In the warm In the afternoon, two 16-year-old boys from North Philadelphia signed a contract. By engraving their names on a piece of paper, they promised a truce.
In the months before this, the teenagers had been in duels. News passed back and forth between their phones, and their social media inboxes were full of threats. In the end, the two met at the nearby Six Flags Hotel. There, a boy gave a hostile warning: next time, he will carry a gun.
One of the boy’s mothers, Alisha Corley, panicked when she learned of the conflict. It was only 16 years since her 5-year-old daughter unfortunately died of a gun bullet.
For families like Colley in North Philadelphia, gun violence is part of daily life. In a sense, this city is the epitome of a larger public health crisis. As of September, 14,516 people died of guns in the U.S. This year, 2021 is expected to be the deadliest year in decades.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young black men and adolescents Is 20 times more likely Than their white counterparts died of firearms.
Desperate to prevent her son from becoming a statistician, Corley looks for a way to protect him.She landed on Philadelphia truce, An app for iOS and Android that allows Phillies in crisis to press the “Get Help” button. By doing so, users can connect with well-trained mediators who provide a range of services, including empathy listening, referral to integrated services (such as mental health care), and conflict intervention. The app provides an alternative way to learn about trauma, rather than contacting the police, which in some cases can exacerbate violence.
By participating in the program, Corley received free mediation services, which eventually allowed her son to face-to-face with another boy in peace. After listening to each other, these teenagers realized that they were more similar than different. Threats of intimidation and violence quickly gave way to open dialogue and understanding. At the end of the meeting, they reached a peace agreement: a truce in Philadelphia.
The masterminds behind this exchange are Steven Pickens and Mazzie Casher, who are North Philadelphia natives, friends, and co-founders of the Philadelphia Truce app. Pickens was the first responder of the local fire department. He and the hip-hop artist Cashel met in high school 30 years ago. Today, these two men are in their 40s and have become the backbone of the local black community.
“In parts of Philadelphia, people become prisoners in their homes,” Pickens explained. “People have to be careful in certain blocks to sit on their front steps.”
For most of their lives, Casher and Pickens felt that gun violence was inevitable. “We became desperate. We became numb, and we kind of accepted the saying that this city is like this. This is the way between blacks and browns, between the poor and the police,” Kasche said. Like many people who have experienced complex trauma, numbness is the only coping mechanism within reach.