Restore my Brotherly Love: LIVE!

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Trenae: [00:00:03] From Philadelphia Young Playwrights, this is Mouthful. I'm Trenae Nuri.

Mitchell: [00:00:08] And I'm Mitchell Bloom.

Trenae: [00:00:09] Every week, we'll be having a complicated conversation with a young person about the things that matter to them, things that they've written about, and shared on stages across the city.

Mitchell: [00:00:20] Then we'll go out into the community to talk to teens, adults, experts—anyone who can broaden the conversation.

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Trenae: [00:00:32] America has a serious problem with gun violence. Sandy Hook, Pulse, Charleston, Vegas, Aurora, Columbine, Parkland, Santa Fe.

Mitchell: [00:00:46] It's a devastating list that goes on and on. A list that no place or person wants to be a part of. Still as these events make national headlines there are other cities across the country like New Orleans Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Oakland, that are riddled with high rates of gun violence.

Trenae: [00:01:04] And we can add Philadelphia to the list because this city is among the leading cities, where gun violence has occurred at a rate of one shooting every 6 hours since 2006.

Mitchell: [00:01:15] So many American communities—urban, suburban, and rural—continue to mourn lives lost to guns.

Trenae: [00:01:22] And this month is Gun Violence Awareness Month. So today we're going to talk to a number of people whose personal stories all have one thing in common: Guns.

Mitchell: [00:01:31] This week's episode is inspired by a monologue written by a senior here at the U School in Philadelphia: Tyler Riddick. Written from the perspective of the city of Philadelphia itself, it's called "Restore my Brotherly Love". Let's listen to it now, performed by Jerrick Medrano.

Jerrick: [00:01:46] Yo we need a talk. No wait. We don't need to talk, you just need to listen. I'm tired of waking up to death every morning. No one lives forever, yes I get that, but no one should lose their life to a gun. Citizens you are killing each other and I'm sick and tired of it. You weren't raised this way. Maybe you can bring some clarity to my confusion on these senseless killings. Let's start with a couple questions. Why? Why is it that almost every time you have a disagreement with one another it ends in gun violence? Every 6 hours there's a shooting and since 2006 more than 14,500 people have been shot in Philadelphia. Two thousand six hundred twenty nine of them died. Your behaviors are depressing. You act so tough like killing is the only way to solve an issue. You gangsta right. But we all know that truth is if you get shot you don't cry out loud and every drop of gangster thing your body going dry out. I expected you to live up to my name. You know the jawn I had for as long as I can remember: the City of Brotherly Love. But you failed me. I'm sad to call you my people. You always talk about how the cops are killing us but never fix your mouths to say that we're killing each other. In 2016, four died at the hands of a police officer. This jawn still doesn't compare to the damage we're doing to each other. You're so quick to scream "fuck the law" but your power Pavo started for protection but the problem is you become bishop when you get the juice. You are so quick to come together and speak on blue on black crime. But what about coming together to speak on and make a change about black on black crime. Does shooting another brother give you power? MLK had power and not once did he pick up a gun to shoot someone. He used his words to stand up for what he believed in. And that was change and equality. He used his voice to squash the beef between whites and blacks. His voice made people from all walks of life come together and stand up for a change. Use your voice to stand for equality and peace among each other. Your voice is greater than the gun. I know that the solution may not be easy and will take some time but time is not on your side. You have to stand up now. Open your eyes. I know you're tired of turning on your televisions every day seeing another shooting victim. You're killing yourselves off, you're killing off the next generation. Do you even care? It seems like you don't! Like you just sit on cloud nine all day without a care in the world. Whatever happened to settling your problems by talking it out. You too good for that. Does that take too long? Or are you too lazy to do it? It takes one voice to put an end to this. My people: it only takes one person, man or woman, child or adult, you've got to put an end to this. I love you and I'm declaring the change I'm declaring for my people to rise up. You gotta do better. Too many of you are losing your lives to this weapon. Take the duct tape off your mouth and speak up. Let's take it back to old times when we believed that words were mightier than the sword or in this case mightier than the gun.

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Trenae: [00:06:01] Tyler this is a really powerful monologue. Can you tell us why you wrote this monologue?

Tyler: [00:06:07] At first there was like a class assignment. So someone from Philly Young Playwrights came to one of one of my classes and introduced a monologue project. So at the time one of my friends was shot and killed. So...

Trenae: [00:06:28] I'm sorry to hear that.

Tyler: [00:06:30] Everything just came right at one time. So I just let my feelings and my thoughts out on paper. And this is what I came up with.

