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Rally addresses neighborhood violence, drugs

Youths suggest more activities to occupy peers

Jesse Winfrey (left) greets Mercedes Reid at the 10,000 Strong Boston event on Father’s Day. Activists and politicians spoke. Jesse Winfrey (left) greets Mercedes Reid at the 10,000 Strong Boston event on Father’s Day. Activists and politicians spoke. (Pat Greenhouse/ Globe Staff)
By Jack Nicas
Globe Correspondent / June 21, 2010

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To 21-year-old Jesse Winfrey, growing up in Roxbury was not easy. There were few summer jobs, and fewer alternatives to the streets. Drugs and guns were just a part of life.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody my age who’s not somehow connected to the negative lifestyle,’’ said Winfrey, who spends much of his time writing rap lyrics about the issues afflicting his community. “Just living here, knowing people, you get automatically involved.’’

Three weeks ago, his friend Ivol Brown was stabbed to death in Mattapan, one of four teens killed in the city last month.

Last week, Winfrey was in a corner store near his home when he heard gunshots outside.

“Had I left my house two minutes later,’’ he said, “I could have been dead.’’

But there is hope for a better Boston, Winfrey and four other Roxbury youths said yesterday at an antiviolence event at Franklin Park.

And the solutions can be simple, they said.

“More community centers where kids can go hang out together and break down these barriers with kids from different neighborhoods,’’ said Jeremy Rodriguez, 19, a student at College Bound Dorchester.

“And we need more jobs for the youths,’’ Winfrey said. “There’s a three-month period with no school and a lot of kids just have nothing to do. There’s got to be something to keep their minds active.’’

The discussion intensified when the topic of guns came up. All five blamed lax laws for the influx of firearms in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

“There’s 12-year-olds walking around with guns, that’s how easy it is,’’ said Santiago Rivera, 20, who wore a shirt memorializing his friend Paola Castillo, a pregnant woman who was shot dead at her 18th birthday party in Hyde Park last fall.

Getting rid of guns “wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would make a big difference,’’ he said.

The five men, all members of advocacy groups, were just a sample of the young activists at the third annual 10,000 Strong Boston, a gathering aimed at addressing the challenges in the black, Latino, and Cape Verdean communities.

The event’s founder, Jamarhl Crawford, a 39-year-old activist who greets everyone by saying “Peace,’’ said solving the city’s corruption is key to solving its problems.

“The cries for peace are great, but we need to recognize the cries should really be for justice,’’ he said.

The important questions aren’t being asked, he said, such as, “Where are the kids getting all these guns from?’’

Che Furiga, the mother of Terrence S. Kelley, an 18-year-old gunned down in Dorchester on May 28, said fewer guns and more summer jobs would help, but nothing is as important as good parenting.

“I have a 4-year-old and I’m going to protect him with all that I can,’’ she said. “And I hope everyone else starts protecting their children and starts schooling their children on the things happening out here, so we can just stop this. Stop the nonsense.’’

Noting that it was Father’s Day, Governor Deval Patrick called men to action during his speech at the event, asking them to step up not only for their own children, but also for children without fathers.

“There’s a need for adults to start acting like adults,’’ he told the Globe later. “We need to start intervening, and paying more attention to our kids.’’

Jack Nicas can be reached at jnicas@globe.com.

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