Dorchester activist Isaura Mendes yelled through a megaphone at hundreds who attended yesterday's seventh annual Parents and Children's Walk for Peace.
``How many of you have lost a brother?" she asked the crowd at Dudley Town Common. Hands went up, and she continued. ``A sister . . . cousin . . . nephew . . . father . . . friend," until nearly every hand waved with the purple balloons, purple ribbons, and rest-in-peace banners bearing names of the dead.
At least 400 adults and children screamed for peace during the walk that started in a vacant lot near Groom Street and remembered people killed in Boston's streets.
Parents aren't supposed to bury children before they die unless God makes them sick, Mendes said .
``We don't come here to live forever, but we don't expect our children to kill each other," she said.
One woman in tears dropped a sign and fell to the concrete.
Some hugged, kissed, and cried. Others were more jovial as they pushed strollers, chatted with friends, and waved at neighbors.
Mendes's 24-year-old son, Alex, was fatally shot in May.
And, at 23, her son Bobby had been stabbed and killed in 1995.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino spoke briefly at Groom Street, before the crowd made a two-hour trek to Dudley Town Common, then Columbia Road, and back to Groom Street.
``We've got to stay focused," he said. ``We're not going to let the bad guys take over our streets."
Menino motioned toward two young boys, saying, ``There is a future for them. They have a future."
But 15-year-old Shay Tavares of Dorchester said she knows a grim reality: Men in this neighborhood often don't see their mid-20s.
And she said there could be hypocrites among the group chanting, ``We want peace."
Tavares said she thought two-thirds of the males there still had guns on them.
There have been 36 homicides in Boston this year, according to the Boston Police Department.
At this time last year there were 33.
Near the end of yesterday's event, Mendes stood on the porch on Wendover Street where one of her sons was killed, she said.
``If anybody knows who killed my son, I want you to talk," she said, again in tears. ``I know somebody knows. I know. Somebody knows. I know somebody knows."
The group returned to a tent at Groom Street.
They ate pizza while looking at the faces, on pins and poster boards that were surrounding the lot, of those who had died.