Philly Kroc: ‘Spread Love Not Bullets’

by Hugo Bravo

In June, The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Center in Philadelphia hosted “Spread Love Not Bullets,” a gun violence awareness event that welcomed community leaders and local advocacy organizations to discuss ways to eliminate gun violence in Philadelphia.  

“We’re gathered here today to listen to one another, pray together, and work together to end the violence in our streets,” said Major Leslie Knaggs, corps officer at the Philadelphia Kroc Center. “We believe that it can happen with God’s help, but not just by praying about it. Prayer is important, but we’re also looking for actions. That’s why we have invited other organizations and groups that know how to stop gun violence and help the people affected by it.” 

Estelle Richman, who is well known in the community and the executive director of the Civic Coalition to Save Lives, moderated a discussion in the Kroc chapel on the toll that gun violence takes on families, employment, and housing. One of the panelists was Chantay Love, co-founder and president of the EMIR (Every Murder Is Real) Healing Center in Philadelphia. Love spoke about how a death from gun violence affects each person in a victim’s family differently.  

“Trauma wasn’t talked about when we started EMIR 25 years ago,” said Love. “But today we’ve examined the effects and aftermath of war zones in other countries, and it resembles the same community where I grew up. 

“Our agency has 15 counselors and therapists who know how to work with trauma victims, and the work we do is both lifesaving and life changing,” she continued.  

Behind the Kroc Center, 1,500 orange flags were planted to represent the 1,500 victims of gun violence in Philadelphia over the last 12 months. On white flags, the public was invited to write the names of anyone they knew who’d been impacted by gun violence, and these joined the display. As the visitors marched around the field of flags, Salvation Army officer Lieutenant JoeQuetta Sorrells preached and prayed for the victims. 

The Kroc’s gym and workout facilities were busy with friendly basketball pickup games, workout sessions, and swim races to raise awareness against violence.  

“Our community is raw with trauma, and if we’re going to show it the love of Christ, we must open our doors and be a safe place to gather for those important, difficult discussions,” said Major Jason Knaggs. “This is an intense day, but also a God-honoring one, and the Kroc’s part in stopping gun violence is not ending today.”