August 14, 2003 – Amidst temperatures in the mid-90’s, hundreds of local youth and adults came out to Jermaine Goffigan Park in Roxbury to celebrate the second annual Street Peace Day.
The event included a “Youth Speak Out Against Violence” rally, as well as entertainment, cookout and refreshments, award presentations, and outreach and volunteer opportunities. Many speakers, including StreetPeace CEO Rodney Dailey and Boston City Coucil President Michael Flaherty, graced the main stage. Included in Dailey’s words was a message about Goffigan Park. “We will not sell this park!” he vociferated along with other StreetPeace members. Flaherty pledged the support of the Boston City Council to the efforts of StreetPeace, saying “We will do everything in our best interest and your best interest to help this program.” Nelson, a local Roxbury youth, appealed to the crowd by demanding, “We need peace in the streets!” Also read at the event was a letter from Mayor Thomas M. Menino proclaiming August 14th “Street Peace Day” in the city of Boston. (For the previous ten years, this day had been celebrated as Gang Peace Day.)
StreetPeace is a young organization that works with at-risk city youth to prevent them from getting involved with gangs and violence. In the words of Dailey, “The Street Peace goal is to reduce gang activity, lower the murder rate and help youth find alternatives to violence. I am so proud of all the young people who are choosing to become positive leaders in our neighborhoods.”
Young people ages 10-24 who choose to become involved in StreetPeace must fill out a request and agree to follow organization guidelines, which include performing at least 30 hours of community service, mentoring another StreetPeace client, and being a lifetime member of the StreetPeace alumni organization. In return, StreetPeace pledges to provide support, mentors, and references to schools, family, and work so that members can continue their efforts to enrich themselves and their community.
However, recent budget cuts have had a dramatic effect on the efforts of groups like StreetPeace. Patricia Muldoon, Director of Planning and Development for StreetPeace, noted that the cuts have had a negative impact on multiple fronts. Summer jobs for city youth have been cut almost in half, the schools lack necessary funding for their programs, and state funding for groups such as StreetPeace is now almost nonexistent. Muldoon noted that these cuts are coming at a time when the need for such programs is increasing. She equated working in such a high crime area to “being on the front lines of a war.” Indeed, mute testimony to the effects of this “war” could be seen not 50 feet from the event, where a small memorial to a young girl killed by a gang gun fight stood, flanked by teddy bears and candles.
Despite the indifference of state budget leaders, the valiant efforts of StreetPeace continue. The organization has many sponsors and supporters, including Senator Dianne Wilkerson, Mayor Menino, Rep. Marie St. Fleur, Rep. Gloria Fox, and City Councilor Chuck Turner. Those interested in helping StreetPeace or those seeking more information are encouraged to visit www.streetpeace.org or call (617)-282-4447.