Philadelphia 76ers unite grassroots efforts to curb city gun violence

Philadelphia 76ers “Community Conversation” event (Photo by Max Molina)

As Philadelphia continues to grapple with ways to thwart gun violence and senseless murders around the city, the Philadelphia 76ers organization and multiple community partners came together this week to try and combat the issue.

The Sixers recently hosted a community conversation focused on gun violence prevention on Temple University’s campus. Held in the Howard Gittis Student Center, the event attracted members of the community and included program leaders from various partnering organizations.

Initially, Michael Robinson, Director of Community Outreach and Hiring with Temple University, introduced key figures who are instrumental in an initiative called ReCAST, which stands for Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma. 

Robinson extolled the efforts of Shirley Moy, Executive Director for the Lenfest Workforce Center; Valerie Oulds, ReCAST Grant Director; and Desiree Neal, who is also part of the grant team.  Each plays a critical role in the city’s efforts to provide services and resources for those dealing with the effects of violence. 

‘Weight of Death’

Danny Pommells and Anton Moore discuss amongst the panel at the Philadelphia 76ers ‘Community Conversation’ event (Photo by Max Molina)

The event officially started with a screening of the docuseries ‘Weight of Death’ which features victims of gun violence and the process that families and communities go through as they mourn the death of their loved ones. Anton Moore is the executive producer of the docuseries and also president of Unity in the Community, one of the event organization partners who hope to promote awareness. 

Episode two of ‘Weight of Death’ shows the devastating impact of gun violence after a stray bullet struck and killed 3-year-old Tynirah Borum. In the episode, Tamika Borum, mother of the young victim, offered her heartbreaking account of what she went through after losing her daughter. 

Throughout the episode, multiple current and former city officials were interviewed to explain factors that lead to gun violence and how it impacts families. Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, and current U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania Bob Casey provided insight on the issue that continues to plague the city.

After the screening, a panel assembled on stage to discuss efforts being done to stop gun violence and offer solutions to bring about peace. The panel included Pastor Carl Day; activist and producer Anton Moore; Philadelphia School Board member Sarah-Ashley Andrews; and youth participant Jayden Haddad.  

Moderated by NBC 10 Anchor and Host Danny Pommells, the panel discussion addressed topics such as gun access, parenting, economics, and police tactics. 

Community conversation panel (left to right): Danny Pommells, Sarah-Ashley Andrews, Carl Day, Jayden Haddad, and Anton Moore (Photo by Max Molina)

Moore stressed the importance of “Positive Peer Pressure” as a group of his carpentry school students spectated from the audience. He also lamented how difficult it was to interview the parents of children who lost their lives because of shootings.

Pastor Day pointed out the power of social media and how it contributes to negative pressure on the minds of young people. Day also emphasized the importance of peer-to-peer mentorship as a way to help city youths to develop healthier strategies for resolving conflict.

Pastor Carl Day (Photo by Max Molina)

In regards to what is missing that could curb the city’s gun violence, Andrews explained, “We are missing community. If we stood up and gave structure and substance to those that lack it, I think we would see a difference. It starts with prevention and being aware of what’s going on.” 

76ers stepping up

Sarah-Ashley Andrews (Photo by Max Molina)

The role the Sixers had in bringing people together for the community event started with a conversation between Robinson and Mike Goings, 76ers Vice President for Social Responsibility and Fan Development. Goings asked Robinson to host the event with hopes of giving the docuseries more exposure, bringing light to the urgency of the city’s gun violence problem.

In a phone interview, Robinson praised the Sixers. “I like the fact we have a major sports franchise that takes up the mantle of gun violence prevention. It’s the organization taking an executive role of how they want to raise consciousness on the issue.”

When asked about the importance of the 76ers giving back and supporting the grassroots projects featured at the event, Goings said, “We’ve felt it’s important to hear from local organizations and community leaders to get their sense of how we can best help make a positive impact.”

He added, “Through our recently launched ‘Assists for Safe Communities’ initiative, which raised money for four local non-profit organizations throughout the Greater Philadelphia area, we want to give them that platform, microphone, and ability to be heard by members of their local communities.”

As far as Anton Moore’s plans to continue uplifting the community, he has a 10-city tour planned for his students to experience the culture and history of places outside of Philadelphia. During their visit to places like Chicago, Memphis, and Detroit, they will meet with important, inspirational figures to promote peace and ways to bring an end to gun violence.