"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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She knew where I was every minute.

And just in case she blinked or had to run an errand, there were the nosy neighbors--Ms. Jean, Ms. Ora, Ms. Emma and Mr. Henry. They all knew me simply as Phyllis' girl, and they all felt free to tell me when I was being too fresh. They all had my mother's phone number on speed-dial.

I didn't appreciate my mother's devotion until I was much older.

Mixed in with the hardworking neighbors who swept the sidewalks in front of their houses and who struggled to send their kids to good schools--often Catholic--were the welfare queens, the drug dealers, the teen mothers, the high school dropouts, the drunks and the crackheads who dragged the neighborhood down and who tried to take naive and unsuspecting kids along for the ride.

Today when I visit my mother, my old neighborhood feels crowded and louder than I remember. The graffiti is gone, and many of the houses have been redeveloped, but there's a palpable despair.

There are abandoned houses, trash-strewn streets and businesses that sell beer and blunts. Cars zoom by, blasting rap and hip-hop. Kids run up and down the sidewalk. Residents sit on their tiny front lawns. Guys in long white Ts and baggy jeans hang on the corners. Young girls dressed in thigh-high skirts and midriff shirts push their babies in strollers.

My mom is always glad to see me. But too often I cut my visits short. I leave to find some peace.

Back when I lived there, people settled their disputes with taunts and fistfights. Death didn't visit your home.

But today young people face death like soldiers at war. You hear it in their conversation. Their words are laced with the coldness of loss.

They know we're failing them. They're angry, and they're afraid.


When our mayor was first elected, he proclaimed 2000 the "Year of the Child."

The result of that announcement was a network of community-based services for children and families, including youth violence prevention.

He also created the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative to eventually replace the city's thousands of blighted, abandoned buildings with commercial and residential development.

Our school district developed a zero- tolerance policy and created alternative schools for disruptive students.

Our police department enacted Operation Safe Streets to shut down open-air drug markets.

Here in Philadelphia we have countless people in organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League, antiviolence groups like Men United for a Better Philadelphia, Mothers in Charge and the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, think tanks like Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, Public/Private Ventures, Project H.O.M.E. and Safe and Sound, and local churches that dedicate their time and energy to saving our young people.

Our local NAACP (with reportedly 5,000 members) has an active ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) competition, with more than a hundred students participating. This year 10 of our students will compete at your national convention.

There's also a budding Youth Council, with about 50 members.

And recently the Philadelphia NAACP contributed $10,000 to a "Save the Children Camp Fund," which would allow children traumatized by violence to escape to a suburban farm for a week in summer.

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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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