Home Youth activism Philadelphia teens say it’s time for adults to get tough on guns

Philadelphia teens say it’s time for adults to get tough on guns

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Third-grade student Kylee Pearson is barely tall enough to be seen behind the podium at City Hall. An adult must lower the microphone for her before she begins to speak.

She wears a black ruffled skirt, black gloves, and a matching black headband. Her voice is grating but clear as she recites a poem about the toll of the fatal shootings. As she leaves the stage, applause rings out and a crowd of students and teachers embrace her.

In Philadelphia, gun violence is a fact of life for the city’s youngest residents — and for some, it’s a driver of activism. This week, dozens of them left their classrooms to spend part of the school day protesting. They are part of a new coalition of concerned children asking municipal authorities to take a stand.

Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School third-grade student Kylee Pearson performs a spoken poem during a rally against gun violence outside Philadelphia City Hall on May 31, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“These young people have a data set that no one in the city has,” said Ayesha Imani, CEO of Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School. “They did the job… now we need adult people to work.”

Sankofa is one of nine secondary schools behind the Enough is Enough campaign, which formed in February with support from the office of City Council member Isaiah Thomas. Today they presented the results of their gun violence survey of 1,300 students in grades seven through 12.

The survey highlights the need for more resources for young people – 95% of respondents said they could not name a neighborhood organization where they could go to talk about the impact of gun violence.

Seventh-grade student Morena Brown says the fear is constant.

“There’s no safe place now,” Brown said. “I can run to my mum and dad, but I can’t run to the cops… what are they going to do?” »

Seventh grader Morena Brown joined a rally against gun violence with her school and others outside Philadelphia City Hall on May 31, 2022.
Seventh grader Morena Brown joined a rally against gun violence with her school and others outside Philadelphia City Hall on May 31, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)