A correction has been appended to this article.
Our Mattapan. Many Pasts. One Future.
That is the motto seen on posters, billboards, and on the sides of buses throughout Mattapan lately.
For violence interrupter Anthony Seymour, also known as “Big Time,” the message is one of the most important ones there is.
“The main objective is to deal with those with guns in their hands,” Seymour said. “We target people who have guns and we try to prevent them from pulling that trigger.”
According to a Boston Police study released in 2008, Mattapan is one of the top three neighborhoods for violent crimes and firearm related crimes.
Seymour speaks with both victims and offenders of violence to get to the heart of the problem. Reaching out to people in the neighborhood and having effective messaging, as with the “Our Mattapan” campaign, is important.
Participating in neighborhood intervention programs for 20 years, Seymour got his start by handing out free lunches to children on a street corner.
“I got to know their trials and tribulations and I tried to connect with them as best as I could,” he said.
Since those days, crime has gone up and the murder rate has grown, according to Seymour.
“It takes the right people to deliver the message,” Seymour said. “We’re never going to get this problem away from us until we come together as a collective.”
That was something understood by Tania Mireles, who oversees the Violence Intervention and Prevention initiative through the Boston Public Health Commission. Mireles worked with residents of Mattapan to put together the “Our Mattapan” poster campaign, which features Mattapan residents and inspirational words against violence.
The one featuring Seymour shows his determined face, eyes looking at the person in front of the poster. The words above him read, “A gun is a powerful thing. These guys think they’re cool, but we gotta stop glamorizing that life.”
Boston Public Health Commission Director of Communications Nick Martin said funding for the project came from a larger $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. About $120,000 went toward the posters and billboards in Mattapan, Martin said.
“We engage residents in neighborhoods disproportionally affected by gun violence; Mattapan is one,” Martin said.
While Martin said that billboards and posters on their own will not curb gun violence, the outreach campaign is a part of an effort to help residents take a stand against violence.
“The really powerful aspect of the campaign is we have worked with community members touched by violence,” Martin said. “There are stories from mothers who have lost sons to stabbings and shootings over the years.”
Martin said the hopes of the campaign are to discourage those at risk of turning to violence from going down that path and to encourage everyone in the community to see the opportunities to get involved with preventing violence.
Posters will remain up through November, but Martin hopes the campaign will continue well beyond then. Seymour hopes that with the right messaging, restrictions to access to guns, and hard work, the violence will go away.
“I want my job to cease to exist, with no one getting hurt, just diversity and unity,” he said.
CORRECTION: This story incorrectly had the wrong word in the motto. The correct version includes "Many Pasts."