PHILADELPHIA, June 25, 2013 – State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams opened the “2013 Summer of Peace” on Saturday with an annual family fun day and the introduction of a summer-long basketball tournament for students.
Williams kicked off this component of his ongoing community-based campaign to counter violence in the 8th District and across the city by declaring that “all kids must play.”
“Peace in our community begins in our neighborhoods with the simple notion that children can grow and learn in a safe environment,” Williams said. “Creating that environment is a shared responsibility. It’s part of our job as residents of this city. Reducing violence begins here, with us.”
Joining Williams at the event was a host of elected and public safety officials, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey; U.S. Rep. Bob Brady; Philadelphia City Council members Jannie Blackwell and Kenyatta Johnson; state Reps. Ronald G. Waters, Maria Donatucci and Jordan Harris; and 12th Police District Capt. John Moroney.
The day began with a peace march around Myers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, where the activities were held. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., some 600 children and adults enjoyed a summer day of play and healthy competition. A series of workshops on post-high school education, personal development and goal-setting ran tandem with the basketball games. Students rotated between them.
Old School 100.3 and Power 99 FM created the day’s soundtrack.
The basketball tournament features 14 rec center-based teams in four divisions in three age groups: 12 and under, 14 and under and 16 and under. The 8th District games will be held twice a month in Delaware County, South, West and Southwest Philadelphia and end with the Aug. 10 semi-final and final games at Cobbs Creek.
Supporters can follow and cheer teams with the Summer of Peace Basketball Tournament score cards, available at each participating rec center.
Shereen Frazier, 9, was among the many students assembled to participate in the tournament, playing for Myers Rec. Like many young people in the city, violence is on his mind, especially as he travels from Cobbs Creek to visit his grandmother in Southwest Philadelphia. He said he wouldn’t mind seeing more cameras in the community “to keep watch, and so police can get there quicker.”
Williams long has hosted summertime activities, helping to forge relationships between young people and the police through supporting organized activities in safe places, as a means of curbing violence.
According to the Philadelphia Police Department, June and August tend to be among the city’s most violent months, when shootings and homicides typically increase.
His multi-pronged initiative, Neighbor to Neighborhoods: The Power of Peace, features citywide partnerships to help deliver second-chance educational opportunities, job training and skills enhancement, conflict resolution, family support, and other elements too often deficient in the lives of those whose paths turn south. The program arose after a yearlong series of community meetings on how to develop real solutions to combat upticks in violent incidents across the district.
“With a recidivism rate that is second in the city, this area needs not so much to recreate the wheel, but to reconnect the dots. Only by aligning existing resources will the roots of violence – under-education, underemployment and unemployment – be truly addressed. That starts early,” Williams said.
“If children aren’t given the opportunities to interact in a peaceful, healthy way, if families don’t have a sense of how to connect and communicate beyond anger, if we continue to turn our heads and decide that’s ‘someone else’s problem,’ we’ll never be able to regain a true sense of community,” Williams said. “But we can do that. It starts today, with all of us taking a stand that peace is worth fighting for.”
Editor’s Note: For details on the basketball tournament, visit www.senatoranthonyhwilliams.com.