On a frigid Martin Luther King Jr. Day, community leaders, neighbors and representatives from various churches gathered to rally for peace at Griscom and Arrott streets in Frankford, steps away from a makeshift memorial to two men killed in a shooting on New Year’s Day.
Participants prayed, heard from several organizations and the offices of elected officials, held signs and tried to engage passersby, most arriving or departing from the nearby Arrott Transportation Center.
Elizabeth Hernandez was flagging down cars, passing out brochures about Town Watch Integrated Services, a city agency that helps residents establish town watches in their neighborhood.
She started the Frankford Town Watch after she became nervous walking her two daughters and granddaughter to and from Allen M. Stearne School every day.
“Every time I turn around, there’s a shooting,” Hernandez said.
So far, the group has been successful, hosting four family-friendly events. In addition, the drug dealers who used to patrol her block are gone, and she hopes the girls will be able to play outside this summer.
“I’m not moving. It’s too expensive to be moving and stuff,” Hernandez added. “I’m staying where I’m at; I just want to make a change where I’m at.”
In the aftermath of the New Year’s shooting, Cristina Mancini, senior warden at St. Mark’s Church, organized a march for peace. She had a hand in Monday’s event, too.
Though the gatherings may not have an immediate effect on the violence, she believes they, like a church, offer a place for people to connect to their neighbors and higher power.
“Real change begins in hearts and minds,” Mancini told the crowd. “It’s not enough to change laws. It’s not enough to have pieces of paper.”
State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, who grew up nearby on the 4500 block of Penn Street, echoed the sentiments.
“When we respond to violence with non-violence, with peaceful action, then we’re actually making a difference in a positive way,” he added.
Following the rally, attendees were invited back for coffee and a snack at Frankford Friends School. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.