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City Council President Darrell Clarke addresses the crowd at Fairhill Square Park on Aug. 5 for Philadelphia's National Night Out kick off event. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News
City Council President Darrell Clarke addresses the crowd at Fairhill Square Park on Aug. 5 for Philadelphia's National Night Out kick off event. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News

National Night Out kicks off in Fairhill

A neighborhood often plagued by violence got a much needed respite with a night of fun on Aug. 5.

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While other parts of the city ran for cover as rain poured, the gray skies over Fairhill Square in North Philadelphia remained calm around 6 pm. 

Yesterday, the park played host to Philadelphia’s first “Night Out” event of the year, as part of the bigger national movement that seeks to bridge gaps between police departments and communities across the country.

“We want to be a part of the community,” said Altovise Love-Craighead, Inspector for the Philadelphia Police Department’s LGBTQ+ liaison. “We are here for them, and without them, we can’t exist.” 

The event featured speakers such as Philadelphia Council President Darrell Clarke, U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle and Pennsylvania State Representative Angel Cruz, performances from a plethora of community center groups and artists and vendors selling all types of food and drink.

For Fairhill — a community that often finds itself at the center of discussions about the city’s overall rise in gun violence — the night offered a break from that narrative.

“People need a little relief from all this craziness that’s going on,” said Council President Darrell Clarke, who was there giving out free gun locks to residents in partnership with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department.

He continued to address the importance of the event’s setting. Philadelphia’s parks, meant to be focal points of community unity, have seen that image tarnished by a series of mass shootings that have left multiple dead and more than a couple wounded. 

The most recent happened at Baker Playground in Overbrook on July 14, where two gunmen fired into a crowd of 200 attending a cookout, injuring seven.

“That cannot be allowed,” said Clarke.

On July 24, he announced a push for legislation at the state level to ban guns from rec centers and parks across Pennsylvania.

“At a minimum, we create a safe haven, so these young people can have an opportunity...seniors, adults can come out and enjoy their neighborhoods,” said Clarke.

But as was also highlighted at the event, it’s not just inner-cities that face gun violence. This weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio showed how the plague can affect anyone in the country at any time.

Rosanna Bueno, whose daughter is a member of the Amber Owls, a community cheer organization from Harrowgate that performed at the event, said the shootings in Philly and elsewhere shatter any semblance of peace inside and outside of the house.

“There’s nowhere to go to escape it,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle said it will take a village to solve America’s gun problem.

“We will continue to have to deal with these mass violence events until we stand up as a society from Washington D.C. to every single neighborhood in our country and finally say enough,” he said.   

Aug. 6 is the official day of the National Night Out. The largest gathering in Philadelphia begins at 6pm at Snyder Plaza in South Philly. For other locations in the region, check here.

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