PHILADELPHIA — The Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement is joined by the Philadelphia Youth Commission, the Millennial Advisory Committee, the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement, and the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males as we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of Antonio Walker, Jr. (15), Embaba Mengesteabe (15), Kharee Simmons (16), and every life affected by gun violence in our city.

Violence has no genesis in any particular generation, however, the recent uptick in deaths is devastating an entire generation of young Philadelphians in a way that cannot be overstated.

The administration will begin holding regular public briefings on gun violence, with the first of these public briefings taking place on Wednesday, March 17 at 12 p.m. (Noon). We encourage residents to watch the bi-weekly briefings on the City of Philadelphia’s Facebook page. Similarly, residents can join the Office of Black Male Engagement for a Virtual Community Listening Session on March 24 to hear from community organizations that are combating this violence about what support they need for greater impact in our neighborhoods. 

We deeply respect the hard work being done by the community to address these incredibly difficult issues and want to recognize them for this work. We cannot overemphasize that community leaders are our city’s true heroes, and we will do everything in our collective power to elevate, share, and direct resources toward their organizations, committees, and community groups’ respective work. We cannot thank them enough. We will honor their tireless work by matching its fervor in the work that we do.

Representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement, the Philadelphia Youth Commission, the Millennial Advisory Committee, the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement, and the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males offered the following statements on the recent loss of young Philadelphians due to violence: 

Statement from Alfredo Praticò, Chair of the Philadelphia Youth Commission

“The deaths of Antonio Walker, Jr., Embaba Mengesteabe, and Kharee Simmons mean the loss of three more promising members of our generation. They were friends and family to many but, most importantly, they were our peers. We are a generation of promise, but our full potential can only be achieved with all of us standing together. It will take a culture shift—both in our neighborhoods and in government—to rid this city of the gun violence epidemic claiming too many lives. This will not be easy, but it is necessary in order to ensure a bright future for the many communities which make up this city.”

Statement from Julian Domanico, Chair of the Millennial Advisory Committee 

“The Millennial Advisory Committee (MAC) mourns the loss and lifts up the families and friends of Antonio Walker, Jr., Embaba Mengesteabe and Kharee Simmons. Their lives were tragically ended too soon by the epidemic of gun violence that has plagued Philadelphia for far too long. We stand in solidarity with Gen-Z and the Philadelphia Youth Commission and remain committed to supporting the Youth Commission’s and the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement’s work to build safe and healthy communities for each and every young Philadelphian.

“MAC recognizes and honors the pain that comes from being overlooked and disregarded for generations—particularly for BIPOC, blue-collar workers, women, and our immigrant neighbors. We also know that the way forward must be through direct policy action. MAC is determined to continue to advocate alongside and amplify the efforts of those who are fighting to make our city safer.”

Statement from Mayor’s Commission on African American Males (MCAAM) and Eric Westbrook, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement 

“We believe that our city’s Black neighborhoods deserve the opportunity to thrive and be free from gun violence. The conditions that spawn gun violence didn’t occur overnight and it will take a deep and lasting commitment to reverse them. Achieving this vision requires more than just conversations—it will take unprecedented levels of commitment, time, and resources. Communities that have ample access to quality schools, strong economic corridors, health services, and an appropriate relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system do not experience violent crime in the ways communities without these crucial elements do.

“As we set budget priorities, we need to increase investments in those programs and organizations that have proven successful and consider diverting funding from organizations that have consistently underperformed. These funds would be better spent developing the capacity of the many neighborhood-based and volunteer-run organizations that are working directly with community members to end this crisis.

“We are committed to ensuring our Black men and boys have the support, resources and policies in place to ensure the healthy environment they need to thrive.” 

Statement from Jeanette Bavwidinsi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement

“The rate at which we are losing members of Gen-Z is unsustainable. This statement is not only a condemnation of the violence that is taking away friends, sisters, brothers, cousins and classmates – but an acknowledgment of the pain and trauma it’s laid upon our city’s youngest residents. My promise to young Philadelphians is that we will divert and focus every resource that we have toward conflict resolution training, community strategies for public safety, summer job/internship opportunities – and last, but not least – an investment in your joy because your teenage years should be some of the best years of your life, not the most painful.”

We fully support the administration’s effort to hold regular public briefings during which officials will share strategies and initiatives that are being implemented to address this public health crisis.”

In Solidarity,

Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement
Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement
Philadelphia Youth Commission,
Millennial Advisory Committee, and the
Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males