It was about 10AM on a beautiful Sunday morning when the Mom of one of Connie’s friends called to see what the girl was doing that afternoon. Would C. like to accompany her friend (also a C.) on a “Walk for Peace” that was to begin at 1PM, very near the Hernández School? This Mom obviously wanted to attend the walk, herself, and knew that it would be a much more pleasant event if her daughter had a friend along for the walk.
The Parent Imperfect had heard about this effort to show the community’s commitment to end violence in the neighborhood, and had thought about attending. Sundays being what they are, he never would have made it had it not been for the call.
The temperature had risen above 65 when the PI and Connie arrived at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church for the beginning of the march. There was no sign of C.’s friend or her mother, but over a hundred others had gathered to make a statement about peace. Lots of kids were among those present, but C. didn’t recognize any of them and was immediately ready to leave. Just as the PI was ready to relent and head back to the car, C’s friend and both of her parents showed up and this had magically become a place that C. was very happy to be.
Minutes later, the group left the church and headed down Seaver St. toward Egleston Square. Within two minutes of moving into the street, the march passed Connie’s school. What does a fourth grader think when a march for peace passes right by her school? For the PI, it felt great to be in the street, a place where he had spent much more time at another point not SO long ago.
The march felt like a real representation of the community, both racially and age-wise. Those wearing the bright yellow T-shirts given out to organizers of the event were not exactly the same group usually seen leading street marches in Jamaica Plain.
Asked by a reporter from the The Boston Bulletin what made this march different than other like it, one marcher from a community safety group called Beantown Security said, “It’s coming from the folks who used to be, as they described it, the ‘knuckleheads,’ the people causing the problem…they used to be the folks we were chanting to, but now they are chanting with us.”
Maybe. The marchers were definitely a diverse group of people, led by many young people from the community. Among those providing security for the march were members of a predominantly African-American motorcycle club, all wearing black leather vests with a white “B” emblazoned across the back.
As the group headed into Egleston Square, Connie greeted a man she knew from the Youth Enrichment Services program that takes her skiing during the winter months. As she greeted this man, who seems to know every YESKID by name, she saw that his young son was carrying a sign that said, “I never knew my uncle because of violence…Hector Morales ‘Hec’ 1971-1990”. She read the sign and said nothing, but was clearly coming to her own conclusions.
The march became noisier as it turned onto a busy Washington Street and people began blowing their horns and joining in from the sidewalks. The first corner it passed was the same one that Connie and the PI cross every morning as she heads to school. They turned down Boylston Street (not to be confused with the main street in the Back Bay), and walked past The Brewery, the nonprofit complex housing both Grassroots International, where the PI had worked for six years and City Life/Vida Urbana, a community organization that been at the center of the PI’s life for all of the 1980s. The neighborhood felt as much like home as anyplace could.
As the heat sent drops of sweat down the PI’s spine, he hoped that the boisterous group was going to be taking a quick turn back to the church, but the organizers had other ideas. Having gotten this group together, they wanted maximum visibility, marching past Academy Homes, into Jackson Square and up Centre St. alongside Bromley-Heath Housing Project and right past Mozart Park. The route was carefully chosen to bring the walkers past thousands of people who needed to hear the message. All along the way, people in cars and on the street continued to show support for the idea of ending violence in the community. The PI’s knees were protesting more than he was as the walk (finally) came to a stop on a bridge over the MBTA’s Orange Line. There would be more music and speeches there, but Ms. Connie had to head home to prepare for a piano lesson.
On the way back to Roslindale, Connie was tired and already nervous about the piano lesson for which she had not prepared. She was hoping that their participation in the march might lead the PI to say that she didn’t need to go to piano, but no such luck….As her life so often insisted, she was definitely on to the next thing in some way, but the Walk for Peace was sure to be the topic of many future questions.