Dorchester Families Look For An End To The Violence

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The accidental shooting of a 4-year-old at a Dorchester park has the city focused on violence. But for people who live in the neighborhood — the site of a brutal 1990 killing — there are reminders every day of violence that has touched their lives.

There's a sense of fatalism among young people who were in the park Monday night.

“It was like a regular shooting. You’re used to that when you grow up around here, that’s all that happens when you grow up in Boston," said 20-year-old Eric Jones, who lives right across the street from Harambee Park.

"I work in this community, I worship in this community. We're not all gang bangers. We're not all people who just walk around with guns. Every time I hear a gunshot and I hear a child is down, my scab on my heart is ripped open."

Cynthia Francis, Dorchester resident

The block along Talbot Avenue has come a long way since Halloween 1990, the night of one of the most vicious murders in Boston history. Kimberly Rae Harbor, 26, was raped, stomped, beaten with a tree limb and stabbed more than 100 times by a gang of teens. Eight of them were sentenced.

In the years since that site has changed. There's a Boys and Girls Club on what was an overgrown field. Baseball and soccer games keep the park filled with kids and their parents, and just two years ago, an impressive new playground structure — complete with a water feature — made the park even more of a lure for families with children.

But Monday night’s shooting of a 4-year-old boy has brought back some of the old weariness. You can hear it in the voices of people who live nearby.

“I have nephews who come to this field every day. They range from 5 to 14, and I want my city to be safe," said Dorchester resident Shaundell Stoner.

The violence is all too familiar for Stoner.

"My brother actually was murdered on Edgement four years ago, Andre Stoner. He was shot and killed while he was sitting in his car scratching scratch tickets on Edgemont a few years ago. They haven’t found a suspect or arrested anyone yet," Stoner said.

"And the night of the shooting, his two boys had a baseball game at the field and I was over there. ... I just want my city to be a little bit better. I love this place. My nephews don’t want to leave the house and it’s not fair."

That same pain is echoed by Joann Nighton, out for her morning walk with her puppy.

"It’s so sad, it really is. It’s so rough, people just don’t think anymore," Nighton said. "A 4-year old baby. I had a nephew that got killed last year. It just seems like there’s no place safe for the kids anymore. I don’t care where they go, there’s no place safe anymore, and this should be a safe haven for them — and it’s not."

Cynthia Francis said the injured boy could have been from her school. She teaches in this neighborhood, where she grew up. Francis had moved to the suburbs but recently moved back.

"I came back here because I have to take care of my father, and I can’t even be safe or feel comfortable that if we walk on the wrong street, or if my sons are on the wrong street, that something’s going to happen to them because they’re not in the right place," Francis said.

"You know, I contribute to this community, I work in this community, I worship in this community. As many other residents, we try. We're not all gang bangers. We're not all people who just walk around with guns. Every time I hear a gunshot and I hear a child is down, my scab on my heart is ripped open."

Francis said everyone should step in to stop the violence. In particular, she wants more help from the city and the state.

Hoping to provide some additional help will be Boston's TenPoint Coalition of clergy and community groups, which on Friday launches its "summer season of peace."

And the Boston Foundation has just stepped in, announcing more than $700,000 in grants with a focus on safe parks and open spaces. A spokeswoman said the money is to keep the lights on in the parks, and to fund special events to show that it’s not all "fear and loathing."

This program aired on July 1, 2011.

Delores Handy Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.



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