Engagement, organization are musts for Bowdoin/Geneva, Meetinghouse Hill

Anti-violence advocates, residents, and police released balloons in a Bowdoin Street park last Wednesday night (Dec. 27) to remember those lost to violence in 2017. Jennifer Smith photo

By Davida Andelman, Clarkson Street

To the Editor: As 2017 draws to a close, I ask what has changed for the better in our community?  It’s hard sometimes to come up with something positive to say.  Many accuse me of being negative, difficult, and pretty much a pain in the derriere; however, over far too many decades, we seem always to be at a standstill in lots of ways.  Let me focus on one for now – public safety.

We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again while acts of violence continue to occur. Two murders in one Dorchester neighborhood during a two week holiday period!  Do not tell me, yourself, or your family and friends not to worry as they are not random acts, that the victims were targeted. Does this make everyone feel better?  We need not be concerned?  That the shooters have such great skills that they never miss the intended target? 

What happens after these assassinations?  The police put a vehicle out in front of the locations where the shootings took place. Different segments of the neighborhood demand a meeting, or even multiple meetings, to say we demand more police presence, more programs, and just more of everything. 

To everyone who lives, works, and cares about this community, I say what we need the most is for everyone to become more engaged with their neighbors.  Reach out to people who live next door and across the street.  If you are involved with a local faith- based organization, church, or group, demand that the groups do something in the neighborhoods where they are located.  If you are the head of an agency or a non-profit, you should encourage all of your employees, no matter what their position, to participate in community events so they can see for themselves, first hand, what is going on the community where they work. Please, oh please, go beyond the handwringing, peace walks, vigils, candles, and teddy bears.  


Our neighborhood is disorganized.  No group, including existing and former ones, has been able to come together for sustained periods of time to make a significant difference.  Why is this?  Some point to having a high poverty rate with “too many of those undesirable people”; to too diverse a neighborhood where people cannot communicate with one another; to too many factions; to the city having red lines to keep most of its problems in one area.

Let me propose again what has been suggested multiple times and has not happened:  A different approach, of the kind that has worked all around us – in Four Corners, Grove Hall, Dudley Street, Roxbury, and Mattapan.  We need to organize and create more community engagement and leadership development that will include all the many diverse groups in the neighborhood. 

To those of you who will say we have far too many groups, my response is the community remains disorganized.  It is not working.  We need to attract what the above areas have attracted in the past – experienced, talented Community Organizers who know how to bring people together who live in neighborhoods like Bowdoin/Geneva and Meetinghouse Hill.  This will require a sustained commitment over a long period of time and a strategy that is driven by people who live in this community. 

I have been active in this community for a long time and have seen all kinds of funding come and go as well as programs with various degrees of success or just plain failure. To the funders both public and private: Do not keep throwing money at this neighborhood - especially in the aftermath of some unthinkable, horrible incident.  To those of us who call this neighborhood home, we must start 2018 by gaining the knowledge, understanding, and experience of having our own power.