Treehouse aims to help youth climb to the top

A local center educates and engages area youth about violence and other issues in the community.

With the budgets for city libraries dwindling, alternatives for providing books to youngsters are in high demand. Just north of Main Campus, Treehouse Books, a nonprofit organization, works to mentor children in the community.

For nearly five years, Treehouse Books has served the Philadelphia community by mentoring and educating young people from kindergarten through eighth grade. The center promotes literacy and creates activities and events for young people to participate and learn in a safe environment.

“The bookstore and the activities are definitely a needed substance in this community. We provide cheap books for kids, and some are even free,” said Barbara Easley-Cox, rights chair of Treehouse Books. “We promote literacy with children through reading and writing, but we also promote ideas. We service this community.”

Most volunteers at Treehouse are Temple students.

“I’ve been volunteering here since September,” said Sonja Ryst, a graduate student. “I feel like it’s a very good way to learn about other people around us and in this community. Some of these kids have had really hard lives. I feel lucky that I get to learn about them. It gave me an opportunity to be a part of the community as opposed to being separate from it.”

Last Thursday, Treehouse Books organized a screening of the student-made film Philadelphia Homicide City: Money, Murder and Politics. The real life documentary by filmmakers Brandon Angel and Barry Evans depicted the lifestyles and attitudes of crime and murder throughout Philadelphia. The audience consisted of Temple students and faculty, as well as volunteers and activists from nearby communities.

“The purpose of tonight was to create a doorway of relevant, powerful communication. In our hearts we want to expand our impact on the community and explore relevant needs for the adults and what they want to change,” said Darcy Sebright, executive director of Treehouse Books. “We want to get the community together.”

Sebright said the film is a true representation of what is happening in the city.

“We want to take the community to the next place,” he said. “To share other resources and other ideas of how we can change it.”

The documentary consists of interviews with people from various racial and economic backgrounds who were willing to speak about the murder and gun violence in Philadelphia.

Many of the interviewees said the reason for Philadelphia’s high murder rate was due to the lack of jobs and resources in the black community. Others said the reasons for murder and violence were due to an imbalance of family structure throughout the homes and the lack of role models for young people.

The term “urban genocide” was used in the film to describe certain statistics such as Philadelphia having an average of one murder per day and most of the victims being younger than 25.

“I’m from Albuquerque, New Mexico,” said filmmaker Brandon Angel. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I was shocked.”

The screening was followed by a group discussion on solutions to improve Philadelphia’s community and the actions that should be taken to help young people from poverty-stricken areas.

“It all just seems so crazy,” said Agi Kah, a junior political science major. “I really felt like I needed to be here. I had to be here.”

Taara Savage-El can be reached at

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