There have been 104 shootings and at least 18 homicides in Boston this year, and the residents of Roxbury are fed up.
On Tuesday more than 50 area residents, non-profit leaders, clergy members, and youth filled the Roxbury Presbyterian Church to talk about ways to end the violence and develop an "action agenda" to guide efforts.
“This is a people problem,” Stanley Pollack, the executive director of the Center for Teen Empowerment, one of the nonprofits leading the effort, explained to those in attendance. “This can be solved when people work together.”
Not every shooting or killing takes place in the neighborhood, but there have been three more homicides in the Boston police B-2 district in 2013 than at this time in 2012, according the most recent data made available by the Boston Police Department.
But it was one particular shooting in May that left two men dead outside the Walgreens on Warren Street, just blocks from the church, that got residents and service providers mobilizing.
Quietly a number of area groups, including the NAACP, Teen Empowerment, Mothers for Justice and Equality, and Street Safe have been meeting to find ways to slow the violence and bring calm to the streets.
“It’s hard for teens to find jobs," Mike Campbell, a 20-year-old volunteer with the NAACP said. "We have to reach out to the youth; there are plenty of us who want to make that change.”
On Tuesday organizers formally launched the multi-group effort. They hope the ideas can provide a jumping-off point for future discussions and programs that will eventually lead to the implementation of community-sourced strategies.
Attendees broke up into groups that evening to discuss some solutions already generated by organizers, including developing a better way to deal with trauma, creating a youth council, and improving relationships with the police.
“Maybe instead of judging them, we can be sympathetic and smile,” Dorothy Seaborn, an 86-year-old Roxbury resident, suggested as a possible way to create better relationships with area youth.
“Sometimes people are too negative towards the youth and don’t give them a chance,” she added.
Others said those taking part in the violence need to be shown the history behind it.
“These young people today don’t even know what they are fighting about,” said Sheri Bridgewater, a 49-year-old who works in the community. “Some communities have been against each other for decades, but there’s nothing to fight about.”
Some were just in awe of the constant violence in their neighborhood.
“It was alarming to hear about older people being involved in the violence,” said Marsha Wise, a 56-year-old Roxbury resident. “Our freedom has been taken by the violence.”
Tuesday’s event was just the first step toward what organizers hope will be an effort across the neighborhood to stem the violence that has been a constant in it for years.
“This community has been besieged by violence and we want to do something about it,” said the Rev. Liz Walker, of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church. “Tonight is the beginning of our journey to develop solutions.”
After Tuesday’s discussion organizers will take the suggestions and critiques and develop an "action agenda." Another meeting where more tangible items and the agenda will be presented is expected to take place July 18.