Philadelphia's two crowned kings of peace - actor and philanthropist Bill Cosby and Bilal Qayyum, co-chair of Men United for a Better Philadelphia - were joined yesterday by a most unlikely recruit: rapper Beanie Sigel.
Yes, there was Sigel, walking arm-in-arm with Qayyum and Cosby down Susquehanna Avenue as they led a spirited march through some of the most crime-infested blocks in North Philadelphia, all trumpeting the universal call to end violence in the city.
"Here is a young man from the streets who came back to the streets as a man," Cosby said, nodding towards Sigel. "This is what we want from our young boys, to go from boys to men."
Sigel, trailed by a swelling group of adoring fans, said he has lived on both sides of the fence, and believes that the youth may not get the message if it's coming from teachers and other authority figures.
"I come from these things, the streets," Sigel told the crowd gathered in the yard at M. Hall Stanton School, on 16th Street near Huntingdon. "I'm at a time in my life where I'm trying to make the transition from something negative to something positive."
Sigel can be seen on public-service anouncements decrying the violence in the city and particularly urging young black men to not reach for a gun at the first sign of conflict.
Cosby, for his part, said he was "proud to see" so many black men with their children, but urged more commitment from parents.
"Mothers, you need to take your child to their father," Cosby said, adressing the crucial need to fix broken homes.
"If you loved him or didn't, take the child to the father so he can be in the child's life."
The march capped "Peace Week 2007," and Qayyum thinks the message is getting through to the youth.
"I'm sensing more young people are coming around" to nonviolence, Qayyum said.
"Beanie clearly has a message . . . The new message is that he's willing to change directions and we have to embrace him. Because if we don't embrace him, who will?" *