The sanctuary at Broad Street Ministry was glowing. The big room in the old church could not have been more colorful. Stained glass stood tall; hand-crafted windmills with paper birds flew through the rafters; over-sized paintings of children and young adults lined the perimeter of a small seating area.
But in the large, bright paintings were the faces of gun violence victims. This was the eve of the Sandy Hook massacre’s one-year anniversary.
The event was called “Philadelphia is Newtown.” It was sponsored by CeaseFirePA, Mothers in Charge, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Heeding God’s Call. To demonstrate solidarity, the groups hoped to show that the tragedy of gun violence affects everyone from Newtown to Philadelphia and beyond. The subheading of the event was to “Honor the Victims by Committing to Work for Change.”
Laments for the tragedies took a number of forms. Shira Goodman, the Executive Director of CeaseFirePA gave a heartfelt call to action. Pastor Erica Funk of Broad Street Ministry led a prayer. Vinchelle Woods and Greg Moore sang a breath-taking cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Managing Director Rich Negrin and Executive Director of Mothers in Charge, Dorothy Johnson-Speight shared personal accounts of gun violence and pledged to “never give up the fight.”
And then there was the slideshow, a powerful two-minute memorial for the victims of Sandy Hook which brought nearly everyone to tears. With a reading of the victim’s names, families of lost loved ones were invited to light a candle. The room shared a somber moment of silence.
But the paintings.
A woman named Judy Ringold had described the project, a collection of paintings portraying young victims of gun violence. They told loud, tragic stories from Newtown, Philadelphia, and cities across the nation. The yellow, pink cheeks of the victims—their white teeth—wrapped the room’s sadness in perhaps the most compelling lament of all: the stolen color of childhood.
If nothing else, these colors made a convincing argument to “commit to work for change.”
Today, there are events across the Delaware Valley honoring the victims of Sandy Hook. (Click here for a list.) To learn about CeaseFirePa’s fight against gun violence in Pennsylvania, visit its website.