Residents share stories of violence’s impact at WURD Radio event

People gathered at Fotterall Square in North Philadelphia on Friday for the second day of WURD Radio’s Transmit/Transform event in partnership with the Village of Arts and Humanities and ArtBuilt Mobile Studios. | EVAN EASTERLING / BROKE IN PHILLY

On May 24 and 25, Broke in Philly partner WURD Radio hosted a two-day community event on violence at Fotterall Square in North Philadelphia’s Hartranft neighborhood. The gathering, named Transmit/Transform, had the goal of creating a community conversation on violence and was carried out in partnership with the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia and ArtBuilt Mobile Studios. WURD broadcast live from Fotterall Square and guests were invited to enter a mobile trailer in the park and share their stories of how violence has impacted them and help heal from loss.

In October 2017, WURD received a grant from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a non-profit that seeks to support and develop sustainable models for local journalism, to investigate the rate of community violence in the city, explore the impact of violence on communities, as well as potential solutions. WURD has worked with several partners to carry-out this work, including the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University and the Philadelphia Media Network.

The first stage of the project was from October to January, and involved community outreach, inviting people to share their stories on air and through a broadcasting app. WURD President and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese said the project is now in its second phase, which includes a partnership with Broke in Philly.

“This phase,” said Lomax-Reese, “is really exciting because [Broke in Philly] already has such a strong network of partners.”

Future plans include a live broadcast from prison to allow incarcerated people to tell their stories and an anti-violence conference in July. They also plan to use the mobile studio, which belongs to the Village of Arts and Humanities, again in September in other neighborhoods.

“At the heart, [this project] is about capturing stories of people who’ve been directly impacted,” Lomax-Reese said, “and to try and really showcase the full humanity of Black people, in particular, who are often just rendered as statistics or as a headline. Their full story and the full context of who they are as people is often lost in mainstream media. So part of our goal is to show the full humanity of a community in ways that is not often shared in other media.”

At Fotterall Square last week, there were tables with information and resources for attendees — even free gun locks, made available by Scott Charles, Temple Health’s trauma outreach coordinator. At other tables, people had the chance to express pain from loss through art. Guests had the chance to use a small chalkboard to answer to the question “What’s one thing you’ve learned from experiencing loss of a loved one to violence?”

Faith Bartley and Latyra Blake from People’s Paper Co-op had a table where they made paper from scratch and invited people to write a statement about how a person they’ve lost positively impacted them.

They would also plant a seed in the paper before hanging it to dry at Village Arts. Once the paper is retrieved from Village Arts, it can be planted in the ground or in a pot to keep inside.

“It gives them comfort to know that they have something growing in their home or in their backyard to remember that person by,” Blake said. She added: “For people that lost someone, instead of looking at the bad things that happened to them as violence or how they died, look at the good impact that they had on their life or how they brought joy to their life and remembering all the good things.”

Rasheed Smith grew up in North Philadelphia and attended Friday’s event. Smith, 25, has worked for Philadelphia CeaseFire Cure Violence — which aims to reduce the spread of violence by using methods associated with disease control — for six years, mentoring high-risk youth. He often shares his story, and believes it is powerful.

“You never know whose story is like yours,” Smith said. “A lot of us have similar stories. You never know unless you open your mouth.”