Could gun-plagued Toronto perform a `Boston Miracle'?

American organized crime groups included traditional groups such as La Cosa Nostra & the Italian Mafia to modern groups such as Black Mafia Family. Discuss the most organized criminal groups in the United States including gangs in Canada.
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Christina Marie
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Could gun-plagued Toronto perform a `Boston Miracle'?

Unread post by Christina Marie » December 17th, 2005, 12:22 pm

Could gun-plagued Toronto perform a `Boston Miracle'?
Dec. 17, 2005. 01:00 AM

Boston—They shot him outside the sanctuary that Rev. Eugene Rivers built.

A 20-year-old man, six foot four, 240 pounds, was on his way to the Ella J. Baker House, a refuge for young people in the Boston neighbourhood of Dorchester.

"Some Napoleonic dude wanted to make a point," Rivers said. "The boy survived but it's a tough game living here. It's a success just to keep these kids alive."

A brash, hard-ass, Harvard-educated, Pentecostal pastor, Rivers, 55, has devoted his adult life to keeping kids in Dorchester among the living.

He is one of the architects of the so-called Boston Miracle, a combined movement of ministers, community groups and police that pushed homicides down dramatically in the 1990s. Rivers' method was simple — he and other pastors moved into the city's worst neighbourhood and mentored fatherless, violent young men.

His story raises the question — could the Boston method work in Toronto?

Toronto is grappling with the same problems today. Governments are pumping in money but local pastors, like Don Meredith, say that there is no powerful political leadership to get the police, pastors and community groups working together in neighbourhoods across Rexdale and Scarborough.

"It's deplorable," said Meredith, chair of the GTA Faith Alliance. "People just don't care. It's not affecting certain communities, so people think, why spend monies on it?"

Meredith wants to bring Rivers to Toronto in January to advise local ministers and politicians, and has plans to turn black on black killings into a municipal election issue.

Despite Boston's earlier success, the killings have risen to a 10-year high. Rivers said he warned that this would happen. The city stopped paying attention. Funding to key anti-gang programs was cut, and youth programs were closed.

On Tuesday night, four young men were shot to death in a house next door to Rivers' Dorchester home. A few weeks earlier, gunshots were fired over the heads of children at an elementary school.

There have been 71 murders so far this year, about half the number during the explosion of crack and violence in the early 1990s. Homicides dropped from 150 in 1990 to a low of 31 in 1999. But a steady increase in guns, drugs and crime over the past three years has Boston Mayor Thomas Menino focused on Dorchester again.

Rivers never left the neighbourhood. He still believes that the only way to stop young people from joining gangs is for men — ministers and activists — to move into the most dangerous communities so that they are a constant, powerful presence.

"Young people need sanctuary. They need strong father figures. Mentors. The thing one notes from casual observation is that there are mothers everywhere. There are houses full of women. What is consistently absent is the constant male presence. The father. That is what is important," Rivers said.

"When you get a very poor family the presence of a father will make a world of difference. He will protect a daughter from all the predators that come with poverty. The poor boy that has a father has four hands to fight with instead of two. You have to start working with young boys and get as many men as possible to father them."

His story unfolds in a recent interview over dinner with his wife, Jacqueline, and their teenage daughter, who talked her Dad into taking her to a trendy new restaurant on the "liberal" side of Dorchester.

Called "Deathchester" by some Bostonians, the area is sliced in half by a long stretch of busy road called Washington St. On one side live mostly "white liberals," who fixed up the elegant Victorian homes after the crime rates dropped in the late 1990s. The other side is home to the neediest children in the city, and the gangsters, drug dealers and gun runners.

In 1992 a young black man was stabbed to death in a Boston church during the funeral for another young black murder victim


Rivers' daughter rests her hand on his shoulder as he speaks, softly, a little tiredly, of how Dorchester became their home. He has told this story many times, and locally, is described as either a controversial media hound or a man who can get a difficult job done.

In the early 1990s, in the height of the crack craze, he and several other Christian men from Harvard decided to visit the crime-ridden area to see if they could help the young people.

