Our Kids’ Lives Matter

Our Community Matters

Students from Roosevelt and Emlen Elementary Schools rally for peace and unity in our community. (Cory Clark)

I’m going to take off my journalist hat for a bit and put on my proud Roosevelt Elementary School dad hat and my proud East Germantown neighbor hat. These kids don’t need me to write a first draft of history or to be a professional journalist. They need my support as a dad and community member.

Our kids have gone through hell, and back the last few years, all of us have. We have all been on an emotional roller coaster of COVID, economic struggles, mental heal struggles, struggles at home, school, and community. They have struggled to deal with the violence on our streets, between neighbors, and police, with hurt and traumatized people hurting and traumatizing people.

Our Kids are begging us to make their community safe for them, it’s time we listen. (Cory Clark)

Now our kids are calling on us to make things better for them.

The students from Roosevelt and Emlen Elementary Schools marched from their respective schools to rally at Chew Ave. and Washington Ln to call for peace and unity in our communities.

Look, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. I’m the last one who has any right to. I’m probably the biggest screw-up out of all of us in our community, but I am listening to them when these kids are telling us they’ve had enough of our crap. They need us to come together to give them the sort of environment they deserve to grow up in.

I’ve talked with fellow parents and teachers regularly over the last couple of years, and our kids need a lot of help. Many of them act out, have trouble paying attention in class, and do not do their schoolwork. Sure, some of them may have ADHD, other issues with neurodivergence, or unrelated mental health issues. Still, another major factor is the issues they face when they’re out in the community.

These kids are struggling; we’re struggling, I get that. We want a better future than the one we were given, for ourselves and them, get that too. So, let’s come together and give it to them and to each other.

All of us have something we can offer, even if it’s just taking some time when we get off work to clean up part of the block, cooking community meals, listening to a neighbor who’s going through something right now, helping kids with their homework, or supervising the kids while they’re out playing on the block. We all have something to offer.

We all know City Hall doesn’t care about our neighborhoods, but we do, our kids’ teachers do, our Ministers, Rabbis, and Imams do, our kids do, and that’s something powerful! It’s powerful enough to make the sort of changes we want to see if we listen to our kids and come together as a community, working toward peace, sustainability, and healing.

From out of the mouths of babies, universal truths. (Cory Clark)

I won’t tell you I have any answers, much less all the answers, but I have my common sense, I got my cameras and my voice, and I will amplify your solutions, your voice, and the voices of our kids.

We also have a lot of resources at the Local Community Resource Center that operates at our office at 245 W. Chelten Ave. We can help get you hooked up with what we don’t have directly, and more services and resources are being added every month.

Covenant House Health Service is another resource for non-emergency medical and mental health services. We have so many great people and organizations already working in our community like Men Who Care, working to end food insecurity, mentor youth, and so much more. The point is that we got this, and if it doesn’t already exist, you have the power to come together with others and get it done.

Pam Africa told me a long time ago, “no one is coming to save us, we gotta save ourselves.”

Another aspect of this march and rally was directed at the police in our community.

Commissioner Outlaw, if you want to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods, your officers must get out of their damned cars, not to harass us, but to be in solidarity with us, to get to know us in our neighborhoods. They have to walk the beat, talk to us, listen to the problems, and work with us to solve them. This isn’t a problem you can arrest your way out of, especially with the history of policing in America.

Students from Roosevelt Elementary School march to Chew Ave. and Washington Ln. to call for peace and unity in the community. (Cory Clark)

If the officers you have here are too scared to do that, get them the hell out of our neighborhoods. We don’t need them.

We need officers from the neighborhood anyway that see themselves as our peers, who know what we’re going through. We need officers that don’t look at our babies as potential criminals or threats, but as the beautiful, intelligent, precious people they are. We need officers that see our kids and us for our potential to do good, to be great, and want to encourage and protect that. That know the trauma that we’ve all been through, not just in the last few years but for generations, and want to help us heal that trauma, not make it worse.

One of our young, gifted, black kids, celebrates himself and all the amazing kids like him in our community who deserve a chance to thrive. (Cory Clark)

These are policy and personal choices you make, you can police us or protect us, but you can’t do both. The two things are opposed to one another.

That said, if Philadelphia Police Department isn’t here to protect us, then we have to defend ourselves. Like I already said, no one is coming to save us. We have to save ourselves. In this case, it means creating a Peace Patrol and systems of restorative justice.

Lastly, we must stop being silent when it comes to the problems we are facing as individuals and as a community, my mom used to always say a closed mouth doesn’t get fed, and we can’t make our lives and community better if we’re keeping our mouths shut either.

Zero Homicides Now

Facebook

Community Resource Center

Men Who Care

Discover Germantown (for community orgs. not listed)

Ed Note: Cory followed this piece with a really powerful and uplifting photo essay we hope you’ll take some time to enjoy, Growing Up in Power:

Growing Up in Power

About Cory Clark 28 Articles
Cory Clark is a Photojournalist and writer focused on Human Rights and other social issues. His work can be found in hundreds of media outlets from Philly Magazine to Fortune. He has been a long time freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Association French Presse. Cory, his wife, and son are residents of East Germantown.

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