With help from city, Germantown group fights gun violence with creative writing

Antionette Lee
August 11, 2019 - 3:03 pm
A microgrant from the city has given many groups, including E.Y.E., the opportunity to take gun violence prevention into their own hands.

Antionette Lee/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As the city grapples with gun violence, a microgrant from the city has given many groups, including E.Y.E., the opportunity to take gun violence prevention into their own hands. 

E.Y.E., short for empowering youth editorials, is led by former social worker and teacher Jacquelyn Bethea in Germantown. 

"We have to do something, we gotta do something," Bethea said about crime in the area. 

Bethea, 79, said she doesn't let her age or a wheelchair stop her because like many of the youth she's helping, she knows what it feels like to lose loved ones to gun violence — she was devastated when her three grandsons were shot and killed. 

"Am I in pain? Yes I am. Do my knees hurt? Yes they do, but I don't stop. Because these kids are important to me. These lives matter." 

Each Saturday, a group of community stakeholders gather with about 12 teenagers ages 14-17. The community mentors and helps them utilize creative avenues for expression, such as writing and theater. 

"This program gives them the opportunity to share their experiences, to talk about how violence has affected them," Bethea said. "Whatever their emotions were, we wanted them to get it out and put it on paper, which is a therapy for them." 

But Bethea said the collaborative effort would not be possible without a $15,000 grant from the city, and participants and volunteers all receive a stipend upon completion of the program. 

"A lot of them are unsure who they are and this opportunity will give them a chance to be able to express themselves. Creative thinking. Creative Writing. That grant afforded us the opportunity to do that," Bethea said. 

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The pilot program is set to end in September, but volunteers like Robyn Perry are hoping that it will continue and expand to other parts of the city. 

"You have to start a foundation and if you build it while they're young, it will stay with them," she said. "I just believe it's going to multiply. Hopefully we'll change the generations that are coming up today."

"If we can give people hope, we can give them alternatives outside of what we see," Bethea added.