social media. Our city’s young people are speaking up and speaking out—and it is time for us to listen to them.
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Now a little thank you …
Nadira Goffe is our incredible associate producer. We used a clip about Councilman Thomas’s resource hubs from Philadelphia’s NBC 10. Thank you to Mighty Writers for sharing your meeting with us. Thank you to Councilman Thomas and Max Weisman in Councilman Thomas’s office. Thank you to the entire staff of Philadelphia Youth Basketball. Thanks to Melany Nelson for meeting Jo in an outdoor recording studio that she created out of her car. And finally, thanks to Spring Point Partners for funding this project.Header photo: Darrien Johnson leads mentoring workshops for young people at Council Member Thomas's Resource Hubbs—a free program at local churches, coworking spaces and rec centers to keep young people engaging programming in between school hours and nighttime. Photo courtesy of Council Member Isaiah Thomas's office.