“Let us lead the charge,” Philly Truce’s Mazzie Casher wants a reset on gun violence from the new mayor
With the mayoral election one day away, Casher says whoever it is, has to have the will to change the circumstances of those he helps on a daily basis.
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As the 2023 Philly mayoral candidates wrapped up the last stops of their primary campaigns with diner visits, massive get out to vote parties and more festivities, Philly Truce’s Mazzie Casher was doing what he’s been doing for the last three years in the face of the city’s gun violence epidemic: working at the ground level for a solution.
On Monday, May 15, 2023, that brought Casher to the Skyline Room at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where he was hosting the latest of Philly Truce’s efforts to curb gun violence — session two of its new Safe City Summit.
The six-week initiative targets young Black men between 11 and 15 to take part in weekly workshops that equip them with tools to better address some of the things that lead to gun violence in the city.
“The goal is to give them in this setting theory, conflict resolution, anger management coaching, effective communication,” said Casher.
Right now, Safe Cities is in stage one of three. The second stage begins in another month when school ends and the same program participants will get a chance to be paid for the Summer to work with Philly Truce and help with all its community efforts, whether they be cleanups or organizing signature peace marches in affected neighborhoods.
Those that make it through the Summer will officially graduate to become Safe City Boys.
“The ultimate goal is to have some of them able in the Fall to return to school as an identified peer resource,” Casher said.
They would be known by the school and fellow classmates as individuals to help de-escalate situations or point them in the direction of more resources. The hope then is that the larger community would also see the individual’s work and support them further.
It’s one of many community-led youth engagement and leadership programs to spawn across the city as a reaction to its current gun violence crisis, but Casher still doesn’t see the buy-in at the city level not just for his program, but any program of its kind founded by a community in Philly.
Instead of the money and belief, Casher sees the protocols and status quo outweighing leaders’ willingness to change anything and have meaningful impact.
“That’s such a huge slap in the face,” he told AL DÍA in an interview on the eve of Primary Day 2023. “We gotta get creative and we gotta put the protocols aside for a minute. We need new protocols.”
For that, he’s hoping whoever the new mayor is will heed the message and begin to act like the city’s gun violence crisis actually is the crisis the community is talking about. It starts with transformational change in how the city interacts and works with community partners.
“I don’t think it’s that hard, it's just, I think for racial, historical, status quo reasons nobody is able to prioritize it,” said Casher. “Number one, value our lives. Number two, value our strategies, our recommendations, and be willing to let us lead the charge.”
In the long run, Casher hopes programs like the Safe City Summit and its curriculum of social-emotional learning become fundamental parts of kids’ days in the School District of Philadelphia — even if it means extending school days.
He also believes the district’s Safe Corridors Program should not just be outside the school, but to also allow the same adults in the community to have a presence in the school during the day to give kids more role models to follow.
Casher’s envisioned future for the city will likely get its leader tomorrow.