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Patrick hears victims of violence

Vows to help find solutions

By Martine Powers
Globe Correspondent / July 25, 2011

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Distressed and tearful mothers walked to the front of the Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester and talked about their maimed and murdered children. Preteen boys described how afraid they are to play outside, to ride their bikes, to walk to football practice.

Governor Deval Patrick, sitting on the stage, gazed down at the audience members, furrowed his brow, and nodded his head.

“In a way, these people have a lot in common; in a sense that they are a reminder of how poisonous fear is,’’ Patrick said to the audience after the speakers had their say.

At a town meeting last night, Patrick spoke to about 200 people - mostly residents of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan - about his dismay at the violence plaguing many of Boston’s largely black neighborhoods, and his commitment to finding solutions to the violence.

In turn, individuals shared their concerns about the resurgence of gang warfare in the communities.

“You never want to be a parent getting that phone call that your child has been shot,’’ said Charmaine L. Arthur-Neverson, a resident of Dorchester, whose son was wounded by gunfire in 2008. “You just feel lucky that your son survived - and no parent, no family, should feel like that.’’

The town meeting was sponsored by the Statewide Black Clergy for Unity, a network of black religious leaders. The discussion was broadcast live on the radio and over the Internet.

The Rev. Bruce Wall, pastor of Global Ministries, praised Patrick, saying that he has done more than previous governors to address the problems specific to Boston’s black communities.

“You’re the first sitting governor to embrace this community the way you’ve embraced us,’’ Wall said.

Patrick told audience members that communities must come together to take care of children and provide positive role models.

“It’s not the ’50s and ’60s anymore, when people knew each other’s names,’’ Patrick said. “It’s different today. How do we take today’s realities and redefine what it means to be an adult in the community?’’

Audience members gave him a standing ovation.

Wall said he was satisfied with the outcome of the event, which was intended to help community members feel heard by someone in authority. “There’s a lot of pain in this room, and the governor saw it,’’ Wall said after the 75-minute meeting.

Wall said he hoped the gathering would encourage Patrick to demand that city officials take more active steps to curb violence. This week, Wall said, he and other community leaders plan to send letters to Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Edward Davis, the police commissioner, to ask for a public forum in the community.

Dorchester has experienced a recent rash of violence, including at least seven homicides. One month ago, a 4-year-old was shot in the back at Harambee Park in what police believe was gang violence. Yesterday morning, a 21-year-old Roslindale woman was fatally shot on Dorchester’s Granger Street.

Lillie Searcy, founder and former director of the Mattapan Family Service Center, sat in the sixth row of the audience. Waiting for Patrick to take the stage, Searcy recalled when children felt safe playing on neighborhood streets.

“Now, you can’t tell if you’re hearing gunshots or fireworks,’’ Searcy said.

Searcy said she was glad to see members of neighborhoods throughout Boston coming together to create joint solutions to issues of violence in the city.

“I think we’re all here for the same reason,’’ Searcy said. “We want answers. We want to know: Why does this continue?’’

Yamiley Millor, 41, of Dorchester, came to the town meeting to hear about concrete changes that would be made to help keep the community safe. She had hoped she would see more young people - those who really need to hear the outrage of the community, she said. Millor was also disappointed that more specifics were not discussed on how to keep guns out of communities and enforce gun laws.

“I had hoped that this would really address the needs of the people,’’ Millor said. “But I don’t think it was given enough time.’’

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com.