Conversations on youth, community change key in wake of violence

The shooting and stabbing on Nov. 21 at Same Old Place pizza parlor shocked people. It should. Three people died as a result of the violence.

Residents are concerned because it is their place, a place where parents and kids go for a quick supper, a place where violence was unimaginable to many of my neighbors.

Jamaica Plain is in many ways two cities, one that is safe and one that is less so. But for one night the boundary between the two was blurred. Violence crossed the line.

As the father of a 22-year-old born and raised in Jamaica Plain, I joined the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) many years ago to improve the social conditions that foster this type of senseless violence. Together with many neighbors, we organized to replace hatred and xenophobia with genuine empathy and understanding, to bring basic city services to our side of JP, and to ensure that our children receive a meaningful education.

I will never forget trying to explain to my son why his 14-year-old friend had been shot in the head while riding his bike on a Sunday afternoon, nor the many times I sat in silence with HSTF youth leaders to grieve the loss of one of their friends or relatives, desperately looking for the right words to answer why it seemed nobody cared about them.

JP has made great strides in advancing many social reform issues over the past 22 years and I wonder how much more progress we can make by the time my 18-month-old daughter turns 22.

How are we going to insure that:

Our youth have creative outlets to channel their justified anger towards transformational social change activities?

Our power structures in the nonprofit, private and public sectors reflect the beauty of Boston’s racial, ethnic and ideological diversity?

There’s a high level of civic engagement across the city on a block-by-block level?

Gay, lesbian and transgender youth can walk the streets and the hallways of their schools as themselves and feel safe?

Global citizens (also called by some “illegals”) will be afforded the human rights they deserve and that their children won’t continue to be punished as second class citizens any longer?

What would it take to shift our thinking from “What is wrong with those young people?” to “What can we do to help all young people in our neighborhood succeed?” Until we care about the fates of all young people as much as we care about the fate of our own, these incidents will continue to occur and lines will continue to be crossed. As Martin Luther King reminded us: “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny.”

All HSTF youths, staff and board members are inviting the public to join us every first Tuesday of the month beginning Dec. 7 [See JP Agenda.] for our “Changing Together” gatherings and conversations.

Claudio Martinez
Executive Director, Hyde Square Task Force
Boston School Committee member
Jamaica Plain

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