John Montgomery is a 17 year old high school student in North Philadelphia. Having lost his best friend to a bullet, gun violence is something he knows all too well.
Yet, in spite of losing those closest to him, John continues to remain strong for all who know him. He believes in the future of Philadelphia and has faith that when we all stand together and speak up about gun violence, this epidemic can become something of the past.
“I actually felt alone because we were together every day. It was more like ... we was brothers. It’s crazy when you can depend on a friend more than you can family ...We were real close, and when he was gone…I felt alone. But, I couldn’t feel like that.
“Well, it’s three of us. I have another best friend, his name is Jahlil. Him and Syfeek, which is my best friend that died, they’re cousins … We all used to be together everyday, so now it’s just me and Jahlil, so I gotta be there for him. You know, be strong.
“My mom doesn’t have any legs. My father died ... two years ago, October 15th. My grandmom died a couple months before that. A week before my grandmom died, my grandfather died Which was actually 6 months after Syfeek died.”
I Won’t Make the Same Mistake
“I take a lot of what people experience and what they go through and put it into my life, so I won’t make the same mistake … I tend to learn from my mistakes, and if I can help somebody, I tend to do that.
“A lot of people tell me that that’s my weakness, ‘cause I try to help everybody. They say that I tend to, I’m a protector, they say that I tend to leap for other people’s fights. Stuff like that.
“I’m protective over my little brother, my little sister and my family, my friends. You can’t say anything to me.
“They say that that’s my weakness, but I feel like that’s actually also a strength because somebody just needs to be helped. Some people need guidance. Some people ... they need to be pushed so, I feel like that’s where I come in at.”
“I give my family an amazing amount of support. They tell me everyday that they’re proud of me. They love me and they don’t know how they would do it without me.
“But [actually] I don’t know how I would do it without them ... if they weren’t here, I really wouldn’t have anything to live for. My little sister my little brother and my mom, that’s all I got. I don’t have anything else.
“Most people would say, ‘Oh, well if it’s just you, look out for number one.’ But, that’s not always the case ... you need people to be loved.
“Some people don’t really know what love is. A lot of people wake up and they don’t hear ‘I love you’ every day. I have a mom that, when I wake up, she tells me every morning, numerous times throughout the day. [She] asks me how my day was everyday I got home from school. Take care of my little brothers, take care of my little sister as best as she can. And that’s also where I come in.
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Interview, Text, and Photography by Chelsea Alexander-Taylor