Monday, May 14, 2007

Walking Toward Peace: Mothers' Day, 2007

The image of Eric
“Emoe” Paulding was in a white border. He wore a red tee shirt, with a Cleveland Indians logo. Ten years ago, he was the only young person to be murdered in Boston, at age 16.

Cedirick T. Steele appeared on a placard carried by his brother Dametre and his father, Kenneth Way (in photo above, right). In the middle of the placard was a photograph of Cedirick in a blue pinstripe suit and a New York Yankees cap. He was killed in March of this year.

There were several small photos of Siugerys García, a 17 year-old from Dorchester who was killed little more than a month ago in Florida, allegedly by her boyfriend. On the placard with one group of photos, it said, “Siempre te recordaré,” or “I’ll always remember you.” On the placard held by her mother, Dominga Ortíz, it said, “Espero verte pronto,” or “I hope to see you soon.”

One group of thirty people in the Mothers’ Walk for Peace was going the route in memory of Luis Geréna. He was fatally shot in January at age 13, in Jamaica Plain. His mother, Wendy Jiminián, remembered his smile. “It made me happy,” she said, “and stronger.”

Before setting off on the 11th annual walk, Christopher “Kit” Chandler was looking at the dozens of faces in round badges pinned to a traveling memorial. It was hanging from the wall of a clubhouse at Town Field. Chandler was there mainly for two people, sons of his best friend and his mother-in-law. Looking at the rows of faces, he said he could recognize others. “So many people I know,” he said. “It’s shocking.”

Donald Averett stepped up next to Chandler.

“Don’t make no sense. All kids,” said Averett. He started going on the walk in 2002, after the death of his son.

“Something’s got to change,” he said. “These kids got to learn, got to put the guns down.”

Before the walk got under way, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis called for reaching out to mothers not taking part in the walk. “The only way that we could avoid a situation of retaliation, retribution—an eye for an eye,” he said, “is the criminal justice system.”

Mayor Thomas Menino told marchers to share the city’s responsibility for preventing violence. “Each one of you,” he said, “can reach out if you see a young man or young woman who’s going in the wrong direction.”

After going along Dorchester Avenue to Peabody Square, the marchers turned toward Codman Square and Four Corners, before looping back along Columbia Road and Geneva Avenue. Many were chanting loudly for peace, while others did something quiet. Two children, Derrica Stone and Jonathan Gomes, wheeled a plastic "peace marker" down the middle of Dorchester Avenue, leaving a squiggly trail of symbolic purple. Eleven year-old Ivana Douglas walked silently, carrying a placard with a picture of her brother Geoffrey. He was killed at age 16 in 2001, when two other teens tried to steal his gold chain while he was on the Red Line in Dorchester.

Along the way, the walk passed within view of recent murders, on Washington Street, Columbia Road, Olney Street, and Geneva Avenue. On Geneva Avenue, there were also houses posted with “No Trespassing” signs and the wall of a corner store overspread by twelve images of a woman with a handgun. These were an ad for a magazine and a feature about “war” between entertainers and paparazzi. As the walk passed, a bystander noticed the incongruity and said, “It’s ‘war,’ and we’re talking about peace.”

At the end of the march, there was more outreach at Town Field. Marie Larose, mother of Hardy Celestin, who was fatally shot last October at age 17, went up to console Wendy Jiminián, saying, “You are not alone.”

Among those making connection with the faces on the traveling memorial was Zinha Gonçalves (in photo above, left). One connection was with her cousin, Jason Fernandes, Boston’s first homicide victim of the year, at age 14. Gonçalves could identify four relatives. “We know a lot more,” she added.

See also NNN'S multimedia photo essay on the walk.

Note: a survivors group for men meets every other Thursday at the office of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, 1452 Dorchester Avenue. The next meeting is Thursday, May 17.