The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute: 25 years of pressing unity and healing

Tina Chéry is busy planning remote Mother’s Day Walk for Peace on Sun., May 9.

Although the pandemic has pushed the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace to a virtual format for the second year running, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (LDBPI) founder and Dorchester resident Tina Chéry is looking forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of this emotionally powerful event.

After losing her 15-year-old son, Louis D. Brown, to homicide in the fall of 1993, Chéry founded the LDBPI as a way to teach young people the value of peace and to create space for healing. In 1996, she launched the Mother’s Walk for Peace, an annual memorial, fundraiser, and call for a transformation in the treatment of homicide survivors.

Twenty-five years later, this Boston tradition continues to allow mothers of murdered children to receive love and support from their community while advocating for education and awareness around homicide.

LDBPI has created a slew of online events and activities to mark the quarter-century anniversary of the event. They started on April 5 with “Mindfulness Monday” and will end on Fri., May 7, with a rest day, to be followed by the virtual Walk for Peace at 9 a.m. on Mother’s Day, Sun., May 9.

While this year’s Walk will look different from past events, Chéry is excited about the program she and her team have planned.

“Because it’s 25 years, we really want to celebrate,” Chéry said. “[NBC10 Boston anchor] Latoyia Edwards and I are emceeing it together. Apart from that, we have a lineup of incredible speakers. We have a mother, [Sarah Flint], whose son [James Flint] was killed over 30 years ago—even before I started doing this work. She’s going to share her journey of being part of the Survivors [of Homicide Victims] Network. And then another mother from the Virgin Islands, Bernadette, [from a sister organization], is going to share her journey and how’s she’s training law enforcement on best practices.”

The online walk will also include US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, US Sen. Edward Markey, Mayor Kim Janey, and other “people who want to share the importance of the last 25 years of us doing this work.”

Although the LBDPI has made great strides in educating young Bostonians about peace, raising awareness around homicide survivors, and training city officials and other stakeholders, Chéry called the longevity of the Mother’s Day Walk “bittersweet.”

“I wish I didn’t have to do this,” she said. “Yet, at the same time, it’s an honor for us to let society know, our elected officials know, our community know, that we’re not alone. That’s the power of commitment and the power of survivors of homicide victims, that when we’re called to do the work, we do it. We’re focused on transformation and unity and healing. We can’t wait for the government to tell us that we are worthy of remembering, celebrating, honoring. We have to be the ones to create that space for healing. To let us know we’re not alone and we’re making an impact and we have to continue to do it. Nobody’s going to do it for us.”

To that end, Chéry issued an invitation to Dorchester residents to show up for the virtual walk and show their support. “The hardest part of what we do with this walk is raising money,” Chéry said. “We need to raise $600,000 so that we can continue to transform the way that society responds to homicide. As an organization led by Black and Latina women, raising money isn’t easy, so we rely on funds from the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.” These unrestricted funds help the LBDPI cover funeral costs for grieving families, provide backpacks of necessities to people leaving prison, help families move or get hotel rooms after a homicide, and pay staff members.

“Most funders don’t want to give you money for human capital, but it takes people to run each program,” Chéry added. “When it’s poor Black people, people expect us to do everything on a shoestring. When it’s someone else helping Black people, the resources are there.”

In addition to covering operating costs with funds from the Mother’s Day Walk, the LDBPI hopes to create a community center in Dorchester to provide Peace Curriculum and resources to families impacted by murder, teachers, and nonprofit organizations.

Although the Mother’s Day Walk provides vital resources to the LDBPI, the message it sends about Dorchester and other Boston neighborhoods runs far deeper, Chéry believes.

“I love my city and especially my community,” she said. “We are more than what our media portrays us to be. When something bad happens in a white community, they’re treated with dignity and compassion and resources. When something happens in an urban setting, we’re blaming victims. And it can’t be that. We want to show people who we are as Dorchester. To remind people that Dorchester is a place where you can come, live, play. We’re filled with resources. It’s my community that has really embraced and sustained us. Join us. If you can’t join us, send the information out. Help us reach our goal.”

To register for the 2021 Mother’s Day Walk for Peace or make a donation, visit 25th Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace (mothersdaywalk4peace.org).

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