While Black Lives Matter rises, gang gunfire keeps claiming more lives

Cities must fight violence on two fronts

IT’S BECOME THE untenable backdrop to a national movement demanding a reckoning with systematic racism and centuries of sanctioned brutality against black Americans: While thousands have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and a host of racial wrongs, gunfire has exploded in American cities, claiming black lives at an astonishing pace.

In Chicago, 87 people were shot, 17 fatally, over the July 4th weekend.

In Boston, seven people were killed over seven days, a rate that would send the city’s homicide count soaring to more than double the rate seen in the worst days of gang- and crack-fueled gun violence in the early 1990s, if it keeps up.

“Violence will never be accepted as normal in Boston,” Mayor Marty Walsh said yesterday, following a run in which it is becoming just that.

For Joyce Ferriabough Bolling, a veteran black political strategist and Roxbury resident, the dueling images have become painful.

“As I celebrate the Black Lives Matter signs painted on streets here in Nubian Square and in cities across the country such as Washington, DC; Atlanta; and New York, it is hard not to notice a bitter irony,” wrote Ferriabough Bolling in her regular op-ed column in the Boston Herald.

She says violence “in our own backyards” has been a long-running pandemic in black and brown communities. “If Black Lives do indeed Matter, we must embrace that as a worthy mantra in fighting this pandemic,” she writes. “Today as we march against police brutality and fight a pandemic that takes more Black and brown lives than any other demographic,” she says of the coronavirus, “the shootings in our neighborhoods continue with wild abandon, taking life after Black and brown life.”

Among those lives claimed over the past week: 15 year-old Xhavior Rico, shot to death on July 2 on a Roxbury street.

“He was amazing at science,‘’ his mother told the Globe. “He built an electric car when he was 7 years old. He put on all the tires and the wires” using a kit.

“My son was murdered,” Toni Rico said. “Why? Why? Why?”

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Police Commissioner William Gross, working hard to maintain the department’s ties to the black community amid national protests about police abuse of black residents, commended the public for providing information that helped police make quick arrests in two of the seven recent homicides. But preventing murders, not just solving them, has to be the ultimate goal.

Ferriabough Bolling said some have argued that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and the plague of violence within the black community are entirely distinct issues.

“I believe there is a socio-psychological connection to be made because the overwhelming premise is the same: If Black Lives Matter, they MUST matter everywhere,” she wrote.