People Impacted by Mass Incarceration Hold Vibrant Townhall with Helen Gym

Helen Gym speaks to a crowd flanked by Robert Saleem Holbrook and Mrs Dee Dee

Dialogue can transform and inspire us. That’s why when it comes to politics we believe in the power that comes from people being able to speak directly with those running for elected office.

On Thursday, March 16th over 100 people gathered in Mosaic Community Church for a town hall style meeting with mayoral candidate Helen Gym. The event titled ‘What Can a Mayor do to Help Our Communities Heal?’ was organized by Amistad Movement Power, Straight Ahead and Free The Ballot and brought together our members -family members of the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people and those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

Nikki Grant wears a yellow sweater and holds her finger up while speaking
Amistad Movement Power Movement Director Nikki Grant talks about what is at stake in the May election 

The event was opened up by a number of leaders in our movement. Amistad Movement Power Board Member Mrs. Dee Dee, Executive Director of Straight Ahead Robert ‘Saleem’ Holbrook, Movement Director of Amistad Movement Power Nikki Grant and Executive Director of Free The Ballot Tonya Bah broke down to people why we were gathered and the importance of responding to the urgency of this moment in which our city will be electing a good portion of city government including a new mayor.

After years of a pandemic and the associated gun violence crisis, decades of structural divestment from our cities and centuries of oppression the struggles of our communities are many. And our members come from all over the city from North Philly to Southwest to Kensington each with their own particular struggles at this moment. Speaker after speaker brought up what was pressing on them and their families.

Grandmothers raised concerns that their kids had to walk through areas where frequent gun violence occurs on the way to school. Women coming home from the city jails talked about the deplorable conditions there and raised the need for independent community oversight over the city jails. Residents of Kensington talked about the need for more harm reduction services and the need to clean up their neighborhood which has been failed by city government time and time again.

a collage shows four different community members asking helen gym questions
Community members asks the questions that our neighborhoods need answered

Helen Gym gave sharp and honest responses to their concerns and laid out a vision for the city we know is possible if we pull together. She spoke about the need for safe corridor programs staffed with people who make sure that kids can make it to their neighborhood school safely. She spoke the need for actually putting real investments in comprehensive, 24/7 mobile crisis response so that when our community members are experiencing mental health crisis they get a healing response from trained mental health professionals instead of the police. And most importantly she spoke about the need to mobilize resources to our neighborhoods and our school system that has suffered from decades of divestment. We know the root of the gun violence crisis is staggering wealth inequality and certain neighborhoods being cut off from resources which can keep us safer.

People were engaged. After a spirited town hall meeting the people assembled let Helen Gym know how they felt when they gave her a standing ovation at the end of the night.  Sergio Hyland, Assistant to the Executive Director at Straight Ahead, rose to the occasion and closed us out by explaining what is at stake and what we need to do to win: we must talk to our neighbors, co-workers, family members and people to our churches and mosques and get them out to vote.

With over 100 people gathered on a Thursday night the power in the room was palpable. But power that is unfocused is just a flash in the pan. Let’s make sure we don’t allow candidates that support letting wealthy developers off the hook for what they owe for city services or who support brining back stop and frisk policing to take the mayor’s office. Too much is at stake for the future of our families , our people and our city.  Get signed up with us below to volunteer so you can make a difference for your neighborhood and your city.


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