Rivers and his colleagues started by talking to the drug dealers. Charles McDuffie was one of them. A hostile heroin salesman, he and a friend eventually told them they needed to "be there and be real" to succeed.

Rivers and his wife, a masters of psychology graduate from Harvard, moved into a row house in Dorchester. Over the years their house was robbed six times and shot at twice. The second time, when the bullets hit the second floor bedroom of their young sleeping son, the family moved to a Victorian home on the other side of Washington St., where they still live. Their son is now a student at Harvard.

Rivers said that ministers had to take the radical step of moving into Dorchester. Nothing else was working. "Political correctness wasn't working. The black community had a tough internal debate around how the black middle class would respond to the crisis. I was the lightning rod. But you have moral authority when you live in the trenches where the bullets are flying.

"The number of homicides began to drop. The discourse changed. Police began by taking the edge off their style. We worked together."

Dinner is over and Rivers takes his family home. (Ten days later, in the basement of the lovely two-storey house next door, four men in their teens and early 20s will be shot and killed. River's young daughter will hear their cries from her home.) But tonight, Rivers begins the short walk to Washington St.

Suddenly, his voice isn't soft any more. "Wazzup brother?" Rivers shouts at a man nearby. Every few steps somebody calls out to him, "Hey, Rev!" He clasps hands, wraps his arms around shoulders. He asks men about their children.

Up Washington St. is the Ella J. Baker House, a sanctuary for the neighbourhood kids named in honour of an unsung American civil rights activist. Rivers points to the sidewalk outside. "That's where they shot him," Rivers says, explaining how Jason Smith, the 20-year-old boy, was shot several weeks ago. "They tried to stab him a year ago. This time he took four, five bullets and survived."

Rivers struggles to open the door. It looks like the lock has been tampered with. He uses a cellphone to call upstairs. Charles McDuffie, the former heroin salesman, answers the phone. He lives here now. Rivers rescued him; now McDuffie rescues others, mentors young men, helps them with their homework, talks to them about life.

He lets Rivers inside and they climb the stairs to the top floor, a bare bones décor, a table and chairs.

The Ella J. Baker House operates with the help of city grants. Last summer, money for youth summer jobs disappeared but Mayor Menino is now getting an increase in funding from the federal government. In Toronto, the federal government, and the city of Toronto promised up $50 million earlier this year to develop a strategy to stop the killings. But the strategy hasn't been developed yet.

Unlike the cohesive effort of Boston in the 1990s, Toronto is doing piecemeal work. A new youth strategy plan in the city parks and recreation department. A regular meeting between pastors, police and community groups in a troubled Rexdale neighbourhood.

On this Boston night, when Rivers disappears downstairs McDuffie sits on the desk edge and begins to talk.

"My father died when I was very young," McDuffie said. "The Rev became my father figure.

"He taught me morals. I didn't know what I was doing wrong. He told me the consequences of selling drugs. He said I am taking food away from a child, clothes from a child. I'm taking this child's structure, his Christmas. I'm taking this child's mother away. His father away."

As he walks away from the Ella J. Baker House, Rivers tells the story behind its creation. In 1992, one particular killing shook Boston to the core. It unfolded like this: A church funeral was being held for a murdered young black man. During the service one of his friends, another young black man was stabbed to death in the church.

It is remarkably similar to a killing in Toronto last month. Amon Beckles was shot to death outside the Toronto West Seventh-day Adventist Church while attending the funeral of his murdered best friend. In Boston, the church killing immediately galvanized the ministers, police and politicians to work with each other for radical change.

What happened in Toronto? So far, says Pastor Meredith, there has been just a lot of talk. ... Source=RSS

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Unread post by spadeotheboss » November 6th, 2006, 4:53 pm

i been 2 the baker house and it aint no damn sanctuary :shock: ,ur better off stayin home

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Unread post by VybzKartel » November 6th, 2006, 6:18 pm

I think he can do the miracle. . and I hope so . .

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