Pressley’s last council hearing a time for survivors to speak up

Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley’s last hearing as a Boston city councillor was an echo of one she held eight years ago, a listening session on violence in the city where councillors’ voices were quiet and the community was given the reins to speak up for help, respect, and justice.

“I need help, we need help, our children need help,” Dorchester resident and recovery coach Annissa Booker testified. She lost her 15-year-old son in a hit-and-run in 2003. “If we don’t get the help we need, and fight for our children, then where are we going to be?”

The councillor established the Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities, with one of her first hearings being a similar listening session.

“So why another hearing? Because we still have questions,” Pressley said Monday evening. “People closest to the pain should be the closest to the power and driving policy making.”

And the speakers shared pain — of sexual assault, of physical scars, of children who survived shootings, and those who did not.

Christine Smith, whose son survived a shooting, steadied herself as she spoke of seeing “the loopholes of helping him, the trauma, the PTSD. This happened years ago and he’s still very uncomfortable being in public places.”

Christian White, who grew up in Grove Hall, said he was associated with “both sides” of the fence, “the victim of violence, being a cause of violence,” since he became involved with gangs around age 13. But he was there to advocate for mental health resources for young people in his community.

Having been abused from a young age, White said, “what I did not understand then but I understand now was the impacts of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and things of that nature.”

At one point, Mary Franklin, who lost her husband in a still-unsolved murder, and Alexis Smith stood before the councillors in protest, holding signs saying, “Plastic bags get more respect” and “How many times must I tell my story?”

Pressley sat between fellow at-large councillors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George. Wu said there would be a follow-up hearing in three months on progress.