The death on Tuesday of 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs, who was caught in a hail of gunfire outside his school Feb. 11, has captured the attention of the city in a way that violent crime statistics never could.
Faheem was shot in the face as he walked to T.M. Pierce Elementary school in what police called a battle between rival gangs. He remained on life support for several days before being removed.
At Temple, many of us are caught up in an imaginary world of studying, partying and safety without much concern for what is going on outside the range of the ultra-bright street lights and blue security towers.
It is easy to forget that our school sits in the middle of North Philadelphia, a once-grand part of the city that has succumbed to unemployment, drugs and urban blight.
The gun battle that took Faheem’s life happened less than a mile north of Temple’s Main Campus. The whole area is fighting for survival, with few jobs, fewer opportunities to escape and little hope for the future.
But Faheem had hope. His teachers and classmates described the straight-A student as bright and eager to be in school. He was cut down as he was making his way there last week.
Residents of the area say that crime and violence has been getting worse lately, despite city programs like Safe Streets. Residents are too scared to talk to the police about the shooting. Although two men were arrested over the weekend in connection with the shooting, police believe there were more involved; only one witness has come forward so far to assist investigators, despite a $75,000 reward and assurances of police protection.
Kids like Faheem shouldn’t have to fear for their lives as they make their way to school. And while there may not be much Temple students can do to prevent violence, there are ways we can help.
There are many opportunities for students to volunteer in city schools as tutors; Temple runs five schools near the Main Campus where some Temple students give their time. The Police Athletic League and countless other organizations run programs in and around city schools.
In the time that it takes to play a few rounds of Madden 2004, we can make a difference. Step out into the real world for a few hours each week. Faheem Thomas-Childs had hope, and so do thousands of other young Philadelphians.
Despite all of the nuisances that come with being a Temple student, we are lucky to be where we are, and we should help the next generation so one day they too can worry about Blackboard being down again rather than dodging bullets in broad daylight.