These Philadelphia residents have created an App to Prevent Gun Violence

In a hot afternoon, two 16-year-old boys from North Philadelphia signed a contract. By engraving their names on a piece of paper, they promised to call for a ceasefire.

In the months before this time, teenagers were fighting. Messages are repeated between their phones, their social media inboxes are full of threats. Eventually, the two meet each other at nearby Six Flags. There, a boy warns: Next, he will carry a gun.

When Alisha Corley, one of the boys ’mothers, found out about the confrontation, she was shocked. It has only been 16 years since the tragic disappearance of his 5-year-old daughter to a gunshot wound.

For families like Corley’s in North Philly, gun violence is an everyday part of life. In a sense, the town serves as a microcosm of a larger public health crisis. Since September, 14,516 people in the U.S. have lost their lives to guns this year, puts 2021 on track to be the deadliest in decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young Black men and teens 20 times more likely than their white counterparts to die at gunpoint.

Desperate to prevent his son from becoming a statistician, Corley finds a way to protect him. He landed on Philly Truce, an app for iOS and Android that allows Philadelphia residents in crisis to press the “get help” button. In doing so, users are connected to trained mediators who provide a range of services, including empathy listening, referral wraparound services (such as mental health care). , and conflict intervention. The app offers a trauma-aware alternative to contacting the police, which in some cases can intensify the violence.

By connecting to the program, Corley gained access to free mediation services that ultimately allowed her son to calmly deal with another man. After hearing each other, the teenagers realized that they were more alike than different. Threats of intimidation and violence quickly paved the way for open dialogue and understanding. At the end of the meeting, they agreed on a peace contract: a Philly Truce.

The masterminds behind this exchange are Steven Pickens and Mazzie Casher, North Philly natives, friends, and co -founders of the Philly Truce app. Pickens, a first responder for the local fire department, and Casher, a hip-hop artist, met in high school three decades ago. Today, the two men are in their 40s and have become central pillars in their local Black community.

“In parts of Philadelphia, people are prisoners in their own homes,” Pickens explained. “People have to be careful in some neighborhoods just to be able to sit on their own front stairs.”

For most of their lives, Casher and Pickens felt that gun violence was inevitable. “We lost hope. We became numb, and we accepted the account that this was the situation in the city. This is the way between Black and Brown people, between poor people and cops, ”Casher said. Like many people who have experienced the sounds of complex trauma, numbness is felt to be the only coping mechanism that can be reached.

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