Peace is possible.
It’s a message of hope. It’s a message of empowerment. And on Sunday, May 12th 2013, it’s the message that survivors of homicide and their supporters will take onto the streets of Dorchester in the 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
Walkers follow a traditional 3.6-mile loop from Town Field to Codman Square and back via Geneva Avenue. Many wear buttons or T-shirts bearing the pictures of homicide victims. Some carry signs with the motto: Transforming Pain and Anger into Power and Action.
“We walk to raise funds for survivor services, but also to extend a light to other groups working to combat violence in their communities,” said Peace Institute executive director Tina Chery. Following the shooting death of her 14-year-old son Louis, Chery founded the institute to provide healing and support to other survivors of homicide. The walk, attended every year since 1996 by Mayor Menino and other city officials, has drawn increasing attention to what the Dorchester community is doing at the grass roots to confront – and ultimately prevent – homicide.
“We’re in the forefront of addressing violence,” said Chery. In honor of the walk this year, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation plans to light the Zakim Bridge in purple, the universal color of peace, for the Mother’s Day weekend.
In the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon last week, Chery believes that interest in the walk may be intensified. She expects 5-7000 people to attend. It will be an opportunity to show other communities across the Boston area and the country how strong the commitment to peace is in Dorchester and just what that means.
“We’re committed to healing, to supporting one another and to prevention,” said Chery. And if anyone is distraught over last week’s violence, they are welcome to come to the healing spaces at the institute’s headquarters on Dorchester Avenue, she added.
Even before last week, other communities had begun looking to Dorchester and to the Louis D. Brown Institute as models.
“They are seeking us out,” said Chery. Recently she heard from Scarlett Lewis, mother of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed in Sandy Hook, CT on December 14, 2012. Lewis has set up a foundation in her son’s memory, Jesse Lewis Choose Love (jesselewischooselove.org). In searching online for materials that could be used in schools to instill a culture of peace, Ms. Lewis discovered the K-12 PeaceZone curriculum developed by the LDB Institute. It was directly in line with her goals.
“We both want to help people before they become victims,” said Chery.
She is heartened by the many school groups that have signed up to join the walk this year. At Harbor School in Dorchester, the 6th Grade has organized a team and is mobilizing the Harbor community to get involved. Teams from the UP Academy in South Boston, Cathedral High and the Marshall School are also registered. To Chery, this is another indication the PeaceZone curriculum is working.
“The kids say they want to walk and they want people to see that peace is possible,” she said.
This year a record number of groups from the faith community across Eastern Massachusetts also plan to walk. Among them will be a group led by Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
“It’s not just a few parishioners, it’s the ministers organizing it,” said Chery. “They say they feel called to leave the four walls of their churches and come here. The walk will be their church.” Choirs from the faith community will perform under the direction of Rev. Parisa Parsa of the First Parish in Milton, Unitarian Universalist.
“But we must not forget that the walk is a fundraiser,” said Chery. “There’s no way families in this community can afford to support our work by themselves.” The goal is $100,000, so sponsors will be crucial. Major sponsors include Carney Hospital, which this year has pledged $2500; the Boston Foundation, the Brooks Family Foundation and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation which have each pledged $5000; and the Gardner Howland Shaw Foundation, which has donated $15,000.
“These sponsorships are a life-saver for the people who need our services,” said Chery.
As important as it is to raise funds, she would like everyone to know that they do not have to raise money in order to walk. There is no cost to register. It can be done online (www.mothersdaywalk4peace.org ) or on the morning of the walk at Town Field, beginning at 7a.m. Bring friends and register as a team or simply register as an individual.
“If you can’t be there in person, you can create a virtual team on our website,” said Chery. “Be there in person, be there in spirit, but be there.”