Black Boston leaders call for ‘summer of peace’ amid concerns of a ‘hostile’ season

Boston clergy and area Black fathers are calling for 1,000 churches across the country to put boots on the ground for a “summer of peace” as many worry about a “hostile” summer on the way.

The group in Dorchester on Sunday issued the “Black Father’s Day Challenge” in the wake of increased violence during the pandemic and as gun violence jumps ahead of the summer.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers said it’s critical to “put hips and lips on the ground” and to “mentor, minister and monitor” the most at-risk Black youth to counter rising violence across the city and country.

“This is a city that has great Black fathers,” Rivers said. “We salute and recognize the great fathers of our community. We salute and recognize the great fathers of the Black church. That said, we must do more. We must do more.”

In his call for the 1,000 churches across the country to get involved, Rivers said this will engage the faith community in a new way.

“We are challenging and imploring the Black churches on this Father’s Day to re-engage, to put ourselves on the line,” he said.

Rivers also called for “100 Black men of faith to join us across the city and the region … to put our bodies on the line to save the lives of these young Black people.”

There has been an “explosion of violence” in major cities across the nation during the last year, he noted.

“There’s no question about that,” Rivers said. “The good news is that in this city, there’s an opportunity as a result of the current strategic partnerships that we can engage successfully. … We can do this. We have the money. We have the resources. We have the leadership.

“I’m confident that if we can get the cooperation of the political leadership of the city and the state, we can engage in a strategy of prevention, intervention and enforcement, which is a product of this model of mentoring, ministering and monitoring the lives of these young men,” he said.

Nonfatal shootings in Boston this year number 67 through June 13, according to police data. That figure is about even with the five-year average in the city.

The number of homicides in the city, however, is down, with 10 recorded in the June 13 report, compared to 16 during the same period in 2020.

Black teenagers stood behind Rivers as he spoke at the Ella J. Baker House in Dorchester.

“There is nothing more important in terms of the future viability of the city than protecting these young Black men,” said the Rev. Kevin Peterson, as he prayed for a “summer of peace.”

“Black men and Black fathers matter,” Peterson said.

One of the teenagers involved in the peace movement is 15-year-old Carter Dambreville.

“This upcoming summer is probably going to be hostile, but we’re going to try to bring down the hostility,” he said.

Nasier Jones, 17, said he joined so more Black children can grow up with fathers in their lives.

“Many don’t have a father to teach them the morals, the lessons growing up,” he said. “It’s important to have a father figure in their lives so they know what to do when they grow up, and then they can also grow up to be a better father.”

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