This week’s “Thankful Thursday” would like honor the legacy of South Philadelphian Ella Pridgen-Best as a beloved activist, Samaritan and founder of the local anti-violence organization “Don’t Shoot…I want a Future.” On April 4, 2019, Pridgen-Best lost her five-month battle to colon cancer at the age of 58.
What started as a feeling of helplessness and the shooting death of a young man in her community, Pridgen-Best decided to take matters into her own hands, as she transformed a tragedy into a major anti-violence movement in South Philadelphia.
She founded “Don’t Shoot” with her husband, Norman by striving to “create positive experiences for youth through mentorships, charities, community marches, holiday toy drives, spring candy hunts, sport tournaments and anti-violence rallies around South Philadelphia.
As one of the those influenced by Pridgen-Best, Yasir Munson-Bashir said, “I appreciate what Ms. Ella did for me, because she really changed my life and helped me out with getting jobs and different community stuff. I’m just lucky I didn’t fall off on the wrong path, because Ms. Ella grabbed me, and she’d seen that I was willing to learn and work hard and better myself. So, I appreciate her for doing that.”
Pridgen-Best was recognized and received numerous awards by local politicians. She was named a South Philly Review difference maker in 2012. A few years ago, she came to the aid of a police officer who was injured following a hit-and-run. She tended to his wounds until the paramedics to arrive.
Outside of her duties at “Don’t Shoot”, Pridgen-Best continued to mentor local children by helping them with job searches, college admissions or just inviting them to her home on Sears Street for a meal. She has been described as “Community Mom.”
Last week, Pridgen-Best was honored posthumously by Unity in the Community during the organization’s “#BecauseofHer” women’s celebration ceremony at Universal Audenried Charter High School. Pridgen-Best was also given the fallen hero award by the 17th Police District as well as a citation presented by Mayor Jim Kenney. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson officially renamed Sears Street, Ella Best Way.
Looking ahead, Pridgen-Best’s family and community strive to carry on her legacy.