Trenae: [00:06:38] What is your friend's name.

Tyler: [00:06:39] Jah.

Trenae: [00:06:41] How old was he?

Tyler: [00:06:41] Sixteen.

Trenae: [00:06:46] Are you still grieving him?

Tyler: [00:06:46] Yeah. I don't think I'm ever gonna stop. I just gotta be strong.

Trenae: [00:06:59] Before we got started today, Mitchell was telling me that you organized a basketball tournament in his honor. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Tyler: [00:07:07] Well the basketball tournament was on March 31st for, I did in March for March Madness, and it was between two community teams and two law enforcement teams to bring gun violence awareness to the neighborhood but to also bridge the gap between law enforcement and community. All of the proceeds that were made at the event then went to a scholarship fund for Jah's little brother.

Trenae: [00:07:38] Do they know who shot him?

Tyler: [00:07:41] I'm not sure.

Trenae: [00:07:44] When you see or hear stories about gun violence. Or when you see other victims what comes to mind?

Tyler: [00:07:54] At first like I was just thinking dang again? But now it's just like I just think a lot actually about what can I do or what can like a group of us do to stop it because it's happening more often and as the summer is approaching I believe that is going to happen a lot this summer.

Trenae: [00:08:21] You think just like what makes it about summer that you know we get amped up?

Tyler: [00:08:27] The weather the weather changes gang heart. More people are going to come outside. There's going to probably be more altercations between different people.

Trenae: [00:08:38] So what changes can do what changes can we make today so that hopefully that doesn't happen?

Tyler: [00:08:45] I guess we just got to find a way to settle disputes without using a gun. Maybe talk out our problems or just walk away from the problem. If we have that opportunity to do so.

Trenae: [00:09:02] If you could talk to a lawmaker or a your state rep what would you tell them?

Tyler: [00:09:09] We have to get the illegal guns off the street first. That's like the biggest problem because people are have access to guns very easily. And if you buy an illegal gun off the street you don't know like say the person selling the gun they don't know what they're given given it to. So it could just be giving it to anybody just to make money so we have to do just get those guns off the street first then worry about making stricter gun laws afterwards.

Mitchell: [00:09:47] What was it like to see your monologue performed?

Tyler: [00:09:50] It was amazing. I almost cried. Because it took a while for me to like right day and the revision process was very long. So seeing everything come together me me happy.

Mitchell: [00:10:04] Did you have any conversations with your, did your classmates see it, they get a chance to see it? Did you have any conversations afterward about about the topic or talked to somebody new about it who you hadn't talked to before?

Tyler: [00:10:20] My teachers, I talked to my teachers a lot about it. I don't think my classmates really said anything to me about it.

Trenae: [00:10:27] What are the conversations like between you and your teachers?

Tyler: [00:10:31] What's next?

Trenae: [00:10:33] In terms of your writing?

Tyler: [00:10:34] Yeah and making a change about gun violence.

Mitchell: [00:10:40] You have good teachers. That's a great question. What is next? What are you doing. After you graduate, when?

Tyler: [00:10:47] On Monday. June 11th.

Mitchell: [00:10:54] And then what?

Tyler: [00:10:55] I'm going to school for business and film. I'm going to Chestnut Hill. Where I got a full ride there. I plan on doing a basketball tournament every year and also plan on starting a movement which is Put the Guns Down and Pick Your Heads Up and down the line for a future I plan on well I'm in to film. So I want to open my own film studio, and I want to film music videos for music artists, and I plan on taking that and then mentoring younger kids in who to get into doing something positive instead of like running the streets and stuff.

Trenae: [00:11:48] That's a good segue way to introduce our next guest. Next to Tyler is Leonard Chester. He's a recent Temple grad and the founder of the Overcame Foundation, which supports youth who are facing various hardships to develop their talents and skills as leaders. And next to Lenno is Jose Ferran. He's a Peer Intervention Specialist at Healing Hurt People which is a hospital based violence prevention program at Drexel University's Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. And we're also going to bring back Jerrick Medrano into the conversation. So Lenno, Jose, and Jerrick what were your reactions when you heard the monologue and when you read the monologue?

Jose: [00:12:36] My first reactions from reading that monologue was different than listening to it. But they both were impactful. At first glance reading it, I really was inspired, I would say inspired, because I know it wasn't something you can't just like write about it and not experience the weight of it. So me as a reader and as individual who has experienced violence and has friends who have. It makes me think about the reality of it and I'm so about knowing just like black on black crime. We're hurting each other and we don't talk about it. So it made me think about things that we don't talk about naturally. Me growing up in North Philadelphia and listening to it it brought a sense of, it kind of made me envision it, how much this should be performed on a street corner. I really believe it would change a heart so that's my that's my own take on it.

