Emily Clark had been aware of Philadelphia’s epidemic of gun violence and was considering ways she could help when an Inquirer story about 25 people being shot in Philadelphia in a single weekend in August, including two 11-year-olds pushed her to take action.
Clark, a 54-year-old mother of three grown children who recently completed her master’s studies in marriage and family therapy at La Salle University, decided to start a gun buyback program.
Now in its 31st year, the nonprofit committee promotes positive images of Black men, and fathers in particular. It also helps organize gun turn-in events throughout the city.
Qayyum said he has been working to stop gun violence since 1989, when Philadelphia experienced 489 homicides. (In 2019, according to Philadelphia Police Department, there were 356 homicides in Philadelphia. Last year, that number jumped to 502.)
“From that point on, we have been out front - we’ve done rallies, visuals, conferences, worked with different police commissioners,” Qayyum said. “I realized, over the years, that the more guns are on the street, the more shootings take place.”
His group hosted six gun turn-in events since last year alone, recovering close to 90, he said.
Qayyum suggested that Clark contact Jeff Brown, the owner of 10 local ShopRite supermarkets and two Fresh Grocer stores. Brown, who has been involved in prior gun buyback programs, was more than happy to join the project.
“The police have partnered with us in every single gun collection,” Brown said. “Sometimes, the guns are loaded, so the police make sure everything is safe in handling them and record their serial numbers.”
Brown said that Clark’s dedication to the project has been impressive.
“Emily has done a lot of work — and when somebody wants to do something so worthwhile, I want to support them,” he said.
The buyback program will take place on Jan. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church, 804 N. Broad St.
The Greenfield Foundation, a charitable organization associated with Clark’s family, has donated $10,000 to the effort. In addition, Clark has set up a GoFundMe page, which has raised $1,300 (as of early January). The money will fund $100 ShopRite gift cards for each gun someone turns in; Brown is pitching into that effort as well.
Clark, of Chestnut Hill, is not a professional fund-raiser, so this is all a first for her. But she’s learning as she goes, she said. Her desire to help stems from her time as a behavioral health worker at the Dr. Tanner G. Duckrey Public School in North Philadelphia, whose students made a profound impact on her life.
“The kids broke my heart, hearing some of their stories about guns and violence,” she said. “There were just some really sad stories. I am really passionate about this. If even if one gun gets turned in, and that gun was going to kill somebody … if this can save one person’s life, then it will be well worth it.”