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Taking strides to end opioid addiction

River Wards resident organizes march in Kensington to bring attention to drug epidemic

Dan Martino stands in front of the tunnel at Emerald Street and Lehigh Avenue, where people have taken up residence. LINDSEY NOLEN / STAR PHOTO

By Lindsey Nolen

Like millions of others across the country, Dan Martino has witnessed the horrendous effects of opioid addiction. Yet, rather than sit back and watch while community leaders try to deter and put an end to this crisis, he became a community advocate and organized the first-ever March in Black, set to take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31 (International Overdose Awareness Day).
After spending months “kicking around ideas” on how best to spread awareness on the issues presented by addiction, Martino, a 33-year-old resident of Lehigh Avenue and Belgrade Street, thought a march would be the most efficient and effective way. Yet, while he has witnessed many marches and rallies in Center City, Martino decided hosting his march in Kensington would bring the attention where it is needed most.
“I’ve been working since the beginning of the New Year to find a way to minimize the disastrous effects of heroin that are running through the streets,” Martino said. “I wanted to host this march in Kensington so that people interested or active in the community can walk through the streets to get a better sense of what is happening in the neighborhood.”
Partnering with Prevention Point and Angels In Motion, the walk will begin at the York-Dauphin stop off the Market Frankford line, advancing north on Kensington Avenue toward Allegheny Avenue. Additionally, stops will be made at multiple cross streets so guest speakers have the opportunity to share their knowledge, thoughts and experiences.
At the York-Dauphin Station stop, local activists will be speaking, while at the Huntingdon Street stop police officers, members of the fire department and EMT personnel will be sharing information and advice. Next, at the Somerset Street stop, politicians, including Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez and district attorney candidates Beth Grossman and Larry Krasner, will be speaking. Concluding the march, a vigil for the victims of opioid overdose will be held at the McPherson Square Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia.
In addition to coming out to listen and learn from these guest speakers, Martino also asks all attendees come dressed in black for solidarity. As he believes that everyone, from addicts to affected families to public service employees, is a victim to the opioid crisis, Martino wishes to see all facets of the community come together for a common goal.
“I was listening to the Johnny Cash song ‘Man in Black,’ and thought the profound lyrics alluded to a lot of the problems we see today with the heroin crisis,” Martino said. “So I felt it was fitting to all march in black to show solidarity with the victims and whose lives the crisis affects every day. It’s not an ‘us vs. them’ issue.”
He added solidarity is especially important on International Overdose Awareness Day as there is often resentment shown toward addicts, leading them to be afraid to seek help or treatment for fear of being chastised by friends, family and society at large. Therefore, Martino hopes conformity and at his organized march will help spread a different message; one that involves working together to treat this epidemic like the health crisis it is.
“I truly want to shed light on this issue and address of lot of the presumptions, misconceptions and wrongheaded ideas that are often associated with addiction,” Martino said. “There’s just no reason why our citizens should have to step over needles or that kids should have to walk to school and see a dead body. Normalizing heroin needs to stop.”

So far, more than 100 people have committed to attending Martino’s March in Black. For more information on his organization, visit, marchinblack.com, or for more information on the upcoming march, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/122305058361428/.

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