Violent year spurs new calls for activism, answers

By 
Pat Tarantino, Special to the Reporter
Dec. 16, 2010

George Chip GreenidgeGeorge Chip Greenidge

Editor's Note: This article is part of a larger series of stories that was published in the Dec. 16, 2010 edition of the Dorchester Reporter.

George “Chip” Greenidge believes the residents of Dorchester and Mattapan can stem the increase of crime in their neighborhoods, and the first step is to convince people that their community is worth fighting for.

Greenidge leads The Greatest Minds, which is committed to cultivating a strong black-owned business community as a first step towards revitalizing what are perceived as some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Boston. Through his work to make Boston a more liveable city for young black professionals, the Ashmont-based organizer hopes to overcome the unwritten “stop snitching” policy that has become the coda of many city streets and neighborhoods.

As a Mission Hill resident in the violent years of the late 80’s, Greenidge recalls how police response to the Carol Stuart murder shaped his generations perception of the law enforcement. Black residents were routinely stopped and frisked during the three-month manhunt based on a description given by Stuart’s husband Charles, who was later found to be responsible for the shooting.

“As you see whenever there’s a high-profile murder, when there are public sweeps, when every young man is treated like a suspect, that sort of thing stays in people’s minds,” Greenidge said. “Stop snitching is a product of that kind of interaction.”

Combating neighborhood violence is a cornerstone in Greenidge’s plan for a reinvigorated community. By making residents feel safer – both from criminals and unwarranted police attention – Greenidge believes young college-educated men and women of color will be more inclined to return to their neighborhoods and begin opening businesses that could create a renaissance in often overlooked corners of the city.

While Greenidge works to build the Dorchester and Mattapan community networks from within, he believes that elected officials can and should work harder to direct services to help facilitate this shift. To that end, his organization has acknowledged that poor voter turnout makes these neighborhoods a political afterthought and that an increased effort to mobilize voters could bring in additional support at the city and state level, as well as a stronger voice when law enforcement oversteps its bounds.

Representatives from the Boston Police Department have attended several Greatest Minds meetings to discuss how citizens can help curb street violence, but Greenidge says the exchange needs to be a two-way street in order to overcome skepticism from both police and residents. Greenidge recalled one meeting where a concerned store owner in Upham’s Corner asked police how many patrols pass through his neighborhood to ensure he could stay open at night. Police refused to disclose the information, he says, calling patrol routes “classified information.”

“We need to ensure we have a seat at the table,” Greenidge said of the incident. “Do we really need to lobby the government for information like this? We are just trying to have a conversation.”

Greenidge says that until some common ground can be found between communities of color and the police meant to protect them, street violence will continue, while the lack of leadership from within the community to condemn acts of violence leaves nothing but guns to do the talking.