In Philadelphia, MLK Day of Service activities focusing on gun violence prevention

‘We must embrace Dr. King’s legacy of racial and social justice and citizen action, not just on King Day but every day,’ Mayor Jim Kenney said

By: - January 5, 2023 2:54 pm

Mayor Jim Kenney presented the 25th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award to Scott Charles, trauma outreach manager for Temple University Hospital (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA — Like the many parents of family members who have suffered from gun violence, Kent Julye, father of a 19-year old son, got a dreaded phone call at 1:30 am on July 2.

On that morning, Julye and his wife learned that their son, Zachariah was shot and killed on the 1900 block of N. 3rd Street while enjoying Independence Day festivities.

“Unfortunately, there were hundreds of others who received that phone call before us and hundreds of others since,” Julye said. “Zachariah was 6’-5”. He was a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, a friend. His eyes welcomed everyone. His smile brought you towards him and he was supportive of all who met him.”

Julye made his comments at during a news conference at Girard College on Wednesday to kick-off the 28th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service at the school on Jan.16th. It will also mark the 60th anniversary of King’s historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

About 25 people attended the event along with journalists.

“Parenting is important. Mentoring is important,” Julye said. “Sponsoring is important and remembering is important, our story and his story. Those of us who are victims or survivors have to find a way to move forward.”

Among those attending were Mayor Jim Kenney, Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Chris Goins, Girard College president, Tony Watlington, school superintendent, Sharmaine Matlock-Turner, president and CEO, Urban Affairs Coalition, Karen Asper Jordan, president, Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters, David Brown, professor Temple University, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel and Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen and founder and director of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.

“This year’s focus is on gun violence prevention, one of the most pressing challenges facing the city,” Kenney said. “We must embrace Dr. King’s legacy of racial and social justice and citizen action, not just on King Day but every day.”

As part of the event, Kenney presented the 25th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award to Scott Charles, trauma outreach manager for Temple University Hospital.

In that capacity, Charles oversees social service, mental health and other services to help survivors and families of gun violence victims to move cope and the trauma forward with their lives.

Charles also directs the Cradle to the Grave and Fighting Chance programs at the hospital.

“I am genuinely honored to be here,” Charles said. “I have the luxury and the misfortune of working on the frontline of this issue for years. This is a very tough challenge in front of us. We are honoring a man who was at the forefront of humanity, who also lost his life to gun violence.”

For his part, Bernstein, Global Citizen president, said the school is not just a place to hold an event, “Girard College has such as rich civil rights history.”

Dr. King visited the school in 1965. The late Cecil B. Moore, a lawyer and civil rights leader, helped to integrate Girard College in the 1960s.

“This is not just a law enforcement problem or a government problem,” Bernstein said. “ It is a societal tragedy that requires harnessing of all available resources, with as Dr. King would say ‘a fierce urgency of now.’”

The gun prevention and safety initiatives will be spearheaded by the Black Doctors Consortium, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Children’s Hospital and Temple University Hospital and others.

To emphasize the seriousness of the situation, gun safety kits will be distributed for the community, which will include gun safety locks, along with information about health, social services and gun violence prevention.

In addition, the kits will include medical materials to immediately help gun violence victims, such as tourniquets, gauze, chest seal and other items to treat critical wounds. They will be distributed to community partners, who will also receive training.

At 12 p.m. on King Day, there will be a special rally for peace, led by the Black Clergy and the 75 Blocks program and Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters.

Some of the sponsors include Independence Blue Cross, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey,  FS Investments and Enon Baptist Church.

Chris Goins, Girard College president, said the school recently partnered with St. Joseph’s Prep to co-sponsor a pair of gun buy back events that took 121 guns off the street.

“We will continue to support our students with mental health resources and continue to educate them about the systemic causes of this crisis,” Goins said.

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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