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Faith leaders host walks to address community violence

Tanisha Bhat
Faith leaders host walks to address community violence
Members of the community participate in this year’s first Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walk with William Dickerson III. PHOTO: KENNETH MOALES, OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES FAITH-BASED INTERN

Faith leaders in Dorchester and Mattapan are holding community walks throughout the summer as part of Mayor Michelle Wu’s plan to reduce community violence on a block-by-block level.

Members of the community participate in this year’s first Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walk with William Dickerson III. PHOTO: KENNETH MOALES, OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES FAITH-BASED INTERN

The first of these walks, called “Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walks,” was held on June 15 by William Dickerson III, Wu’s senior adviser for faith-based initiatives, at Harambee Park.

In addition to community walks, teen cafes will also be held every Friday from July 21 to Sept. 8 at Deliverance Temple Worship Center and Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester and Morning Star Baptist Church and Voice of the Gospel Tabernacle in Mattapan.

The purpose of these walks is to engage with youth residents of these areas and create safe spaces to have open dialogue about important topics like mental health, future careers and connecting with family members.

So far this year, there have been 55 shootings in Boston, with Dorchester and Roxbury having 15 incidents each — the most of any area — according to the City of Boston’s shooting data. With nine, Mattapan has the next-highest number of shootings this year.

Members of the community participate in this year’s first Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walk with William Dickerson III. PHOTO: KENNETH MOALES, OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES FAITH-BASED INTERN

Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover of the Charles Street AME Church is one of the key partners of this initiative and is the president of the Black Ministerial Alliance TenPoint — a network of congregations throughout Greater Boston.

“We called for a re-engagement of black clergy around the issues of gang violence,” he said. “We are participating with the mayor’s program, Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walks, where we’re assisting because we believe we have to work with the city with this, but in addition to that, as black clergy, we’re also thinking of different strategies that we can employ.”

Groover added that although shooting statistics have gone down in Boston during recent years, they remain higher in specific neighborhoods.

“Over the years, perhaps like in other cities, we’ve become relaxed and indifferent as the crime stats began showing that there was a reduction in violence, particularly around gang violence. But that reduction no longer exists in our neighborhoods. It is climbing again. It’s rising again. So we’ve got to resume our role once again and get involved in this fight,” he said.

Bishop Nicolas Homicil of Voice of the Gospel Tabernacle, one of the hosts for the teen cafes, said he has helped out with a variety of teen programs like violence prevention, homelessness, refugee assistance and substance abuse for the past 20 years.

“Gun violence in Boston now is getting out of control,” he said. “If there’s anything we could do, not only to reduce it, but to completely wipe out this spirit of making people have no regard for life, we should get together to do so.”

Homicil added that the teen cafes will be held Friday evenings during the summer in order to deter young people from being on the streets at night. The cafes will also include various workshops to educate young people on various topics.

“With the teen cafe, we serve them food, we sit down with them, and we talk to them about violence and substance abuse and how to keep them safe,” he said. “How to focus on education and the future because the teen is not going to remain a teen. They will have to create a family, so the future of our country depends on the young people.”

Homicil said that a similar program was held in the early 1990s as a collaboration between the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Boston Police Department.

“It’s a very good way to reconnect with the community and just show the community the clergy and the leaders care about the young people, about our community and about the safety of our community,” he said.

Groover added that the work done by the Ministerial Alliance became a national model to reduce community violence and, at one point, there were 21 consecutive months without gun violence that was initiated by or that targeted young people.

“It may look different than how it looked in the 1990s. But it’s the same problem,” he said. “It’s a whole new generation of gangs and persons who are involved with gun violence, but it’s still the same thing. And so we’ve got to step out again and take on our roles and be very visible and very present and very vocal and very loud in saying we will not tolerate and allow this in our neighborhoods.”

Adopt-a-Block Community Unity Walks, safe spaces