They were three people from different neighborhoods and various backgrounds.
But they were all young, Black, and female.
And they all suffered a similar fate. One right after the other. None of them deserved what happened to them. Each was merely going about her life. Yet, they all became homicide victims during one of the bloodiest summers in this area’s history.
If that doesn’t give you pause then I don’t know what will.
One was a 15-year-old playing basketball at a neighborhood recreation center near her North Philadelphia home. She was with her brothers on Aug. 17 when bullets rang out, striking her. Another, an 8-year-old, was mortally wounded last week, probably by police officers returning fire after a shooting broke out at a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Delaware County.
Then, there was the 19-year-old college student who succumbed to her injuries Tuesday after being shot multiple times Aug. 16 while sitting in a parked car with her boyfriend near a ShopRite in the 100 block of Olney Avenue.
That’s a whole lot of hurt not just for the families involved but for the Philadelphia area at large. Going forward, friends and relatives will be left wondering what if they had lived? What would they have made of their lives? Scrolling through one of the victim’s Instagram pages, I found myself looking at all of her beautiful photos and wondering the same thing. What might this hardworking young woman have achieved had she lived? The same is true for all of them. We will never know what kind of Black girl magic these girls might have created.
Simone-Monea Rogers reportedly wanted to be an FBI agent before she was struck by stray bullets at the Jerome Brown Playground on the 1900 block of West Ontario Street. She had been scheduled to attend West Catholic High School this year. Instead, her family buried her on Thursday. In addition to basketball, Simone-Monea was a chess player. The recessional hymn played at her funeral was “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe.
Ojanae Tamia Thompson managed a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant and took classes at Community College of Philadelphia after transferring from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Thompson worked a second job as a home health-care aide and dreamed of becoming a registered nurse before she was fatally wounded last month. Doctors at Einstein Medical Center knew her chances of survival were slim, but her mother, Tiffaney Flynn, held out hope for a miracle that sadly never materialized.
Fanta Bility was shot in the chest Friday after a disturbance broke out. She had big eyes and an infectious smile. This innocent child should have started third grade this week at the Sharon Hill School, but instead her little body is at Friend’s Burial Ground in Upper Darby.
Granted, I only included the most recent victims in this roundup. There will be more if we don’t figure out a way to drastically reduce the number of illegal guns out on the streets and push back against what’s been happening.
I’m not hanging on the city’s declaring a state of emergency, but something drastic needs to happen because these shooters out here have absolutely no respect for human life. They don’t care whom they shoot. If someone gets between them and their intended target, it’s like, “Oh well.” Most of them don’t even know how to operate their weapons properly. When they open fire, everyone in the vicinity is at risk.
The increased funding for antiviolence programs may improve the situation, but as City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart revealed in a report released last month, it will take years for us to see the impact. What do we do in the meantime to help protect the most vulnerable among us short of forbidding them to go outside and experience a normal life? That’s no way to live. We owe our young people better than this. If it’s true that a society is judged by “how it treats its most vulnerable members,” then the Philadelphia area is damned.