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Community discusses response to violence

Five shootings over weekend prompt soul-searching, grief

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Community discusses response to violence
Community members and officials including Boston Police Sergeant Eddy Crispin, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins turn out for a community dialogue on violence. Banner Photo

Questions swirled after five homicides happened in rapid succession last weekend in Boston: What led to the uptick in violence? Will there be a cycle of retaliation? Is violence spiraling out of control?

At her Bowdoin Street campaign office, just blocks from where one young man was gunned down, community organizer Liz Miranda opened a community meeting, co-hosted with youth worker Romilda Pereira, by simply asking the 50-or-so community residents how they were coping.

In their answers, Dorchester and Roxbury residents expressed anger, frustration and fear.

“I watched a car pull up and shoot my neighbor dead,” one woman said, choking back tears. “I heard five gunshots and ran toward him as they continued to fire into him. I cradled a kid who could have been my son as he died. I didn’t sleep last night.”

Community support

As the woman wept, Miranda pointed to the women sitting in the front row of folding metal chairs.

Liz Miranda and Romilda Pereira (far left) host the meeting. Banner Photo

Liz Miranda and Romilda Pereira (far left) host the meeting. Banner Photo

“You have multiple mothers with you in the front row,” she said. “Mothers who have lost their sons.”

The meeting continued as the women comforted the witness to the latest homicide in the neighborhood.

Miranda and Pereira said they called the meeting with the aim of helping neighbors work together to prevent violence and avail themselves of resources.

“We need to do better to work together to heal,” said Pereira, a youth worker who knew two of the slain youths. “They were on my caseload, kids I’ve worked with,” she said.

Police officers including Area B-3 Captain Haseeb Hosein were in attendance as were Rachael Rollins, the Democratic nominee for Suffolk County District Attorney, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and the Democratic nominee for 15th Suffolk District representative, Nika Elugardo.

Pereira told meeting participants that she witnessed and participated in acts of violence as a teenager and wants to do her part to end the cycle of violence in the community.

“I am 36, but every time this happens, it re-traumatizes me,” she said. “I want better for my children and I want better for all the children in this community.”

Hosein told the Banner officials have no explanation for the rash of shootings last weekend, all of which were thought to be unrelated.

“Why this is happening, no one knows,” he said. “We had a quiet summer. We can’t put our finger on any one reason. It’s just the ebb and flow of violence.”

Hosein noted that shootings are down, with 45 fewer people shot so far this year over last year, although the rate of homicides — 43 so far in 2018 — is higher than last year.

He said that Mayor Martin Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross have told commanders to use whatever resources they need to keep communities safe.

“We’re here,” he said. “We’ll be visible. We’re accessible. You can call us any time.”

Earlier in the day, Hosein met with the mother of Terrell White, who was shot and killed on Itasca Street.

Trauma support

Miranda, who lost her younger brother to violence last year, acknowledged that survivors of violence need support.

“I know what it feels like to get that call and not know what to do in the next 24, 48 or 72 hours,” she said.

Charlene Luma, director of the city’s Trauma Response Team, said her group reaches out to family members, friends and witnesses of violence. She told audience members she and others from the team are available to help.

“There may be times when you’re not ready to talk to anybody,” she said. “What’s good about our team is that we’re ready to talk to you at any time.”

The Rev. Mariama White-Hammond said that she and others in the community have provided services to people suffering from violence-related trauma for years without city support and suggested that the city incorporate more community residents into its trauma response strategy.

“If there is a need, there are people willing to help,” she said.

Boston Police Sergeant Eddy Crispin said that ultimately, the response to violence has to be community-wide.

“No one agency can save our community,” he said. “We collectively can.”

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