Writer KIA GREGORY, a native of North Philadelphia, pleads with visiting members of the NAACP to help stop the killing of our children.
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.
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.
PW's Summer Guide 2014