Yesterday in Philadelphia, there were 13 separate shootings. One person died, and 12 were injured. Thirteen lives upended by bullets. Thirteen people whose futures were disrupted. Thirteen communities turned upside down. And with many organizations trying to work on the issue, there’s still much more to be done.
I founded one of those organizations—ManUpPHL. Through our Listening to the Streets initiative, we talk to young men facing gun cases. We talk to young men facing trauma. We talk to men facing their most stubborn enemy. We talk to men facing themselves.
Yesterday, as gun violence raged outside, we finished yet another group. We paid them stipends, connected them with mentors, introduced them to work opportunities. But mostly, we just listened to them.Sometimes when we do that, we learn that they’re the ones promoting gun violence through music. Sometimes we learn that they are the ones who’ve been victimized by bullets. Sometimes we learn that they’re carrying guns out of fear. Some of them believe that there is no hope for the gun violence to stop—that it’s generational, and permanent, and normal. But here’s the good news. Those same men have told us that they want to be scientists, or real estate moguls, or social workers. They’ve told us that they want to be better fathers, better brothers, better men. For me, stopping the violence is about helping them to be those things, while at the same time recognizing that some of them will fail, and sometimes I will fail, but when we walk into their jobs and see them working, when we walk through our communities and see them thriving, when we walk into their world and see them changing, those are the moments when hope begins and shootings end—because one man decided to do better.