"I Wouldn't Wish Living Here on Anyone"

Writer KIA GREGORY, a native of North Philadelphia, pleads with visiting members of the NAACP to help stop the killing of our children.

By Kia Gregory
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Jul. 7, 2004

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The morning after Faheem was killed, I sat at a Germantown train station reading the Philadelphia Daily News, our city's daily tabloid newspaper. Printed across the front page was the headline "SHAME ON THIS CITY!"

The story inside told about the little boy named Faheem who'd been shot on his way to school.

Faheem lived about a block from where I went to high school. He was shot in the same neighborhood where I used to go to visit one of my friends. As I read the accounts in the Daily News, I remember thinking two things: This isn't happening. This can't be happening.

Faheem's story resonated with me in a very personal way. I grew up in North Philadelphia in the '80s, during a time when violent crime in this city was thought to be at its peak. I assumed those frightening days were long gone, that we'd moved on.

Now this.

It seems that despite all our best efforts to revitalize our communities, we'd somehow traveled back to the time when drug gangs warred on our streets and gunshots kept us awake at night.

I said a prayer for Faheem and his family.

He died four days later.


For a while the wanton brutality of Faheem's murder made him our city's poster child for violence against youth.

He took the place of 3-year-old Porchia Bennett, who died last year after her aunt's boyfriend beat her and stuffed her between a wall and the bed, where she suffocated. Before that, our poster child was Marcus Yates, a 5-year-old shot and killed 16 years ago in a candy store.

The schoolyard gate where Faheem was shot quickly became a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and cards.

More than 2,500 people--politicians, religious leaders, community activists, teachers, students, neighbors and strangers--attended Faheem's funeral, where he lay in a pearl gray casket, surrounded by flowers.

A gray skullcap covered his head, barely masking the long scar on his cheek. His once slender face, embedded in our hearts and minds from the extensive news coverage, was now puffy and swollen.

He was dressed like a kid, in a gray long-sleeve T-shirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

A bicycle covered in carnations sat next to his coffin.

The nearly five-hour service was moving, exhausting and surreal.

I thought about my husband's 9-year-old son. I've known this boy since he was in diapers. He's tall and handsome, smart and independent, thoughtful, shy and silly, just like his father. He loves to draw, and is quite good at sketching his favorite cartoon characters, which he proudly shows me and then hangs in his room.

I tell him that one day he'll be a famous artist.

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Comments 1 - 4 of 4
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1. JIM said... on Dec 26, 2008 at 05:24PM

“HEY MY NAME IS JIM I LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO NOW BUT THAT WAS A VERY SAD DAY FOR ME WHEN I LIVED IN SOUTHWEST PHILLY. I SAW THAT LITTLE BOY LAYING IN THAT STORE .AND THERE WAS ANOTHER BOY SHOT SITTING BY A TREE ON 60TH ST I THINK HE WAS SHOT IN THE BUTTOX. WHAT MADE ME STOP WAS A LADDY SCREAMING AT ATHE STORE DOORWAY SHE ASKED ME IS HE DEAD I SAID I THINK SO. I THINK SHE WAS THE GRAND MOTHER. I WAS NO MORE GOOD THE REST OF THAT MONTH THAT MADE ME VERY ANGRY. MT BOYS WERE ABOUT MARCUS YATES AGE AT THAT TIME. ONE OF MT BOYS GOT CAUGHT IN A SHOOTOUT AT THE SALT AND PEPPER DELI ABOUT A YEAR AFTER MARCUS,A MAN IN THE STORE JUMPED ON TOP OF MY SON TO KEEP HIM FROM GETTING SHOT.I STILL LOVE PHILLY AND VISIT EVERY YEAR BUTT I COULD NOT LIVE THERE ANY MORE . IT IS STILL DANGEROUS IN PHILLY.”

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2. Malcolm Yates said... on Mar 25, 2010 at 09:32AM

“Jim,

I was that boy on the tree.. email me sometimes
mjy12@hotmail.com”

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3. Rochelle Yates said... on Nov 3, 2011 at 05:18AM

“I am Marcus' mother: please email me at psalms27rw@yahoo.com. I need closure because I was at work at the time. I know you can answer many of my questions.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 07:24PM

“HI MISS YATES. ME AND MY SISTER USE TO PLAY WITH YOUR SON ON 60TH AND TRINITY ST. THAT SAME MY SISTER WAS TOLD TO STAY IN THE HOUSE BECAUSE WE HAD HOUSE WORK TO DO. BUT MY SISTER DID NOT LISTEN. JUST BEFORE THE SHOOTING. MY SISTER AND YOUR SON WAS GOING TO THAT STORE TOGETHER TO PLAY THE GAMES AND GET SOME CANDY. MY MOTHER TOLD HER NO SO SHE DID NOT GO. YOUR SON COULD NOT WAIT NO LONGER SO HE WHEN ON. TELL THIS DAY I WISH MY MOTHER WOULD HAVE TOLD HIM TO STAY AND WAIT. WHEN WE HEARD THE GUN SHOOTS ECHO FROM AFAR. ALL I COULD DO WAS PRAY. MY MOTHER RAN AROUND THE CORNER TO SEE WHAT HAD HAPPEN. THEN I FOLLOWED. GOT PASS THE SUPERMARKET. MY YOUNGER SISTER WAS COMING OUT OF THE SUPERMARKET. AND I LOOKED DOWN THE STREET ON TO THE STORE. AND OMG ALL COULD THANK OF AND SAY TO MY MOM MARCUS WENT TO THAT STORE. MISS YATES I AM NOW 36 YEARS OLD AS OF TODAY I HUGE MY KIDS AND TELL THEM I LOVE THEM. WHAT I SEEN ON THAT DAY STEAL HURTS MY HEART AS WE SPEAK. I WAS THANKING ABOUT HIM IN YOU.”

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