Sorry everyone – between a day of training, classes starting, end-of-fiscal-year madness and having a cold, I’m all in for today. Until I can update (hopefully tomorrow) check out this article from the Boston Globe about the much-ignored ganglands of Boston:
To protect son, Roxbury minister moves family from neighborhood
By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff | June 24, 2006
The Rev. Hurmon Hamilton walks along Roxbury’s Woodbine Street in the hot, early-summer sun, stopping frequently to point out weary apartment buildings and clapboard houses where mayhem has struck.
The sidewalk in front of number 14? That’s where a man was shot fatally while the pastor was hosting Thanksgiving dinner last year in his home at number 25. Number 9? That’s where police say Dominique Samuels was slain before her body was dumped and burned in Franklin Park in April.
Just around the corner on Blue Hill Avenue, a young man was shot dead in January, right after he confronted Hamilton’s son and dared him to come along to shoot someone. Around another corner, on Warren Street, a man and girl were surrounded by a crowd and stabbed repeatedly three weeks ago while they were buying pizza.
Hamilton — a prominent preacher and social activist who has physically and spiritually rebuilt historic Roxbury Presbyterian Church over the past dozen years — could stomach the blood in the streets.
He could handle the possibility that one day the blood might even be his own.
But he could not bear the growing possibility that, with youth violence in Boston spiraling out of control, the blood could be that of his 15-year-old son, Jonathan.
So this spring, the 41-year-old minister and his wife Rhonda, a physician, decided to give up on their 20-year commitment to living among the people to whom he ministers. On Wednesday, they moved the family to a house in Woburn.
“We had feelings of great contrition, feelings of guilt, feelings of embarrassment,” said Hamilton, who will remain the minister of the church.
“At the end of the day, our conclusion was that it is heroic to want to stay on a street that is designated a hot zone with a 15-year-old who looks 19 and a 2- year-old who wants to play in the yard,” he said. “But it is even more heroic to figure out how to keep them alive.
“I realized I could not bear for my son to be murdered as the price I paid to demonstrate my commitment to this community,” Hamilton said. “I could not imagine sitting at his funeral having people tell me how heroic I was. That is not a story for me. I want him to make it.”
Hamilton is not the only preacher-activist changing his family ‘s routine to get a young man out of harm’s way.
The Rev. Eugene Rivers, who lives in the Four Corners area of Dorchester, adjacent to the house where four people were fatally shot in December in one of the city’s worst mass killings in years, said in a recent interview that he has told his son Malcolm to stay this summer in the comparatively safer city of Cambridge, where he is a Harvard University undergraduate.
“I told him he’s only coming home when I pick him up, bring him home, and drive him back,” Rivers said. “People need to get a sense of how scary it is out here.”
Rivers said the climate on the streets is worse than that in the early 1990s, when Boston experienced a huge surge in gang violence that Rivers and other black ministers played critical roles in quelling.
Jonathan Hamilton, as his father said, looks much older than his age. Though he just graduated from William Barton Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park, he is taller than his father and more powerfully built. His moustache and chin whiskers also are starting to come in.
He is quiet, mannerly, and frightened. He thinks moving is a good idea.
Jonathan’s first memory of violence on Woodbine Street comes from the third grade, when his father tried to arrange the surrender of a fugitive in a murder case. The young man killed himself after being cornered by police in the apartment building next to the church. Mean while, Jonathan sat in the family’s home half a block away, asking his mother whether his father would come back.
For years, Jonathan said, he has feared that gunfire would erupt from passing cars. Even when his father deems it safe to send him to get something from the car at night, Jonathan walks from the house to the vehicle in a crouch and turns the dome light out so he cannot be seen inside.
“I erase the memories when I sleep,” Jonathan said, “but they pop up, and I try to erase them again by doing something fun, like biking or rollerblading.”
Even these simple pleasures require strategy to assure safety. He rides in the mornings, when fewer tough guys are on the streets, and chooses routes that are in the open to make it harder for someone to lie in wait and jump him. He does not feel safe parking the bike at the big supermarket near the church. Instead, he rides to a variety store where the proprietor lets young people he knows bring their bikes inside.
The beginning of the end of the family’s time on Woodbine Street, where Roxbury Presbyterian pastors have lived for at least the last 40 years, was Jan. 13.
That was the day a teenager asked Jonathan to back him up while he shot an enemy. Young Hamilton said no and started to walk away. The boy became angry and reached in his pocket. Jonathan, fearing a weapon, ran home, shaking. That same day, the youth was shot dead.
“We started then to understand that we were not immune,” his father said, and the parents’ concerns grew as neighborhood incidents proliferated.
When Dominique Samuels, whose mother worked at the church, was killed, “that sealed it for us,” Hamilton said. “We know Edwina [Dominique’s mother]. She protects her kids, and this could happen to her baby girl.”
Finishing up a walking tour of the neighborhood, Hamilton pointed out two more bad spots.
“In this area, there is significant drug trafficking,” he said, “and more recently, there is significant prostitution over there.”
He then warned his son and a reporter not to look directly or point at the houses as he gestured toward them with his eyes and head.
“It wasn’t always like this,” Hamilton said. “I’d like to confront it. But not with my family sitting right here as targets.”
Charles A. Radin can be reached at email@example.com.