The youth of West Philadelphia may soon have a new, state-of-the-art community center where they can learn entrepreneurship and engage in positive activities.
The initiative is being pushed by the movement known as, God’s “Law at Work” (G-LAW).
Created by prison advocate Mike Tabon, G-LAW consists of formerly incarcerated men and women united to make a difference in their communities while providing alternatives to criminal activities for at-risk youth.
The center, to be located at 6006 Master Street in West Philadelphia, was once a multi-level apartment building but is now being entirely rebuilt thanks to the labor of G-LAW members and other volunteers.
“Basically what’s going on here is that we are taking what we learned in prison — some of those principled values — I mean those things we learned from each other in prison, and let God lead the way,” said Brandon T. Jones, the group’s vice president of operations.
According to Jones, the men came together from such prisons as Albion and Graterford to participate in this movement for constructive change.
“We came into this building to build some light in this community by using any returning citizens from this community or others who wish to volunteer,” Jones said.
The center, which the group calls the “Common Unity Center,” is described as a safe haven for at-risk youth where they can find sanctuary from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., which Jones calls the most dangerous hours for neighborhood youth.
“We are creating a place where they can come and cultivate any of their special talents, learn new talents such as graphic design, video and music production, how to write and produce music and dance,” Jones said.
Youth can also expect to learn such things as how to create and sell customized T-shirts, wash and detail automobiles and other things that can be used to earn income as entrepreneurs, as opposed to participating in criminal activities.
Tabon, founder and visionary behind the G-LAW movement, says his movement arose from his time spent incarcerated and describes himself in those early days as initially “bitter.”
“I watched as a child molester [got] less time than I did for robberies,” Tabon said.
His movement began, first, with learning forgiveness for the system he felt was unjust and later he progressed to self-awareness.
According to Tabon, prison provided an opportunity for him to look at himself.
“Instead of being the Black men that we are, we tend to have an identity crisis and try to be other people,” said Tabon about the social condition of many Black men. “Once I recognized that characteristic, it made it paramount that I be myself under all circumstances.”
This decision, Tabon said, put him in a position where he had to stand alone in prison, and it taught him an important lesson about true manhood and what it means to be a real man.
“I realized then what a man was, that you’re not necessarily going to go with the crowd,” Tabon said. “Peer pressure can’t really bother a man because a man is going to stand up and do what need to be done — a kid does what he wants to do.”
Funds and volunteers are needed to complete the center. Those interested in helping can call (267) 202-5213 or visit them on the website www.glawfoundation.com.