"It's Still Edgy Here"

The feds are helping with the Faheem Thomas-Childs case, but fear still rules Philadelphia.

By Steve Volk
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 18, 2004

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The players change. The game goes on.

"Killed for Doing Right"

There are children out here today, riding their bikes in big sweeping circles and staying in their parents' eyesight, smiling broadly every time they pedal toward the adults who stand watch over them.

Perhaps, if they want a particularly big challenge, the feds should take on North Philly, where six months after Faheem Thomas-Childs' death, residents report the neighborhood hasn't really changed.

Like their counterparts in West and Southwest Philadelphia, they too bring up Kevin Coles and wonder what it means that someone could be "killed for doing right."

Of course they have their own homegrown boogiemen too. Some residents back away at the mention of the Broaster name. Some privately express satisfaction that the brothers are off the streets. Others laugh at the very idea that their arrest could mean anything besides a lull in the action.

Danger here rolls in and recedes, rolls in and recedes, like waves on a beach.

A woman in the 2800 block of North 23rd Street, who asks to go only by Naomi, says life here hasn't changed at all since February. "It's good to see the police here," she says. "But it's always been quiet."

The violence, she says, takes place a block away. The truth is 23rd Street, where Peirce Elementary sits, is usually uneventful--an oasis hard by the hunting grounds of North Bonsall Street. Residents near Peirce Elementary point west, in the direction of Bonsall, when asked if they hear gunshots. They do hear those tragic pop-pop-pops, usually at night. As long as those sounds don't get any closer, they just go about their business.

Naomi points to both Cambria and Somerset streets, to either side of her block, as the spillways down which violence sometimes rushes from Bonsall Street and into her community's life. "That's how Faheem got shot," she says.

She points to a bullet hole in her front window, covered over with layers of masking tape, from an incident 10 years ago. "Some girl, on New Year's Eve, got into a fight with someone and fired a shot that came through my window," she says.

She doesn't believe anyone will come forward and testify in the Thomas-Childs shooting. And the rest of the neighborhood agrees.

Living in close proximity to violence, day after day, alters people's perceptions. Resident Linwood Gillette reports that he hasn't heard gunshots lately. Then he reconsiders. "Well," he says, "there was a man shot on 22nd Street a couple of weeks ago. I could hear some of that."

The pop-pop of gunshots rattled over the rooftops and reached his ears just a few short weeks ago.

But no one is talking.

Faheem Thomas-Childs is dead, his young life intersected by the path of a drug dealer's misfired bullet.

But no one is talking.

The feds came forward and swept up Cassius Broaster. His brother Jerome could be next.

Still, no one talks.

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