Rocked by violence, they walk in sorrow, hope
Peace march in its 10th year
Beneath the faces on the signs they held, each walker carried a loss. For Mary Adams, it was two children: her son, who was shot and killed, and her daughter, who was found dead after she disappeared for days. For Andrew Vaughn, it was three brothers, all shot dead. For Joseph Rosa, it was five cousins, killed one after another.
At the center of their pain, struggling to help heal it, was Isaura Mendes. Wielding a megaphone as 150 people marched yesterday through the streets of Dorchester, she shouted until she was hoarse: “Peace and forgiveness.’’
Neighbors, friends, and strangers gathered for the 10th annual Parent’s and Children’s Walk for Peace, held by Mendes in honor of her son, who was stabbed to death in 1995 at the age of 23.
After 10 years of walking, Mendes’s calls for peace are still urgent, her hurt still raw. Three years ago she lost another son when 24-year old Alex “Matthew’’ Mendes was killed, a bystander in a drive-by shooting. Instead of crumbling, Mendes channeled her agony into her peace activism; she still believes in forgiveness.
Walkers gathered on Groom Street near Uphams Corner, where the sidewalks were framed with green and purple balloons and pictures of the dead hung from fences. Mendes greeted nearly everyone who arrived in her yard with a hug.
“I can’t do this by myself,’’ she told Carlos Arredondo, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004. “Through our pain, what has happened to us, we can reach out and wake other people.’’
During Mendes’s opening speech, some onlookers wept.
“It’s hard to imagine how she coped with losing two kids,’’ said Tanya Cabral, Mendes’s niece.
The walk, attended by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and City Councilor Chuck Turner, meandered through Dorchester to Dudley Town Common. Mendes picked up momentum as bystanders joined and motorists honked in support.
At the common, more speakers addressed the crowd.
“Young, black men, we are almost extinct,’’ said Nelson Rodrigues, vice president of MYHOOD, a newly-founded mentoring organization.
Listening to speakers, Rosa, the man who lost five cousins to street violence - including both of the Mendes brothers - said his tragedy belongs to many families. “A lot of kids, they just don’t know how to deal with things they may encounter in the neighborhood, and they go about it the wrong way,’’ he said.
Walkers completed the roughly 3-mile loop by returning to Groom Street, still holding their signs.
Fausto Sanchez Sr. walked for his son, Fausto Jr., slain in 2007. He stayed near Mendes, who draped an arm around him.
After hearing Mendes speak, he exhorted a reporter in Spanish: “No more violence.’’
Vivian Nereim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.