In what has been a particularly violent year in Philadelphia, one local activist is continuing to do what he can to be part of the solution.
Through his nonprofit organization Unity in the Community, South Philly native Anton Moore organized a carpentry academy for 11 at-risk teenagers at the Dixon House to teach them various trades and partner them with adult mentors.
Over the course of the free, five-month program that kicked off in August, the teens have learned, among many other things, how to paint walls, put up ceiling fans, assemble doors and cut wood planks. On top of that, $150 weekly stipends have been given out to each of them.
The hope is that once the program concludes, the teens will be well on their way to either going into business for themselves or taking on union jobs, ensuring that they have some sense of direction as they go on about their lives.
“It’s easy to criticize these young guys and say all this negative stuff about them, but it takes leadership to step up to the plate and do something to really help them,” Moore said.
Monthly field trips and other activities that help build a sense of community among the group have also been part of the experience. Most recently, the group helped give out Thanksgiving meals to seniors in Point Breeze. The teens have also been treated to 76ers and Eagles games as well as a paintball outing.
Moore has been more than pleased with how the program has gone, even pointing out that some of the teens have been applying what they’ve learned in their own homes.
“It’s like a brotherhood,” Moore said. “It feels good. It’s good that you’re able to guide these young men.”
Changing the lives of people in his community has been Moore’s core mission over the years. Since he founded UITC in 2009, he has undertaken many efforts to improve the fortunes of those in his neighborhood. That includes providing $1,000 college scholarships to high school seniors, collecting over 30,000 pounds of food for those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and even partnering with 76ers star Joel Embiid to help five families with their rent payments.
For his activism, Moore has been the recipient of numerous honors, including an NAACP Community Service Award, a President’s Volunteer Service Award and the 76ers’ Heroes Among Us Award.
In addition, Moore has served as the leader of the city’s 48th Democratic Ward and was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to be a member of the state’s Commission on African American Affairs.
To Moore, providing a sense of direction for the young people in his neighborhood through efforts like the ones mentioned above can go a long way toward steering them in the right direction.
“A lot of times, people think negatively of especially the young men in our community,” Moore said. “But not many of them take the time out to really work with them and help them.”
The past year in Philadelphia has been a somber one. Gun violence has reached historic peaks, with the city logging nearly 560 homicides in 2021, a 13% increase from 2020. In all, there have been over 2,100 victims of gun violence throughout the city, with over half 18-30 years old, according to the Office of the Controller.
Investing time and money in the future of young people is something Moore agrees can not only keep them on the right path, but break down many of the stigmas that can be placed on communities struggling with gun violence and other similar issues.
“It’s showing them there’s somebody out there that really wants to see you do well,” Moore said. “The lack of love that is shown in our neighborhoods is sometimes a reason why you see so much gun violence.”
Moore is particularly optimistic about the direction of the carpentry academy, as he is aiming to expand the program to include at-risk females in the near future. That, along with other projects he has in the works, he thinks will continue to provide opportunities to young people in his community.
“We just need to give them all a chance,” Moore said.