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Candidate Henriquez: Running for Leroy

My candidacy can be summed up in the life of a 16-year old named Leroy that I met many years ago.
Leroy was raised in the heart of our district in Dorchester’s Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood – Boston’s ground zero of violence. Like many growing up, Leroy was raised by loving parents. But in tough neighborhoods like Bowdoin/Geneva, where drugs and gun violence are a daily occurrence, love is not enough.

At only 16, Leroy lost two of his older brothers to gun violence because of drugs and gangs. With the lack of jobs, under-performing schools, drugs and gang violence around every corner, Leroy was destined to follow in their footsteps.

Norman B. Rice, Seattle’s first African-American mayor, once said, “Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.” I reached out my hand into the darkness to pull Leroy’s hand into the light by finding him a job and being a mentor to him. Without it, he may have ended up like his brothers.

But what keeps me up at night is the knowledge that there are hundreds of kids out there just like Leroy. They need a lifeline, deserve a future, and that is why I am running.

We as a community can no longer afford to respond to situations after they happen, we must be preventive, as I was with Leroy, and strike at the root of the hopelessness and violence that has engulfed our neighborhood:

• More Jobs With unemployment still hovering around nine percent in the state of Massachusetts, and in the 5th Suffolk District even higher, too many of our families have been unemployed for far too long. When people lack job opportunities, they often turn to a life of crime to support themselves and their families. As state representative, I will work to retain existing jobs while creating new ones, extend unemployment benefits to those who have lost their job through no fault of their own, and invest in training programs for the jobs of tomorrow.

• Quality Schools In 2009, Sheriff Andrea Cabral testified to Congress that “…approximately 50 percent of Suffolk County House of Corrections inmates are high school dropouts.” Too many of our young people continue to drop out of school. Without an education they find themselves locked out from the American dream. As your state representative, I will work to ensure every child has access to a quality education by demanding more accountability, expanding vocational training, and increasing the number of mentors available to youth – before, during and after school.

• Safe Streets According to a recent program on WBUR, “drug cases take up much of the docket” at Dorchester Court. Whether smashing a window to grab a GPS unit or shooting someone for selling drugs on their turf, substance abuse is behind much of the violence we see on our streets. As your state representative, I will work to preserve funding for substance abuse prevention and recovery street workers and summer and year round jobs for youth.

As a community organizer and activist, youth worker and as a former City Hall aide, I have witnessed too many kids like Leroy who stand at a crossroads. I have been a teen in these neighborhoods faced with these same issues and I know what works. We cannot turn our backs on them or turn back the clock when it comes to the violence that has occurred. We must move forward with a renewed vision and a pledge to address these problems as a community and for the community.

Carlos Henriquez is a candidate for State Representative in the Fifth Suffolk District.

Editor’s note: The Reporter welcomes the other candidates in the race, Barry Lawton, Althea Garrison, and Roy Owens, to submit their own essays.