“We don’t often hear about what happens right after a shooting, who picks up the pieces, or how communities change after a crime scene is cleaned,” The Trace’s Afea Tucker wrote in October. “But these moments can forever change how we interact with the city around us.”

Tucker is the community engagement reporter for The Trace’s Philadelphia bureau. She was born and raised in Philly, and she’s familiar with its complexities and seeming contradictions: a “City of Brotherly Love,” with residents who are “tired of looking over their shoulder”; a place with a strong sense of community, but suffers from a crisis of violence among neighbors. Tucker’s goal at The Trace is to bridge the gap: She maintains Up the Block, a resource hub connecting people affected by the city’s gun violence with organizations that can help. She also writes a monthly newsletter giving readers an inside look at her work. I’m delighted to share a lightly edited version of her most recent edition below. If you’re in Philadelphia, I strongly encourage you to sign up for Tucker’s newsletter here. – Sunny Sone, associate newsletter editor


Outside of my work at The Trace, I’m constantly reminded of how gun violence affects us all. Whether I’m watching TV news reports, bonding with my family, or doing something as simple as going to get a cup of coffee, I’m often confronted with the reality of this wide-ranging crisis, which sometimes leaves me asking myself how any of us can make a difference.

During a visit to my regular Dunkin’ last month, an older man I’d never seen before approached me and struck up a conversation. “We have to be more kind to each other,” he started, going on to express how he felt about the gun violence in our city. This friendly and wise man shared that he lived in Kingsessing, and was still hurting from the recent mass shooting.

Then, he offered gun violence solutions. 

His first suggestion was to give more love and practice less hate; he also mentioned a few state-funded conflict resolution initiatives that he said were successful in Southern states. After sharing his insight, he gave me an earful about the barriers to reducing crime in Philadelphia. He talked about how he thinks everyday folks are dismissed by decision-makers, how they aren’t listened to enough. “It’s hard to get in touch with those people,” he said. “They need to talk to us because we know what’s happening in these streets,” he continued.

The irony of it all. I almost stood in disbelief: What I thought I was going to be a quick run to the local “Dunky,” as my son and I call the former Dunkin’ Donuts, unknowingly and without any effort on my part turned into an opportunity to have the meaningful type of conversation I long for. This man left me believing that we all can make a difference — and that many are already doing so — just by extending more kindness to our neighbors and community members.  

In my role as an engagement reporter, I often talk to community members about the city’s gun violence crisis. My goal is to understand how we can do a better job reporting about gun violence, and what types of services Philadelphians who have been affected by a shooting, or its aftermath, need to deal with the trauma and the fallout. Their suggestions inform how I approach Up the Block. And I believe that understanding how my neighbors feel and what they think needs to be prioritized will help me make the kind of difference my Dunkin’ friend described as a necessity — listening to one another with an open mind, and taking more action to support each other. – Afea Tucker, Philadelphia community engagement reporter

New Stories From The Trace

Can School Nurses Prevent Shootings? These Nurses Think So.
More than 95,000 school nurses serve millions of students every year, and they could play a role in preventing violence.

Inside a State Legislator’s Fight Against the Gun Industry’s Legal Immunity
Eight states have passed “reasonable controls” laws. All of them took inspiration from the same New York bill.

Do Armed Guards Prevent School Shootings?
A reader asks if increasing armed school security could reduce deaths from active shootings or deter attacks in the first place.

What to Know This Week

President Joe Biden is preparing to roll out an executive action to massively expand background checks for firearm purchases, according to multiple aides. Biden plans to make gun violence a central issue of his reelection campaign. [CNN]

California Governor Gavin Newsom is moving forward with his proposal to reform America’s gun laws via a constitutional convention — even as legal experts and fellow Democrats express concerns that the strategy could have unintended consequences. [San Francisco Chronicle

Powerful far-right Texans are propping up Kyle Rittenhouse’s political ambitions. The latest project: “The Rittenhouse Foundation,” a pro-gun nonprofit. [The Texas Tribune]

American history is rife with racist, anti-immigrant, misogynistic, and other demeaning, marginalizing laws — and since the Bruen decision, which implemented a “history and tradition” test for Second Amendment cases, they’ve gained renewed relevance. This begs an important question: What should the courts do with these long-dead laws? [Stanford Law Review

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier has urged “patience, prayers, and perseverance” as teams search for the remains of people killed in the country’s deadliest wildfire in over a century. It’s a message he’s used before — as a Las Vegas police captain in 2017, when a shooter carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. [The San Diego Union-Tribune

A hair salon is an emotionally intimate place, and the client-stylist relationship can often feel akin to therapy. The Self-i.s.h. Society, in Oakland, California, is taking it a step further: The salon and community space offers on-site therapy and healing circles alongside beauty care. [The Oaklandside

Jabarr Richards’ death didn’t make the news — like many of the mostly young Black men killed in Philadelphia each year, his killing was not publicly acknowledged, nor has it been solved. For his 21st birthday, his family’s wish is that he not be forgotten. [The Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2020, a year with a historic surge in killings nationwide, the homicide rate for Black women rose by one-third — a sharper increase than any other demographic except for Black men. The trend was particularly pronounced in Iowa. [The Guardian]

In Memoriam

August Golden, 35, was the kind of guy who “made things happen,” his best friend, Bryan May, told the Star Tribune. Golden was a stalwart of the DIY punk music scene, both on the national level and within his relatively new home of Minneapolis. Per Rolling Stone, the community he built was an inclusive one, “almost utopian” — a rarity in that space. Golden was killed in a mass shooting at a late-night show in South Minneapolis last week. He was a talented musician and songwriter, and he’s remembered as a generous, sweet, and dedicated friend: He’d fix your car; he wouldn’t hesitate to help you move; he’d volunteer to play in your band so you wouldn’t have to go it alone. “He embodied the values that our world of DIY punk rock hopes to embody and hold,” May said. “And he didn’t do it in a way that was egotistical or centered around himself.”

We Recommend

How Tennessee’s Justice System Allows Dangerous People to Keep Guns — With Deadly Outcomes: “The officers escorted Carter and her mother home. Carter had packed a go-bag, and she wanted to get her ID and the paper copy of her protection order. One of the officers, who was still in training, did a sweep of the yard. According to Carter’s family, the officers suggested that if she saw Leggett with a gun, she should try to take his photo. Then the police left. Ten minutes later, according to police records, Leggett busted down the door and shot Carter. … What was remarkable about Carter’s shooting was not that it was atypical, but just how common it was.” [WLPN and ProPublica]

Pull Quote

“With gun violence, you’re not just taking that person, you’re destroying a whole family. And that’s what people need to come to realize: You’re affecting a community.”

— Sharon Kelly, whose daughter Italia was shot and killed in Davenport, Iowa, in 2020, to The Guardian