Can a simple string of words change attitudes and curb violence in the city?
A group of Philadelphia nonprofit organizations are hoping they can, and they’re promoting their peaceful words — “Live and Let Live” — with a yearlong campaign featuring billboards in some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, as well as lawn signs and window posters.
“We’re sending out a message,” said Bilal Qayyum, whose Father’s Day Rally Committee is part of the new anti-violence coalition. “We hope it’s a ripple effect to get folks to think about how important life is.”
This isn’t the first time such messaging has been tried, Qayyum said. Years ago, he said, a campaign against guns urged people to “Put ‘em down.” More recently, the iPledge campaign asked Philadelphians to do their parts to end violence in the city.
“We wanted something fresh and different,” Qayyum said. “We’re changing the attitude among young people, who are saying, ‘I’m not going to live past 24 years old.’”
Will Little, founder of coalition member Poetree N Motion, stressed that the campaign was more than just signage.
“It comes with the dialogue in the community as well. It’s communication,” said Little, whose organization matches youth with poets as mentors. “It’s about allowing someone to live their dream. A lot of time in the ‘hood, you hear, ‘You can’t be this or that.’ … A lot of these young men never had a conversation like this before.”
While some criminologists question the effectiveness of such campaigns, others, like Maria Volpe of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, say the right message can make a difference. As director of the college’s Dispute Resolution Program, she promotes “Make Talk Work” via bookmarks and other giveaways.
“We are committed to the art of making talk work,” she said. “Individuals have to be able to exchange their views and think through their options.”
For more information on the “Live and Let Live” campaign, visit www.liveandletlivephilly.org.