As crime continues to sweep through the city of Philadelphia streets like wildfire with no apparent remedy in sight, one West Philadelphia group is stepping up and challenging local law enforcement and elected officials to join in an effort to stop the violence on the city’s streets.
Members of the newly formed Revolutionary Vision Community Center at 6143 Lansdowne Avenue in West Philadelphia held a press conference Thursday before a significant crowd of residents, concerned citizens, organizers, and members of the media to share their concerns about the problem and call for discussions to end them.
“My name is Kofi Atiba Kwesi, and I am the chairman and founder of Revolutionary Vision Community Center, and I’m not the reason that we are here – The issues are the reason that we are here,” said Kwesi during his opening remarks before the growing crowd of onlookers.
Kwesi said that the dream for creating the Revolutionary Community Center began while he was serving time in prison.
“I did 27 years in prison and I know a lot of brothers sitting in prison right now who had a dream just like I had and [are] trying to get out here so they can make them a reality,” Kwesi said.
Last Summer, Atiba and a group of organizers convened what they called the ‘Power of Peace Caucus’ whose mission was to organize to fight to reduce crime and violence in West Philadelphia.
“We sent a representative to the 19th [police district] and asked to meet with the captain 3 times and 3 times we felt like we were ignored, we got no answer,” he said.
Two weeks ago, the group forwarded a letter to Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw asking for support but again said they received no answer.
“We’re not here to bash the police and we’re not here to bash the Commissioner, we’re saying that if we reach our hand out we’re not going to be ignored, especially when we have 55 children who were shot and 14 of them are dead,” said Kwesi who recounted a recent incident in which a 6-year old was shot and watched as his father was killed before his eyes a day before the press conference.
Kwesi noted that millions of dollars are being distributed to local groups, organizations, and agencies in the community to help address the problem of crime and gun violence, but seemingly without measurable results.
“The biggest issue for me is the response of those people who are in charge, the people who have the resources to do something about it, that’s the problem that I have,” he said.
“Twenty years the city has been paying organizations to fight this violence, 20 years and this is what it has come to where we have 55 children being shot, 14 dead and we have over 150 shootings this year. We had over 8,500 shootings in the city last year and 499 murders.”
“We had 1900 shootings in West Philly alone and only 5 percent where people were even arrested for so where is these millions of dollars that you are given these organizations going and what are they doing with it?” Asked Kwesi.
The 19th Police District have recently responded to the Revolutionary Community Centers request for a meeting and discussions for such a meeting are being held.
“Everyone here who’s been or knows someone who has been a victim of gun violence, raise your hands,” began Curtis Williams of the Revolutionary Community Center.
Every hand rose in response.
“Everybody in this crowd has been a victim of gun violence or knows someone who has been. Let’s take a look at news footage for the past 10 days alone. You’ll see a 21-year-old murdered, a 19-year-old murdered, a 16-year-old murdered, a 6-year-old shot, and a 9-year-old murdered,” he said.
“This has all taken place in the last 10 days not to mentioned what has gone on this year and last year.”
While much attention is being placed on local law enforcement and elected officials, Williams included what he considers a missing element in the search for solutions to community issues that is often overlooked: The community itself.
“As much as we complain about politicians and cops not doing their jobs, what are WE doing? As a community, what are we doing to make things better?” Williams asked.
Committee person Marvin Robinson, 4th Ward praised the organizers and participants of the event as an essential part of the solution to the problems facing the West Philadelphia community.
“In this community, what I am looking at [here] is what we have to do. We have to stand together and we have to watch out for each other,” said Robinson.
Robinson challenged those who abide by the “no snitching” code in which people refuse to report crimes to the police.
“If you don’t tell it’s going to hit your door, it hit my door” said Robinson who recently lost a cousin to gun violence.
“What we are doing here is very important. If you see something, tell it because if you don’t it is going to hit your home. I promise you that if we don’t step up and step out and get rid of these thugs in our damn neighborhoods, we are all going to be dying and if not us our children,” Robinson said.
Kwesi called for a 3-point plan of action which included agitating for change, educating the community and activating the community.