In Search of the Mustard Seed: Combating Gun Violence

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A new mural project connecting Southwest Philly through digital conversations and workshops to support healing gun violence trauma through community building and art-making.

Community trauma resources: Community Gun Violence Resources
Also includes contact information for our trusted community partners working on these issues.


About the Project 

“Bianca [Roberson] became a statistic of this war on gun violence. I am impacted daily by the way her life was taken. I cannot even begin to imagine what other parents and loved ones feel who have had this tragedy occur more than once in their lives. We need to wake up and realize we can do this! We can STOP GUN VIOLENCE and save our communities. The mural will be a constant subconscious reminder in the city of brotherly love to the shooter and families of victims of the loss of lives due to gun violence. The mural will remind our communities of what is important. STOP GUN VIOLENCE...SAVE OUR CHILDREN”

- Rodney S. Roberson Sr., father of Bianca Nikol Roberson and founder of the Bianca Nikol Roberson Memorial Foundation and community partner in this mural project.

As of October 4, 2020, 355 people have been killed by gun violence in Philadelphia, up 38% when compared to last year’s numbers. As of late September, 1,569 people had been shot in the city this year, more than the annual total for any year since 2007, when the city recorded 1,597 victims.

In Search of the Mustard Seed is a new mural project using art-making and conversation to support community healing and connection in response to the gun violence epidemic impacting our city. Digital conversations help artist Parris Stancell to create a mural design and the artwork created in workshops will be incorporated into the final mural as a border serving as a banner of hope connecting the neighborhood’s visions for a safer city.

Digital and social distance safe in-person workshops are happening from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021.

Sponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia Office of Violence Prevention and the Bianca Nikol Roberson Memorial Foundation. Contact, ‪(484) 393-2509 for more information.


September 2020 – January 2021

Instagram live community conversations regarding combating gun violence with topics confirmed by the neighborhood experts
Digital and social distance safe art workshops for youth and families
Design completed by artist with input from community meetings

February 2021 – April 2021
Dream booths created and temporarily installed at neighborhood sites and travel around Southwest
Mural Production
Mural Paint Days for the community
Mural Installation

Summer 2021


From the Buddist faith: After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone could help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had lost her mind. An old man told her to see the Buddha. The Buddha told her that he could bring the child back to life if she could find a handful of mustard seeds from a family who had not been touched by tragedy. The common seed proved difficult to find. She desperately went from house to house, each person greeting her with compassion, but sadly unable to give her a mustard seed, because each family she encountered had been touched by tragedy. She returned to the Budda empty handed, yet with a slightly lighter heart. Through sharing her story with her community and they in turn sharing theirs, she was able to find kinship and start moving further along on the path of healing.

From the Christian faith: The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is larger than all the garden plants.