Leonard: [00:13:51] And to add to that. This is the reality for across the globe conversations such as these should are imperative because gun violence in the inner city is going on everyday. And to me when I heard the young brother perform it and reading it myself, you know it was very cohesive and it really made me think about the resources in inner cities and the lack of resources that people of minorities don't have in their in their areas in their zip codes. And why? Well there's no real reason why we have gun violence. But you know my philosophy my approach with the foundation is that we have to provide resources to people in inner cities so we can lesser these type of experiences in inner cities and that's why we created the foundation. You know I just give kudos to Tyler you know for writing this monologue because many of us haven't had the opportunity to, and some of us are scared so it's very brave of her to speak out about something that is so so so much emotions bottled up. So I just want to say I commend you for writing it.

Jerrick: [00:15:22] When I first read the piece I fell in love with it because it's it's written in the perspective of Philadelphia, but it's really the voice of inner city. When I first read it I heard the voice of everyone that's, everyone in the city that's like sick and tired of turning on the TV and is like man another one? Or going on your Instagram and seeing somebody else died? That's crazy. So what I really loved about this is that it's not only a Philadelphia thing it's an inner city thing. It's like it it impacts everybody. Right? I lost friends to gun violence. You lost friends to gun violence. You've seen people around the neighborhood die because of gun violence. We don't talk about it but we all know how we feel about it. And I think Tyler did a great job of capturing the perspective of everybody in the neighborhood and not only just the people that are affected by it but even the people that aren't affected by it. The people that are just tired of seeing this every single day and having to turn on the television and see people mourn constantly.

Trenae: [00:16:37] So Jose, can you tell us your personal connection to gun violence?

Jose: [00:16:44] My personal connection to gun violence... First things first. It's not it's not separate from violence in general. So I have so many altercations where I should have been shot and I haven't it because I was in a fist fight. And I got shot in the middle of a fist fight in 2011. So that was my first experience personally like myself going through it and an even living with it afterwards like the experience of after being shot.

Trenae: [00:17:17] What were the emotions that you were going through when that happened?

Jose: [00:17:23] More of more of a shock? More and more was shock. I didn't expect it. I think the emotions of living after it happened was more difficult because I had to have the conversation with my friends about... Are we following you or. Yeah. Riding for you, in my words, like put me in a situation. I'm staying with a bullet stuck on my shoulder for a couple weeks because I couldn't get out of the same situation. Not Snitching. Was a situation. A whole different set of emotions you know. So that's the question. Sure.

Trenae: [00:18:07] You know who shot you?

Jose: [00:18:08] Yes.

Trenae: [00:18:10] So that was the part of the not snitching?

Jose: [00:18:12] Yeah yeah. That was a part of it. And also the response. What was our what was our response. It was a retaliation. That was the first I saw those the first primary that we had in mind. But for me I was in the hospital, so I was in that conversation. But when I came out it was a different story.

Mitchell: [00:18:38] Can you tell us a little bit about healing hurt people and the work that you do with them?

Jose: [00:18:42] Sure. So Healing Hurt People like as the mentioned is a violence intervention program in the hospital and is in different hospitals for example in 2011 I went to St. Christopher's Hospitals for Children which is the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, and I'm in the ED, and as I'm getting taking care of in ED, yeah that's how I was taken care of and this is a big role in what I'm doing today, is I'm ggetting I don't want to say interrogated, but I'm getting askes questions I get asked a lot of questions who what where why do you know the person like those type of questions and I wasn't trying to say nothing, my mindset was like I am given no lead at all. So the work that I do with them now is making sure that that process for the individual when they come into the hospital there, that they feel safe to give good care. Let them know that we exist and be me to be a presence and there has to be a presence. You know it nobody should have police officers waiting outside the door in the Emergency department, that just don't feel safe. So that's one thing but I'm one major thing that I do as a peer specialists at St. Christopher's Hospital.

Trenae: [00:19:54] Now there's trauma that happens like after they come out the hospital. So how do you work with people when they get out?

