After Violence, Stories Of Love At Bromley-Heath

When 14-year-old Jaewon Martin was gunned down on a basketball court outside Bromley-Heath last weekend, the Jamaica Plain public housing development was once again thrown into the headlines for a story of violence and tragedy.

In fact, most of us rarely hear about Bromley-Heath except for times like this. That’s what motivated reporter Valerie Schenkman to visit the project and talk to its residents — not about violence, but about love. Over the last few months, she met dozens of people who live there, from all generations.

Here are just two of their stories:

Bianca & Nichols

Video still of Bianca and Nichols (Courtesy of Valerie Schenkman)

“I’m not gonna lie, I been in a lot of fights. You know, [people] look at me and they judge and the first thing that’ll come out their mouths is: A thug. Or a gangbanger. A gangster.

The reason why I had that reputation is because, you know, my father left me when I was seven. It was hard to, like, find somebody to actually be there. And there were times I prayed. And seemed like probably two years later, my prayers were answered. And she’s sitting next to me.

You know, as far as the reputation is concerned, I don’t care if I lose it, because I’m dating somebody that has a wheelchair. The thing about reputation: It aint worth it. When I met her, bye-bye reputation. And hello reality.” — Nichols, 18

Sadie Jackson

Video still of Sadie Jackson (Courtesy of Valerie Schenkman)

“Love is a feeling that is hard to express. It changes — yes, it can. It can go to hatred. See my husband used to beat me up all the time. But I’ll tell you one thing: The tables turned. I got to fighting back.

Because I was a real quiet, easygoing woman. Real quiet. Did everything, kept my house clean and I kept having babies every year. And I was having them too fast, and I ended up with an operation on both of my legs, that they had to strip the veins out of my legs, from having babies too fast.

And my husband was so mean to me, he would kick me on my sore legs. Yes. Cruel. For nothing. How can you come kick me and I’m down? But you see, I was old-fashioned, I was brought up the old-fashioned way, that my mother said: The children should have their father.

How can you mistreat me and think I’m supposed to love you? The Bible says you’re supposed to forgive and forget. You can forgive, but there’s a lot of things you can’t forget. But a lot of women do it. They do it for a man. He doesn’t get better. He gets worse.”

Click the “Listen Now” button at the top to hear the full story as it ran on WBUR’s Morning Edition.

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  • Selva Sanjines

    This two stories talk about hard realities in our modern times and that their is always some redemption and solace when we allow love to guide us what ever is Its form.
    Thank you for this great news .

  • valerie schenkman

    If you are interested in further supporting this project, please come to the Senior Projects show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The opening is Thursday, May 20th from 12-7pm. The video and sound installation will be up until the 28th. – Valerie

  • Chris North

    This story is beautiful, although Bromley-Heath is in Jamaica Plain (hence 02130 zip), not Roxbury.

  • Diliana De Jesus

    How do either of these stories show a positive side to the projects? A story of a woman being subjected to violence because it was what was expected of her. Seriously, that’s the most positive thing this reporter could find! The first clip had potential, but it fell short by a lot. A story of a young man willing to change his lifestyle for the woman he loves, beautiful…but that’s not what this was, was it?

    There is love in the projects– and there is community and support and children learning and all sorts of other really positive things, which this article did nothing to highlight.

  • Emily Stewart

    I feel like these stories are incomplete and still highlight violence, despite talking about love as well. I also heard the piece on air about the children playing spin the bottle and it all seemed disjointed and without context. While a applaud the effort this missed the mark for me.

  • Gerald Casey

    Some of the comments did miss the mark , i think there should have been more balance and real talk about loving that is receivd from parents and friends. Young people will be young people but to think about having boyfriends and girls friends at their age is a bit much.

  • Valerie Schenkman

    I appreciate everyone’s feedback and would like to comment that this piece is only three minutes out of a thirty minute sound installation, replete with images and other materials. I met with Bromley-Heath residents to address love in all its forms. All the stories you heard here, are only snippets of longer, five minute pieces, in which the stories truly can develop. To me, the younger kids track is about family, love and curiosity. In the installation, Ms. Jackson’s piece is much longer and tells a very strong story. I think her ability to have learned from her experience and to share what she has learned, is a powerful and generous act. I encourage all those who were not fulfilled by this hearing to experience the installation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I promise a more holistic and definitely more community oriented piece.

  • http://www.bigsister.org Maren Johnson

    Valerie and Lisa–thank you for trying to see Bromley-Heath from a different perspective. If you are going to be doing any more around this topic I would love to speak with you. At Big Sister Association we are currently serving several Bromley-Heath girls with one-to-one mentoring relationships. I think they show a lot of love in that community.

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