‘Come to­gether as a com­mu­nity’

Take back streets: Neigh­bors or­ga­nize anti-vi­o­lence rally on Satur­day af­ter­noon Too close to home: Dou­ble shoot­ing oc­curred just a few steps from pocket park

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » Teal­isha Paschall jumps at the sound of fire­works.

That’s be­cause the bang dredges up mem­o­ries of when she and a friend were shot in 1998 out­side a party in Read­ing.

“Two guys were ar­gu­ing and one shot at the other and missed, and then he just started fir­ing into the crowd and I got hit in the arm,” she re­called. “I was in the hos­pi­tal for 29 days and I had three surg­eries.”

Added Paschall, “they said I would never have use of my arm again, but here I am.”

So it’s not hard to imag­ine Paschall’s dis­tress — she suf­fers from post trau­matic stress dis­or­der — when more than 15 shots rang out near Ch­est­nut and Washington streets July 5.

Two vic­tims were struck in the hail of bul­lets, one re­port­edly just sit­ting on her porch near to the pocket park that was erected at Washington and Ch­est­nut streets years ago in the wake of an­other act of vi­o­lence.

So it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that not only was that park the place where an anti-vi­o­lence rally was held July 8, but that her new hus­band, Gil­bert Butts, and his sis­ter, the Rev. Jes­sica Scott, were the chief or­ga­niz­ers.

“We’ve got to stand down from all this vi­o­lence and stand up for this com­mu­nity,” Butts said.

“I posted some­thing on Face­book af­ter the shoot­ing and ev­ery­body started say­ing we should do some­thing,” he said.

“I am de­ter­mined to do more af­ter to­day,” said Scott, who owns Open Heart Care in Pottstown and Read­ing and is the pas­tor of Tem­ple of Prayer on High Street.

“We have to come to­gether as a com­mu­nity, see where we fell short, and get to the root of what we can do to make a dif­fer­ence,” Scott said.

“We have to step away from vi­o­lence and bring love back into Pottstown,” she said.

Khadija Paschall was born and raised in Pottstown and is now rais­ing her 7-year-old grand­daugh­ter Kay­dence.

Point­ing to one of a pair of women bring­ing cool­ers to the rally she said, “she’s a sin­gle mom rais­ing three kids. She works two jobs, seven days a week and she’s rob­bing Peter to pay Paul. We need camps for her kids to go to in the sum­mer, and grants to pay for them. We can’t just have them out on th­ese streets.”

“This neigh­bor­hood has changed dras­ti­cally — for the worse,” Paschall said. “The chil­dren are dis­re­spect­ful, the drugs, the shoot­ings. We need more po­lice pa­trols and more things for the kids to do.”

“I have a friend who is an EMT and I hope he can come by to­day and tell peo­ple what’s it’s like, pick­ing th­ese bodies up off the street, telling peo­ple their son has just been shot, or killed,” Paschall said.

“We have to find a way to live with each other with­out vi­o­lence, other­wise we’re doomed,” she said.

“Part of the prob­lem is we have th­ese young ladies bring­ing their boyfriends in from Philly and New York and they’re try­ing to take over Pottstown,” said Joyce Sim­mons. “Then ev­ery­one gets all caught up in it.”

Tony Hen­der­son, a 2005 grad­u­ate of Pottstown High School, said “when I drive through town I don’t rec­og­nize any­one any more. We’ve got a lot of im­plants who aren’t from Pottstown.”

His high school class­mate, Tony Betts, has owned The Blade’s Edge hair sa­lon at the cor­ner of Char­lotte and Wal­nut streets for about 10 years.

“I love my home town, I want it to change for the bet­ter,” said Betts.

He was chat­ting with Athena Proc­sal, a Ru­pert El­e­men­tary School art teacher who lives in the neigh­bor­hood and brought her new­born son to Betts for his first hair­cut.

“Even in school, I get kids telling me I can’t tell them what to do,” she said, adding with a laugh, “and I tell them ‘it is lit­er­ally my job to tell you what to do.’”

Her hus­band, Ryan Proc­sal, is the bor­ough coun­cil­man for the First Ward, and he said al­though “it’s al­ways good to see the neigh­bor­hood up to take back their com­mu­nity,” some at­ti­tudes have to change — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to work­ing with po­lice.

“I know of a cir­cum­stance when the po­lice caught on cam­era, a guy who in­ten­tion­ally ran over an­other guy on a bike with his car,” Proc­sal said.

“When they ap­proached the guy who was run over, he didn’t want to press charges,” he said. “That kind of thing has to change if we ex­pect to get help from the po­lice.”

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Jes­sica Scott, left, pas­tor of Tem­ple of Prayer, and her brother, Gil­bert Butts, got to­gether to or­ga­nize the com­mu­nity rally at the Ch­est­nut Street Park July 8 in the wake of a dou­ble shoot­ing near there July 5.

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