I am not a resident of the Dorchester community portrayed in the recent Boston Globe series. I know and respect Lew Finfer and Ed Cooke who penned columns in the Reporter decrying the Globe coverage. I, too, agree that most of the residents in the area are good, law-abiding citizens and that there are many more positive stories than negative ones.
I understand, too, the vivid mistrust of the mainstream media which, more often than not, covers the negative and sensational in our communities. In fact, one Globe columnist, Derek Jackson, wrote a column some time ago that said the mainstream media, including his, covered 75 percent to 80 percent negative stories about urban communities. All the more reason why we should do a better job of supporting our local community newspapers like the Dorchester Reporter and Bay State Banner who struggle to make ends meet but seem to do a better job of telling the stories of the community, the good, the bad and the ugly.
As your Roxbury neighbor and a mother of a male African-American teen, (many of whom have been disparagingly called “the lost generation” or an “endangered species” because of the level of violence they must navigate through), I saw a tremendous amount of value to the Globe series. I can tell you that the level of violence, and the endless cycle of younger and younger teens being caught up in it as victims and perpetrators, and the fact that babies and women cannot escape the carnage, has been for me heartbreakingly numbing.
Just last month, a block away from me, a young man was shot on his way to choir practice. Last summer, two innocent young men were killed in different parts of Roxbury; one was a promising Metco student, another worked to deliver meals to the elderly, and neither was gang-involved. We are losing our best and brightest to a culture of violence that has unfortunately been allowed to thrive in our communities for a host of reasons.
I believe that the value of the series for those of us who are good people and who know that most of our communities are made of good people is that it was about a scourge that we must deal with, one that sometimes folks don’t want to face head-on because it is so ugly.
To me, the real and important value of the Globe series was that it effectively peeled back the skin of the onion to reveal a culture of violence that, if not put out there for all to see, will continue to destroy the fabric of our mostly good and hardworking communities. I did not see the folks interviewed in the series fighting to change that culture as victims, but as heroes and heroines who courageously laid their stories out there in the hope of changing that culture.
Do any of us think that this kind of violence would be tolerated in Brookline or Wellesley or Newton? I remember when I finished reading the series, I silently prayed that it would generate something major to combat the horror. And to my pleasant surprise, a number of bad guys were rounded up in the area. I’m not naive enough to think that will be enough, or that it wasn’t done because the Globe shined a spotlight on the situation. However, it should be enough for the community to demand that more be done.
As hefty a haul as that bust was, and as important as it is to keep sweeping the trash of guns and drugs out of our communities, we are losing the war on our human capital. We are not doing enough to work with our young people.
My heart broke as I read the story of the single mother in the series who tried her best for her sons and who saw their humanity even as some in the outside world did not. Many of our young black and minority men do not see the potential for them outside of the only world they know because they are not mentored or encouraged to reach beyond the pull of the culture of violence all around them or exposed to opportunities.
On the other hand there are many, many instances of society shunning young minority males. Black and minority teens are unemployed at an astronomical rate, and try as they might, they can’t get a job. Summer jobs aren’t enough. Some of it, I’m convinced, is downright discrimination. I’d also love to see the many social service organizations in the area, all of whom do incredible work, collaborate or work independently to do more to support teens in areas of mental health issues, job readiness and placement, and greater mentorship opportunities for Cape Verdean, Hispanic and Black teens who may be enticed by the easy money life of guns, drugs, and violence or who have CORI’s.
Bottom line, the series spoke to me about the need to change the paradigm so that we change the future of our communities. I’d love to see a follow-up story or series on the things that folks are doing in the community after the series that is making a difference on issues like crime and employment. I think Ed and Lew would be great. I think my friend Emmett Folgert would be a resource and my friend and brother, Rev. Bruce Wall, who is always beating the drum for your young people, Rev. Teixera, and John Barros. I’m sorry but it doesn’t get us anywhere if we don’t learn from something, even if we think it is negative, and try to do all we can do to change it.
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling