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Community Members March For Peace Through Kensington Following Shooting of Child

  On Sunday May 21, residents of West Kensington as well as community activists from Operation Save Our City and the CHARLES Foundation gathered at the corner of Malta Street and Westmoreland Street, just off of Kensington Avenue, to rally the community to help find suspects involved in a shooting that left a two year old badly wounded.

  Earlier reports said the child was shot twice; however, sources at the rally told us the victim was hit four times in the arm and leg. The child was not the intended victim — sources at the rally told us the 27 shots fired at the residence were intended for the child’s father.

  Spirit News saw the bullet-riddled house and a car that was also parked out front during the shooting. Bullets smashed the driver’s side window and pierced the front of the vehicle. Stickers used by police to measure the size of the holes were still on the car and the house at the time of the rally.IMG_9622

  According to Philly.com, East Detectives describe the suspects as African American males in their late teens to early twenties. Both men were around six feet tall. One was described as having braids and both were riding bicycles at the time of the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call East Detectives at 215-686-3243. Tips can be left anonymously.

  Some residents and community organizations are taking a proactive approach to finding information surrounding the incident. Roz Pichardo, founder of Operation Save Our City, teamed up with members of the CHARLES Foundation to let the community know shooting a baby is unacceptable and that the perpetrators will be caught.

  “We want somebody to speak up in the shooting [of the baby],” Pichardo said. “I say it over and over and over again about the no-snitching mentality; it’s got to go.”IMG_9677

  The group rallied near the site of the shooting before marching through the surrounding streets. Pichardo, megaphone in hand, led the boisterous crowd with chants of “Stop the violence” and “Stand up, speak up.” The group ended their march at Kensington Avenue and Westmoreland Street, where people with signs promoting love and peace were greeted with the sound of supportive car horns echoing beneath the El tracks.

  Pichardo vowed canvas the neighborhood door to door and pass out fliers to potential witnesses. We spoke with Pichardo before the rally. She is responsible for organizing many anti-violence rallies and free gun lock giveaways throughout Philadelphia.

  “They don’t have to talk to us. Just call the anonymous hotline. Call that number give that tip. That’s all they have to do,” Pichardo said. “This is my home, this is my community. We’re not going to stand it. If we find out who did it, we’re going to put your face out there.”IMG_9640

  The CHARLES Foundation is an acronym that stands for “Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering”. According to Movita Johnson-Harrell, founder of the CHARLES Foundation, she started her organization three months to the day after her son was murdered in what she describes as a case of mistaken identity.

  “On January 12, 2011, two boys were beefing over a girl; my son went down to Germantown to pick up his sister,” Johnson-Harrell said. “They thought my son was the boy coming back to retaliate and they put four bullets in him.”

  Since then she has turned this tragedy into a positive force by working with the community to stop the violence through mentoring programs and other direct community outreach methods.IMG_9695

  According to Johnson-Harrell, there needs to be a fundamental change to the way young people view themselves and their lives. “We’re trying to change the mindset of these young people,” she said. “A lot of these young people don’t think they’re going to live past 20, so they’re easy to pick up guns and kill each other. We’re trying to give them some hope.”

  Both women agree that the community needs to step up, and speak up about the violence in their neighborhoods. “We need everybody involved in saving our children,” Johnson-Harrell said.

  “Sometimes it takes the community policing their own community,” Pichardo said. 

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