Around this time last year, we were preparing to #FillTheSteps Against Gun Violence at the Art Museum.

Despite flash flood warnings, a sizable crowd showed up to raise awareness. But also, they came to connect with other allies and advocates.

In February, I shared that the members of the paralyzed gunshot survivor’s group, which sprang from last year’s event, had agreed to lead the 2020 gathering.

And then came the coronavirus.

Eisha Sharpe, right, and other relatives and friends of the victims of gun violence stand on the Art Museum steps on June 15, 2017. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Eisha Sharpe, right, and other relatives and friends of the victims of gun violence stand on the Art Museum steps on June 15, 2017. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

We can’t safely convene for what would have been the fifth year that Philadelphians affected by gun violence have met on those iconic steps.

But I have an idea.

Let’s #FillTheFeeds, our social media feeds, on June 5 — National Gun Violence Awareness Day — to mark the unceasing national toll of gun violence.

The coronavirus may have stopped school shootings, but it hasn’t stopped the bloodshed in many vulnerable neighborhoods that are also being disproportionately affected by the virus.

The world’s collective attention may now be on an invisible enemy, but in too many cities like Philadelphia, the very visible threat of gun violence has mostly gone overlooked.

It may be hard to remain hopeful, locked up in our homes right now. But consider how hopeless it must feel for those who have been forced to shelter themselves against an epidemic in their own neighborhoods without any hope of a meaningful national response.

Shootings over the last two months were the highest of any March and April of the last five years, and homicides are up 20%. It’s the same in many other cities.

In a three-hour span on Mother’s Day, five people in Philadelphia were shot.

Last month, I shared the story of how gun violence stole one Philadelphia mother’s children and the coronavirus robbed her of her final goodbye.

Chimere Quattlebaum, who lost her two sons to gun violence, poses for a portrait with large photo cutouts of them outside her home in Philadelphia, PA on April 7, 2020. Her sons are Thalyl Taylor, left, 17, who recently passed, and Thomas Page, right, 19, who died in 2018.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Chimere Quattlebaum, who lost her two sons to gun violence, poses for a portrait with large photo cutouts of them outside her home in Philadelphia, PA on April 7, 2020. Her sons are Thalyl Taylor, left, 17, who recently passed, and Thomas Page, right, 19, who died in 2018.

So, on June 5, let’s come together, if just virtually, to focus on an epidemic to which none are immune.

I don’t want to put too many rules or expectations on this effort — we’re all in very different places in our corona journey — but here’s what I hope.

I hope to enlist “ambassadors” in every state to start the online effort — on whatever social media platform they choose — by encouraging others to #FillTheFeeds Against Gun Violence with stories of what this epidemic has robbed them of:

Their sense of safety, their loved ones, the use of their legs — but also the activism and advocacy fueled by these losses.

#FillTheFeeds with your story, or the story of your city or neighborhood, in words, in pictures, in videos, and vow to share and amplify these stories with that hashtag throughout the day.

So far we have people in Philadelphia and New Jersey and Delaware, including members of local and national advocacy groups, on board to participate. But how great would it be if every state joined the effort?

Picture it, from Alabama #FilltheFeeds Against Gun Violence to Wyoming #FillTheFeeds Against Gun Violence — a nationwide commitment against gun violence with the same kind of vigor and compassion as we have for those affected with coronavirus.

You might wonder why I don’t just chalk this up to a lost year on the steps. Simple: We don’t have the luxury of waiting it out until it’s safe. It hasn’t been safe in a lot of our neighborhoods for a very long time.

Hundreds #FillTheSteps Against Violence on the Art Museum step organized by Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas Monday June 11, 2018.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Hundreds #FillTheSteps Against Violence on the Art Museum step organized by Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas Monday June 11, 2018.

I hope, even if we’re physically separated right now, that we can build on the momentum that’s so palpable on those steps every year.

It is on those steps where I have watched in awe as mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers turn their pain into power.

It is on those steps where I’ve watched young people from across the city, especially students from Parkway Center City Middle School, lift their voices to proclaim that their lives matter.

It is on those steps that Jalil Frazier, a young father who was shot and paralyzed in 2018, hatched the idea for a survivors group that in a couple of months will celebrate its one-year anniversary.

So, what do you say? You in? On June 5, let’s #FillTheFeeds with a national commitment to recognize those on the front lines of an epidemic that’s been left to spread for far too long.