Mt. Airy man turns around life, pledges to promote peace with T-shirt campaign

Mt. Airy’s Will Little isn’t oblivious of violence in Philadelphia, but he doesn’t accept it either. His determination is peace.

He’s a community activist, poet, motivational speaker and founder of the movement, Peace, Live In It.

Little sells shirts — making almost no profit from them — to create a visual message that people can see, question and, maybe, even relate to.

Buying his shirts has one “catch” — supporters need to take the pledge to promote peace, and to live in it.

What it could mean for an entire city to see the word “peace” dashed across their chest?

“I think everyone wants peace… eventually,” Little said. “If it’s just buying a shirt, it’s helping.”

Little uses social media to promote his shirts and his message. Through Instagram and Facebook, he’s drawn an audience topping 5,000 that see his posts on their feed, and, he believes, this spreads the message even further.

Community meetings are accessible, but not always convenient. Work schedules, babysitters for the kids or the list of hundreds of reasons to pass on driving a few miles to listen to a few activists preach their very important message. Little asked himself if seeing violence but hosting less convenient community meetings can reach a wide enough audience to really change the world.

Stacey Wright, Chief of Staff of state Representative Stephen Kinsey, took the pledge to promote Peace, Live In It because he said he wondered the same thing.

“I’ve been lucky, I’ve never had a violent experience,” Wright said. “However, friends and family have. His shirt — it’s visual. People like to see smell and touch stuff. For me, I’ve always been about peace and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Kinsey’s office reaches more than 4,000 constituents in Germantown, Logan, West Oak Lane and the surrounding neighborhoods. Little’s movement was born in a barbershop in South Philly, where he works, but he lives in Mt. Airy. It’s another neighborhood he can impact, but he said he needs officials on his side.

“Elected officials are out on the forefront, they are our community leaders” Wright said. “It’s important for elected officials to promote positive movements like this so it can become infectious. This is the stuff that needs to go viral, and elected officials are the folks to do that.”

Little isn’t shy about his past. He’s been to jail himself, and said the experience changed him.

“I took a self-reflection and started thinking about my environment. A drug dealer, a gun-toter and a violent criminal — and I realized I was in a hostile environment. Even in jail, I was in a hostile environment,” Little said. “When I came home, I realized I needed to be a father. If I can make it out of prison, [my son] needs a father out of prison. I didn’t want my son to be in jail or growing up to be a mess, a drug dealer or something like that.”

He doesn’t hide this experience, and believes it could change the mind of a few who are close to choosing that path. He said all he wants is for them to hold onto that mindset.

“I want people to get excited when they see Peace, Live In It,” Little said. “One young man told me the shirts stopped a feud between two young guys.”

“I think the message is universal to live in harmony,” Wright said, “So I think that message is universal for every age bracket.”

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Northwest Philly’s Repair Cafe encourages people to think twice before trashing broken items

Despite its name, Repair Café is not a coffee shop.

It’s an international organization that helps community leaders sponsor free events to fix people’s broken knick-knacks — from lamps to lawn mowers, from clothes to electronics — with the ultimate mission to reduce waste. In Northwest Philly, it was sponsored in Chestnut Hill in September 2014, the second Repair Café on May 17 will be hosted in Germantown at 5572 Greene St.

Repair Café, was founded in the Netherlands in 2009 and has since expanded worldwide. In 2014, volunteers from Time4Time Community Exchange, a group serving the Northwest Philadelphia region, held a Repair Café to support their community and promote the mission’s slogan: “Toss it? No way!”

“I love to see people coming in who wouldn’t normally think about where their trash goes and get them thinking about that,” Time4Time’s Repair Café coordinator Betsy Wallace said.

Wallace clarified that they prefer to bring in local business owners from Northwest Philadelphia to give them the chance to promote their skills and draw in new customers. Rather than digging endlessly through other regions of Philadelphia for their “fix it” event, the group canvassed and promoted the Repair Cafe throughout their own neighborhood.

The first café was held at the Center on the Hill, a sector of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, in September and attracted more than 100 residents from neighborhoods throughout Northwest Philly, Wallace explained.

To keep a record of their event’s success, volunteers kept track of the number of participants and the number of repaired or partially repaired items. The group managed to draw in 104 people with 174 items. Of those broken items, 76 were completely repaired and another 48 were partially fixed. The most common broken items were lamps, Wallace said.

“I actually have a broken lamp that’s been sitting around for a while,” said Leslie Lefner, director of the Center on the Hill. “I’m excited to bring it in and be a participant instead of a volunteer this year.”

The next local Repair Café will be held in Germantown at the Germantown Life Enrichment Center on Greene Street.

Wallace has scheduled 17 “fixers” and 13 volunteers for the May Repair Café, but believes more people will show up on the day of to offer a helping hand

“You can try to prepare ahead if time, but most people decide to show up the day of,” Wallace said. “People just show up and that determines how many people will come.”

Repair Café volunteers have been canvassing Northwest Philly for weeks, dropping off fliers and coaxing business owners to join the event. Wallace said she anticipates about 50 to 75 participants this year because of a few changes they’ve made to this year’s event: no clothing swap, no refreshments and, most importantly, everyone is restricted to only bringing one item.