Meet the South Philly Anti-Violence Activist Speaking at the DNC
You could’ve knocked Anton Moore over with a feather last week when he got a phone call from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s team, letting him know that they wanted him to speak at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
“I was shocked. I just thought, ‘Oh my God, is this really happening?’ It came out of the blue,” Moore said, sounding almost breathless as he recalled the brief exchange.
But the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity didn’t really come entirely out of the blue. At age 30, Moore is one of the most relentlessly devoted anti-violence activists in Philadelphia. His nonprofit, Unity the Community, is approaching its fifth annual Peace Week event, which attacks violence in South Philly and Grays Ferry from almost every conceivable angle.
Take this year’s installment, which kicks off on July 31st with a charity baseball game at Smith Playground. (Police Commissioner Richard Ross is slated to be a guest pitcher.) The following day, Moore plans to lead a peace rally to 28th and Mifflin streets, to try and foster a dialogue between neighborhood rivals that have long been at war. The rest of the week will include a neighborhood basketball game; events to bring seniors and kids together; a record expungement clinic aimed to make it easier for some young people to land jobs; a block party; and a town hall meeting on gun violence and community policing.
I’ve attended some of Moore’s Peace Week events in the past. One year, he led a crowd of dozens on a march to Grays Ferry; another, he planted an empty casket in front of a massive crowd of local teens and children, bluntly warning them about where guns and drugs could lead them, despite their young age. When the city saw a surge of homicides in the spring, Moore went door-to-door in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, talking to residents about trying to prevent additional bloodshed.
“We talk about police violence a lot. I know it’s a major topic, but we have to talk about young kids who are being wiped out of society,” Moore said. “To me, this is a major issue. It doesn’t just affect one person’s family. The trauma extends to the entire neighborhood, and they all become comfortable with the idea of people dying from gun violence.”
The South Philly resident said Clinton’s team initially reached out to him under the guise of mentioning him in an article of some kind. They asked him about his work, and for a copy of his biographical information. “Next thing I know, they’re saying, ‘We just want to know if you want to speak at the convention!'”
He’ll take the stage at the Wells Fargo Center at some point on Tuesday; a handful of other local residents will also get a turn at the mic. Moore knows the topics he’ll riff on during the short time he’s allotted. “We need to engage the communities that are suffering,” he said. “They’re crying out for help.”
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