A collaborative of several organizations, grass roots groups and community activists continued the effort to purge drugs and violence from the streets of West Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Community Collaborative of Leaders rallied at 41st Street and Lancaster Avenue with bull horns, leaflets and information tables for residents and passersby.
Joining the rally were a cross-section of the population, including Congressman Dwight Evans, Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell.
“These brothers have been coming together for many years to keep this community safe,” Johnson-Harrell said.
“They come out, they clean up, they’re trying to stop open-air drug sales and prostitution and their model is, ‘If we can keep it clean, we can keep it clean,” she said.
“This is the right thing to do, building it from the bottom up rather than the top down, people being out here who care,” Evans said.
“The Community Collaborative is the way we’ll solve these problems. It won’t happen in Washington, it won’t happen in Harrisburg and it won’t happen in City Hall. It’s the people who take ownership and stand tall and when they stand tall it makes a difference,” he said.
As the rally participants gathered on the corner, people in the neighborhood gathered around, asking questions, shaking hands with the organizers, and sharing their concerns with the elected officials on the scene.
Blackwell is a big supporter of the collaborative and said, “When they call, I’m here.”
“We’ve been successful in stopping a lot of the drugs. We’ve been successful in closing down a lot of these establishments where children and young people who walk by are affected by drug sales,” she said. “We’ve learned that we can be successful,” she said.
Law enforcement officials who patrol the area report that the presence of the collaborative has made a significant difference in drug activities and has produced a noticeable decline in related crimes and offenses.
“Every time we have these events, we get more and more people involved because they like what we’re doing and they want us to do it across the city,” said local ward leader Pete Wilson, a founding member of the collaborative.
Not only is the collaborative working to rid the neighborhood of drugs, but they are also working with the Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association, known as LA 21, to physically clean its streets.
Kwaku Boateng, executive director of LA 21, provides cleaning and other resources to clean up the area.
“The security and safety, especially on this side of the corridor, has always been a challenge,” Boateng said.
With clean and safe streets, people who now go elsewhere to shop may once again return to shop along the Lancaster Avenue corridor, he said.