PHL Youth Week Opens Space for Conversation on Gun Violence

The teens spoke to more than 500 residents of three neighborhoods, about three-quarters of whom had lost a friend, family member or classmate to gun violence. Executive director Reuben Jones said the project aims to teach young people how to engage civically.

“We want them to learn how to engage as community organizers,” he said. “How to survey the community to get their point of view, how to build a campaign. So that’s what the main focus was for it.

A youth group from the nonprofit Frontline Dads participated in discussions about gun violence with Philadelphia city leaders today as part of PHL Youth Week. (Courtesy of Ruben Jones)

Preliminary survey results showed that 96% of residents think city leaders “could do more to stop gun violence” and 89% say city leaders have never asked them for suggestions on how to deal with gun violence. way to solve the problem. Respondents called for a stricter gun policy, more after-school programs and better access to mental health counseling.

Jones said the teens who conducted the investigation were excited to present their findings to Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday. He said they were writing and practicing speeches – but when the mayor showed up, he only made brief remarks and did not engage in dialogue.

“So you have this series of events, and you show no interest in real youth,” he said. “Apart from a drive-by speech and a photo op. So I was very, very disappointed with that.

An email from city staff to WHYY late Tuesday did not directly address the mayor’s appearance, but called the second day of PHL Youth Week “an incredible event.” .

“I am deeply inspired by the young leaders of PA Youth Vote, Youth United for Change, Philly Bolt and Frontline Dads,” Jeanette Bavwidinsi, director of the Office of Youth Engagement, said in the statement. “They are the reason we do this work. Their passion, fire and dedication are contagious and we can’t wait to see the movement they continue to build as election season approaches.

Jones noted that he appreciated the board members who showed up to speak with the band.

Earlier this summer, Kenney came under fire for publicly expressing he was looking forward to no longer being mayor. Jones said Tuesday’s lack of heartfelt listening only exacerbated the disappointment the youngsters were already feeling.

“I had to kind of explain to him why,” Jones said. “And they were just like, ‘well, the mayor doesn’t care. He’s already said he’s looking forward to not being mayor anymore. So, you know, how is he going to care about us? ‘”

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