HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Families of gun violence victims and community members came together Saturday for the second annual “Saving our Streets” event. It is dedicated to honoring those victims and their families and getting everyone involved in a solution.
The issue behind this event is painful, but at times the gathering feels like a party. The event featured, music, performances and a fashion show. Organizer Mercides Roland said that is intentional: This event is not just a place to grieve, but also a space to celebrate and uplift the community.
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“We do have a lot of violence in our city,” she said. “I’m honoring six mothers who lost their kids to gun violence.”
Roland is trying to do what has so far seemed impossible: address gun violence in Harrisburg. Her inspiration comes from her own experience — Roland nearly became one of those mothers she is honoring.
Roland’s 12-year old daughter was shot. Her daughter survived, though she had to go through rehab.
The experience inspired Roland to start “Saving our Streets” to give other families a space to share their stories.
“I feel as a mother, I feel their pain, and I know how it feels to have gotten that phone call,” she said.
However, this annual event is not just about pain.
“I went from hurt now and I’m still healing,” mother Jamillah London said.
London lost her son to gun violence 10 years ago. She was one of several mothers who spoke at Saturday’s event. She was also honored in 2021 at the first “Saving Our Streets.”
“Every time I hear gun violence of another person being murdered, it takes me back to the day where I lost my son,” London said.
As part of grieving, London started her company Hurt to Healing, selling clothes, jewelry and other merchandise.
“I turned my pain into writing books and making candles,” she said. “The writing is very therapeutic.”
Roland said her event has grown beyond just tackling gun violence. It has become educational: One booth offered lessons on how to administer CPR. But it is also a celebration. The event featured a performance by a cheerleading group and a fashion show.
Roland also wants to use “Saving our Streets” to bridge gaps between the police and the community. Pennsylvania State Police officers also spoke at the event, and members of the mounted unit came out with their horses.
“I just want to put the message out there that not all police officers are bad,” Roland said.
She said it will take all of these pieces and all of these groups working together to start finding a solution and saving lives.
“If we come together and learn how to see what’s missing in the community as far as what the kids want and need…Get involved with them, ask them questions when they’re standing on the corners,” London said.
Roland is already brainstorming for next year’s event. She said she wants to continue expanding and add things like access to counseling resources.