Writer KIA GREGORY, a native of North Philadelphia, pleads with visiting members of the NAACP to help stop the killing of our children.
When I look at him, all I see is his future. I could never imagine it cut short.
The whole city grieved over the loss of Faheem, whose teacher described him as a leader and a peacemaker.
Two months after he was murdered, more than 8,000 of us marched through Faheem's North Philadelphia neighborhood, partly to remember him, partly to protest the many children who were being killed by violence in the city.
We cried together and held our children close. But this wouldn't be the last time a mother in our city would face the unimaginable and bury her child because of violence.
Since the start of the school year, barely a week passed in our city without the violent death of a young person.
Some were shot. Some were stabbed. Others were strangled.
Our children died in arsons and robberies.
They were killed over petty debts, spats and feuds.
One evening shortly after Labor Day Karl Hatchett was driving in South Philly with his 8-year-old son, Khynief. Hatchett's ex-girlfriend was pregnant, and there'd been a dispute over whether he or a new boyfriend had fathered the child. As Hatchett drove down Fitzwater Street near 17th, someone shot at his SUV, and a bullet tore through Khynief's brain.
The new boyfriend was arrested the next day. Khynief died a week later.
Fourteen-year-old Michael Keel was sitting in his North Philadelphia home one October afternoon when he heard someone banging on his front door. Raymond Herbert, 19, was on the other side, looking to collect a $20 weed debt from Michael's older brother, who was upstairs. He'd been avoiding Raymond for weeks.
When Michael opened the door, Raymond shot him and left him lying in a pool of blood.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, worried neighbors searched their West Philadelphia neighborhood for 13-year-old Jasmine McDonald, who'd been missing for two days. They found her half-naked body in the basement of an abandoned house, next door to where she'd lived. Jasmine had been raped and stabbed several times in the neck. Her mother's ex-boyfriend was charged with the murder.
In December Alex Santiago, 17, died with burns over more than 70 percent of his body. Two weeks before his death someone set his Olney home ablaze, killing his mother, his older brother, his three-month-old niece and her mother.
In January Gregory White, 18, was shot and killed as he sat in a car in Mantua. Police could find no apparent motive.
By the time Faheem Thomas-Childs was walking to school that fateful February morning, almost two dozen city children had been murdered since September.
But until his murder, the death toll--which totaled 35 for the school year--barely drew notice in the city.
PW's Music Issue 2014