A dozen years ago in Williamsport Pennsylvania, the downtown area was languishing. With barely any foot traffic, store fronts were empty and For Lease signs were everywhere. The downtown was on the verge of becoming a ghost town.
But a group of citizens, community leaders, merchants and elected officials embarked on a downtown improvement campaign which included a First Friday celebration of the arts and artisans. Artists were encouraged to sell their wares on the sidewalks of the main drag, Fourth Street. Eventually, the crowds from neighboring communities came to the urban center of Williamsport. First Fridays became a successful effort to revive center city.
Khalil Baines, his family and Krystal Richardson of the Peace in the Port organization intends to duplicate that success by establishing a First Saturday event in the downtown business district. But, his idea has a twist. He wants to memorialize the victims of violence and to promote peaceful living in Williamsport… i.e. Peace in the Port.
Baines sent out a statement regarding the first First Saturday of 2018: “Peace in the Port is all about community, we’re tired of seeing more negativity than positiv in our hometown and feel we can change this and want change together. With peace and love for diversity and a common goal- to treat one another as you would like to be treated. On May 5th we want City officials , Police, Firefighters, neighbors , friends, workers , farmers , students, youth\ elders and everyone from Williamsport come together to network connections. To talk about goals we can make and communicate with one another. Come up with a plan of action on what we want to see within our city. So if you believe we can do this please join us May 5th and be apart of something big Peace in your hometown The Port God Bless”
African-American Perspective Newsletter publisher, Richard James, has been keeping track of the gun violence in Williamsport, a small city of roughly 29,000 people. He supports Mr. Baines’ Peace in the Port’s objectives. Visit the Peace in the Port movement Facebook page.
The other form of violence is illegal drug addiction and the Heroin/Opioid epidemic. The Lycoming County Coroner announced that there were 38 overdose deaths in 2017. (Statement from the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office, December 2017: “So far this year we have investigated 38 drug deaths here in Lycoming County for 2017 and 98 deaths in the past 3 years. Over 4,880 addicted persons died in PA in 2016 and the numbers will be much higher in 2017. We need to continue to push the addicted towards treatment and continue prevention efforts to save lives.
Have a Merry Christmas and Safe Happy New Year!!”
Gun violence and opioid overdoses are destroying the lives of our young people. Mr. Baines and his Peace in the Port crew wants to change that. Come out and enjoy First Saturday.