We journalists have written a lot about Philadelphia’s alarming homicide numbers in 2020 and 2021. Our city is enduring killings in numbers we haven’t seen since 1990. But the numbers can only tell so much of the story.
Giving those mourning the loss of a loved one space to share all that was special about them helps us understand the holes they left behind in our families and communities. This is a lesson we have learned time and again over the last nine months. Since March, we have provided support and a public space for those who wanted to share messages to loved ones lost to COVID-19. After witnessing just how meaningful this feels to those who are grieving, we are relaunching With Love to feature the messages of those grieving a friend or family member killed by gun violence.
When it comes to the pandemic, there is a clear end in sight, even if it still may take a while. Vaccines are available for people as young as five years old and groups such as the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium have made huge inroads making sure vaccines and COVID testing are reaching neighborhoods and communities where the pandemic has hit the hardest. Though we are likely to live with coronavirus for years, it will, in time, not be the killer it once was.
Sadly, this is not true for the epidemic of gun violence that roils our city. There is no end in sight; if anything the horizons seem to continually darken. We have set a new record for homicides in Philadelphia. In the face of numbers that are sometimes numbing, we want to provide space where the grieving can share what was special about that sibling, cousin, child, parent, or friend. What would you have wanted them to know if you had known you were never going to see them again? What would you have wanted them to feel or to hear before their life was cut short? Would you have told them that they made you feel important? How proud you are of them? Or how you wished they could have been here to talk about Ben Simmons craziness? Truly, whatever the message is, we would love for you to share it.
If you’ve lost someone to gun violence and want to express your goodbye, we’re here to help. You can write something on your own or record yourself and send in the video or audio file. If you’d like to participate but find it hard to do so on your own, we’ll have a reporter from one of our Broke in Philly newsroom partners reach out to have a conversation with you to get those words and thoughts flowing. Or, express yourself in a different way: art, dance, song, you name it.
As we expand With Love Philly’s mission, we are not leaving behind the stories of loved ones lost to COVID. Whether it was a gun or the coronavirus that took their life, you can share your story here.
Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.