This Is Not “Normal”•
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, twelve Springfield teens came together at an event sponsored by several local organizations, including the Springfield Institute, to discuss violence–the insidious forms it takes, the root causes, and what can be done. The teens articulated an everyday culture of violence, unengaged parents and schools, and how Facebook is used to bully and perpetuate violence.
By design, the event served to elevate the voices of a critical but underrepresented constituency. Governor Patrick was the “keynote listener” and he was joined by Mayor Sarno. It is our hope that the copious media coverage and our own forthcoming video documentation will also help raise the profile of these young people’s voices.
The stories of the teens depicted a life marked by violence and even death, as men and women live in a society that does not offer them enough opportunities.
José Colon was seventeen years old when his life ended on a baseball field in Van Horn Park last night. Multiple gunshot wounds.
Last week, it was Reality Shabazz Walker. He was nineteen years old.
As the end of the year approaches, Springfield is approaching the same number of murders as last year: fifteen so far this year, seventeen in 2009.
Worcester, which has almost the same population size and is only fifty miles away, seems to be similarly consistent, though much less violent: five so far this year, seven in 2009.
They all seem to be young men of color.
But while Springfield’s murder rate may be exceptional regionally, is it becoming normal in Springfield?
Particularly for Springfield’s younger residents who haven’t experienced anything else, this is a real risk. The same is true for school performance, health disparities, and other chronic challenges in the city and region. To pave the way for improvement, we must send a clear message: “This is not normal.”