Jose: [00:20:04] So a major thing that we do is follow up with them. See how they're doing since. But you know we just ask how have you been. How are you. And there's different reactions, not everybody experienced the trauma like not everybody experienced a traumatic experience it's the reactions of so not everybody is going to have nightmares or terror hyper vigilance not everybody is going to have... it's not the same for everybody. For me it was more like I was given random thoughts out of nowhere. I was getting nervous when I was when I was in a neighborhood has happened in my neighborhood. So I know I could know I couldn't avoid the block. So those random thoughts that come I know how do you stay grounded how do you cope with those emotions? For me I bottled up my emotions from 8th grade going into 11th grade. And I got shot that 10th grade going into 11th grade. So for me I didn't share my emotions so going into healing hurt people allowed me to share my emotions. Put that toxic masculinity to the side a little bit and allow myself to really share how I felt and eventually I healed thankfully.

Trenae: [00:21:11] Did anybody else want to share a personal connection to gun violence?

Leonard: [00:21:17] Well I experienced not personally like the brother to my right. But you know I have family members that have been on both sides of it. I have family members. Personally my father was shot before I was born. He was shot you know right out of a house and got shot by a shotgun. This was before I was born. So thank God for giving him mercy. So he's running out of the house. He got shot by a shotgun and you know crawled out of the alley. Luckily two police officers were walking down the street and you know got him to an ambulance and then I also have a cousin that's doing life in prison through gun violence. You know he was in a dark place in his life and he took someone's life. So I see both sides of it through my history and my relationship with my community. Yeah, so that's my piece.

Trenae: [00:22:23] How do you start or open a conversation with your father and with your cousin about their experiences? Did you ask them or did they kind of just sit you down one day and you guys were talking about it?

Leonard: [00:22:39] My cousin is like Leonard or Lenno, I gave you the blueprint for everything not to do you know you if you follow that format you'll be in a better place than I am. My father is a little different. He experienced being shot and he lived through that incident but it's like a touchy subject so I think like a brother to my right he bottled up the emotions and put it behind him but he just talks about you know being safe. You know when I was younger he would be very tentative about that and me stay out at night. You know where I was going, you know what close I had on because he was always nervous about me getting shot or me getting robbed or something of that sort. So he was very hesitant and very protective of me because his experiences in inner cities.

Trenae: [00:23:33] The students know the students that you work with have they experienced gun violence?

Leonard: [00:23:39] Yes. So. So I do work at Frederick Douglass at times with the Foundation. This one student he lives on my block so I live in his community. I went to Temple I just graduated. So one of the students that I see often at Frederick Douglass. We live on the same block. So you know it was late at night it was a Sunday night I'm going grocery shopping and I see him as up on his stoop. I'm like Russ, what's going on you got school in the morning. He's like I can't sleep. So he he he says I'm like what's going on race. I just can't sleep. So I'm like what just walk with me. You know just tell you that he is holding in a bottle and a lot of emotion. So we're walking and we're talking like yeah I have to go to court tomorrow. What are you going to court for? He's like "my friend killed someone and I have to get on a stand and give a personality—I don't know what they call the talk of—.

Trenae: [00:24:41] Testimonial.

Leonard: [00:24:43] Yeah. And you know he's only in the eighth grade. You know in his head his emotions in just hearing his story about the incident is an eighth grader being put on a stand because his friend that's in eighth grade probably took a life. You know it's very unfortunate what I say when I give speeches like being in an inner city we're demoralised as human beings our norms are not normal. So what we experience is definitely not what the experience of reality of many that don't live in inner city. And Russell just is a good case of that because he's in eighth grade, he doesn't feel comfortable speaking with anyone, and it's very unfortunate that he had to go to today circumstance so you know it's important for organizations and foundations to have these type of dialogues and also be there for our youth because they are our youth. We just have to be there for that conversation.

Mitchell: [00:25:50] Jerrick, did you want to say something as well?

Jerrick: [00:25:53] Yeah. To piggyback off of that, I've never been been an experience where I've been shot. Nothing personal like that but growing up in North Philly... What's sad, what's sad to me is that personally I've kind of become numb to it and I know that's not a good thing but since since I've moved to the inner city to North Philly it's kind of like people get shot a lot on a daily basis, every other day. You hear the gunshots you you hear the stories you hear man you hear bull we have class with he got shot at, I'm like damn that's crazy.

Trenae: [00:26:42] When you hear gunshots though does it like shake you? Or are you numb like you said?

