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Sign of the times in West Kensington. LBW Photo
Sign of the times in West Kensington. LBW Photo

[OP-ED]: The Best Christmas Present: Peace On Philly Streets

The searing slap of violence is something Roz Pichardo knows on many painful levels.

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An attempted murder during a domestic violence incident almost snatched Pichardo’s life. A murder did snatch the life of her brother.

Yes, violence did change Pichardo’s life, but, uniquely, in a positive way. 

Pichardo began to campaign against violence, founding Operation Save Our City in 2012 after the murder of her brother. That homicide remains unsolved.

“I wanted to do something for families. I wanted to empower mothers,” Pichardo said.

“In the Puerto Rican community people are taught to mind their own business. But we need to help each other,” tireless outreach activist Pichardo said. “I go to the corners and talk to the guys there. People are afraid to talk. I go into the Bad Lands to help out.”

Pichardo is a part of the initiative announced recently by the Philadelphia Anti-Violence Coalition that designated December as a “Month of Peace.” 

This initiative to reduce homicides and shootings across Philadelphia involves multiple activities like passing out gunlocks and conducting crisis intervention training. The murder rate in Philadelphia, already over 290, exceeds the 277 total in 2016.

“If we can lower the amount of murders that is helpful,” Pichardo said. “We can’t stop murders but if we can help reduce the murder rate that is good.”

Pichardo and Bilal Qayyum, chair of that 57-member-organization Coalition, see the same problem as a key contributor to the matrix of violence: lack of employment opportunities, particularly for young male persons of color.

Qayyum, founder of the anti-violence Father’s Day Rally Committee, said outreach to guys on street corners includes passing out job applications and informing those guys of places that are hiring.

“With helping people get jobs we try to show them we are not just talking about stopping violence but really trying to help them improve their lives.”

The structural exclusion from life improving economic opportunities in the Philly area is a race-polluted scourge that impacts not just the unskilled and semi-skilled. This exclusion aversely robs black and Latinos at all levels of the economic ladder including white-collar sectors.

For example, no black or Latino firms are apart of the millions of dollars allocated to the architectural/engineering component of the nearly $200-million project for the capping of I-95 at Penn’s Landing.

And, according to data released by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, its award of millions of dollars in consulting contracts during the 12-years from 2005 to 2017 included no black or Latino entities as prime contractors. Those contracts ranged from design to project management to public involvement. That Commission operates 20 bridges over the Delaware River from Bucks County up to the New Jersey/New York border.

While Roz Pichardo does not have jobs or contracts to give out, she does give of her time. She is often at Hope Park, A and Indiana Streets, where she distributes food and clothing to the drug addicted. She does this outreach/assistance without government funding. 

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