We can’t sit by and let gun-toting criminals tear apart certain neighborhoods in this city.
We need to be doing anything and everything we can to push back against what’s happening.
That’s why I am writing about a novel idea by 30 funeral directors who plan to drive empty hearses through the city this weekend to remind people about the dangers of gun violence and other ills such as COVID-19 and opioid abuse.
Yes, you read that correctly. Funeral directors. They are frontline workers who process the bullet-ridden bodies of gun-violence victims and console grieving families. They know better than many about the toll gun violence takes on people’s lives.
“There’s nothing we can do to stop gun violence except for bring awareness about what the end result will be,” said Lisa Edwards, owner of Yarborough & Rocke Funeral Home in the 1000 block of North 63rd Street in Overbrook. “I think every kid who sees someone get shot in the movies thinks that they get back up and make another movie. It doesn’t work like that in real life. It’s very much the end.”
I hope a whole lot of funeral directors turn out.
Certain young male residents could use a visual reminder about where it is that they’re headed if they don’t change their gunslinging ways. If I were the mother of a wayward teen, I’d make sure he was outside when the slow procession of hearses passed so he could get a good look and think about his life.
It’s a reach, I know. But I’m so tired of all the senseless killings. Something has to give. Residents shouldn’t have to cower inside their homes as gunfire rings out night after night. There were 386 homicides as of Oct. 19, up 38% compared with this time last year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. The vast majority of the victims are Black males ages 18 to 24.
Not much else is working to change things. So, when people come up with offbeat ideas such as the one proposed by members of the Quaker City Funeral Association, I think, what’s the harm?
Participants plan to meet at Broad and Olney at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday and at 2 p.m. begin parading their hearses through the city’s most violent and impoverished neighborhoods. The vehicles will be adorned with signs calling attention to a variety of epidemics dogging the city — COVID-19, gun violence, and opioid abuse — as well as reminding residents to vote on or before Nov. 3. Participants intentionally set out to keep their focus broad.
After all, they’re funeral directors. The last six months have been particularly grueling for them and their businesses, which have struggled to keep up with all of the deaths from COVID, gun violence, and opioids.
“We want to bring awareness to this city of all that’s going,” said Escamillio Jones, of Escamillio D. Jones Funeral Home in the 4100 block of L Street in Juniata. “Everybody said, ‘I’m in. Put me down.' Some people are even sending two hearses.”
I say the more the better.
Funeral directors in Tallahassee, Fla., and Baltimore tried something similar last summer to try to reduce gun violence. It didn’t solve either city’s crime problem. But maybe for a minute, some bad actors who witnessed the demonstrations may have paused and thought about the ramifications of what they were doing.
“We need police, politicians, academicians, community advocates, and, yes, funeral directors to help people understand how much violence affects everyone,” said Darin Toliver, a cofounder of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work. “If their approach of displaying the realities of death would help save a life, then, yes, it’s worth it.”
If the funeral directors can make even one gunslinger reconsider how he’s living, then this parade won’t be in vain.