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Fatal purse-snatchings prompt educational class for women

Handbags 4 Peace hopes to educate other women on street safety.

Amber Long
Amber LongRead more

WHEN AMBER LONG was shot and killed during a purse-snatching in Northern Liberties earlier this year, her mother, Stephanie, committed herself to raising awareness about street safety among women.

Today, she will take part in a free women's self-defense class, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Cobbs Creek Recreation Center, on 63rd Street near Walnut.

"This class is the first step on a productive road to protect ourselves," said Long, 52, of Harrisburg. "I want people to know that they shouldn't give predators, the nonfunctioning part of society, what they don't deserve."

The class is hosted by Handbags 4 Peace, a grass-roots movement of women dedicated to making Philadelphia a safer place for women through empowerment and education.

The group was formed in memory of Amber, who was 26 when she was slain on Jan. 19, and Melissa Thomas, 29, who was shot and killed during a robbery in West Philadelphia on Feb. 2.

"This class is really important because it teaches women to defend themselves when they're walking alone at night," said Darisha Miller, a spokeswoman for Handbags 4 Peace, based in Southwest Philadelphia. "We teach them tips like not spending too much time at the trunk of their car and keeping all their belongings in the front to leave the area faster.

"So far, we have held safety workshops throughout the city, especially on college campuses," Miller said. "We have professional instructors come in and teach us certain techniques when dealing with dangerous situations."

Along with self-defense class, Long has raised $8,000 for a scholarship fund in Amber's name. Her goal is to raise $25,000 for an endowed scholarship.

"I only wish that Amber was taught how to handle that situation better earlier on," she said, referring to the confrontation that ended her daughter's life. "These workshops should be done beginning in high school."