WE WERE IN grade school when the first person we knew was murdered. Our 16-year-old cousin, Craig, was killed outside his house in Dorchester over a pair of sneakers. A few years later, our Uncle Bibsy was murdered not far from there. Thirty years later and with numerous other friends, neighbors, and acquaintances lost to violence, this cycle extended to our next generation. Last Thursday morning, our family was watching TV while getting ready for the day. Seven year old Carter – Chris’s son, Brian’s nephew – was getting ready for school. A picture of our neighbor and family’s barber, Herman Maxwell Hylton, flashed on the screen. He had been shot and killed in his barbershop doing what he loved doing most – cutting hair and being with the community. Carter asked, “Daddy, what happened to Max?”
What do you say to a child when the man who gave him his first haircut is murdered? Each loss affects the whole neighborhood and everyone’s future. We had been working with Max to help grow his barbershop, creating a business plan, applying for grants and loans, and talking about renovations. And we teamed up to offer free back-to-school haircuts for kids in the community the last three years. Now, that potential is also gone. When people say crime is down – that is not what we are living. We understand the data. But while certain crime statistics are down, our neighbors still don’t feel safe. When hundreds of bullets continue to fly in our neighborhoods, and those bullets are still unpredictable and are still taking people’s lives, we need to stop those bullets. There isn’t one easy answer to this. There are many answers, and they aren’t easy, but they need to happen. Is it time for more community policing? Yes. Time to get more guns off the street? Yes. Time for more trauma response? Yes. Time for more after school programs? Yes. Time for more investments in at-risk youth? Yes. Some of these solutions need to happen right now. Others will take time to implement. We are in this for the long haul because we believe in our community, and we know our children have the right to grow up without this trauma on their doorsteps every day. We hope you believe in our community, too – in our children, in our community leaders, in our neighbors – and that we can count on you to be there with us every step of the way. It is time to stop these cycles – cycles of violence, retribution, trauma. We appreciate the thoughts and prayers, but it’s time for decisive and serious action. We’ve been talking about this since we were seven. Now’s the time to get it done.Brian Worrell is the District 4 Boston City Councilor representing parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale. Christopher Worrell is a faith leader, radio program host, and community organizer. He is the Democratic nominee for state representative in the 5th Suffolk District (Dorchester & Roxbury).
Sadly, this conversation, this trauma is not unique to our family. Countless families in our community live this pain or wait for the day that it will come to impact them. We were METCO kids, taking a bus an hour each way each day to Lincoln. For kids who were part of METCO, Jean McGuire was a surrogate mother and grandmother. She served in that role for us, as she did for thousands of other Black and brown kids in Boston. She has dedicated her entire life to helping kids from our neighborhood escape trauma through METCO. Last month, Jean McGuire – a 91-year-old civil rights leader – was walking her dog in Franklin Park where she was violently attacked and stabbed. To our classmates from Lincoln and all those outside of our neighborhood whose lives have been mostly untouched by violence: Imagine explaining to your child that their barber, the father of their Sunday School classmate, was just murdered. Imagine explaining why their grandmother figure, their role model, was stabbed while walking the dog at night in their favorite park. Imagine having to have “the talk” with your kids in elementary school…or ever. Within the past month, a Dorchester student was shot on the way into his school.