Jerrick: [00:26:50] It's a little bit of both. You get shot right. You you hear. It's a scary noise but then it's like the first thing that I think of as a man I hope there's not somebody I know I know it's not. I hope I don't like go down a block to the store and I hear another one of my classmates passed away because somebody got shot, and it was that gunshot that I just heard. That's that's that's what's hard about it is that in the inner city in the hood people we've all just become so accustomed to it and so numb that we kind of feel hopeless and we kind of feel like there's nobody that can can help us. There's nothing to do about it. And that's why we're so scared to talk about it but I feel like talking about it is part of what's going to solve the issue. We have to stop being scared of what people are going to think about us. We just have to be real and be like, yo this is scary. There is no reason we should be shooting at each other in the summertime when there's kids playing down the block. I get it, you're mad, but we can talk about it. There's no there's, every one, everyone is tired about it. Everyone you can feel it in the hood. You can feel people like we don't want to do this no more. And it's great because we can't really stand up to them. Like yo can you stop doing this. Let's be real. Right. It's a scary thing but I think we just got to we all as a community we have to stand together and speak up about it and not be scared to tell people stop using guns.

Leonard: [00:28:32] Can I add something?

Mitchell: [00:28:32] Yes please do.

Leonard: [00:28:34] Also in inner city or across the globe in the media that the media portrays a perception of glorifying the gun violence. So you see it in a lot of movies you see in Instagram I know I see it a lot on Instagram like glorifying you know, the bad block. I know in my neighbor when I was younger when I was 16 I you know I used to rep my neighborhood to the fullest you know 60th street you know we would we would fight against different neighborhoods no guns or anything. We were young but we were we would glorify fighting or you know beating up someone you know in our neighborhood you know numb from sixth issue we would be with 60th street and also we would beef with the northside of 60th street. It was you know we grew accustomed to I really rep in our neighbor neighborhood and that's why I really enjoy Jay-Z's new album Four Four four it was just like don't die over the neighborhood that your mama's renting, because we glorify in the media we consume so much of the media and the algorithm on social media is ridiculous because that's a conversation for another thing but we really glorify things that we shouldn't glorify like reading books is more, if we glorified reading books and giving people resources in the inner city you know my philosophy is that the world be such a better place. One thing that we do have on our side that we do have some great state reps in this area. WWe have Joanna McClinton, people who are really advocating for different resources for communities of color in Harrisburg. So that's a start. We're having more diversity and more inclusive conversations in Harrisburg. Also with us appointing Malcolm Kenyatta in this district will also help us as well. So we have people of our color to understand our cries that would take this conversation to the next level.

Trenae: [00:30:34] Anybody else want to add anything?

Jose: [00:30:37] In that same vein I would add to that there is great things in addition to happening. For example the Center for Nonviolence and social justice. This is our second year doing a training academy where we host we host space for young males of color ages 18 to 30 who have lived experience of violence or mental health or substance have lived experience to be individuals who work with people in a community who experience Community Violence so they're called community health community health worker peers and these individuals are young men who go into community and they host community cyphers and if you know anything about a cypher it's where you talk about all your problems around a blunt around going high and so they are actually and the talk about violence in general like trauma and how how people of color experience a lot of oppression and how we even deal with that depression. So I'd like to add that we have a lot of resources that's within people that the city is tapping into and as it's a program we're realizing that we should tap into. There's a Save Our Youth Initiative. They walk in the streets sometimes and and the host stuff, like they do like protest not protest but walk rallies does raise awareness run go up gun violence. So there's so much of it happening scatterly but I really believe eventually it's going to be more unified and we're going have a greater impact. The movement will come.

Trenae: [00:32:11] Thank you so much, Jose, to Lenno, Jerrick and Tyler for the conversations for this episode.

Mitchell: [00:32:18] Thank you also to the U School for hosting us and to Steel Empire for helping us out with sound for this event.

Trenae: [00:32:25] And I'm going to do my closing: From all of us at Mouthful. Thank you so much for the great conversation this season. I'm Trenae Nuri, thanks for listening.

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Mitchell: [00:32:45] That's a wrap! Okay, well here we are in the PYP offices and I'm not going to pretend like it's cool because here we are at the end of season 2. We heard from 38 different people this season across 10 episodes including two live shows just like this one. If this is your first time listening you can listen to all of them along with the entirety of Season 1—That's 21 total episodes—at our website mouthfulpodcastphilly.com. We have a couple really cool collaborations in the works so keep your ears out for some really exciting announcements in the future. Finally we're releasing this episode a little bit early to invite our listeners to stand on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art this Monday June 11th at 1:00p.m. It's the third annual Fill the Steps event to stand in solidarity with other Philadelphia against the epidemic of gun violence. I hope that Tyler's story, her monologue, Jose's story, Lenno's story, Jerrick's story might move you to join this event. We'll share all of the information on our Facebook and on our Twitter. That's @mouthfulphilly. On behalf of Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Lisa, Trenae, and myself, thank you so much for listening. We hope you'll stay tuned for Season 3!