I have lived in and around a small Cape Verdean enclave in Roxbury and N.Dorchester sections of Boston my entire 34 years.In those 34 years, I have known over 34 young men and women who have been murdered in my community. I have gone to more wakes and funerals than college graduations and weddings. Some of the people I lost were neighbors. Some were siblings of friends. Some were very close friends and loved ones. I have been a staunch anti-violence advocate and peace promoter since I can remember, but it wasn’t until I joined Peace Boston, the Peace Collaborative and Operation LIPSTICK that I found a cause and a space to work on this issue day in and day out to end gun violence.
The first friend I lost was Michael Tavares. Mikey, as he was known, was my neighbor and my close friend. We had gone to elementary and high school together. He was the most fashionable kid in school and was an entrepreneur long before I had the urge to start a business. He was creative, fun and loving. I might add, very handsome too. I was a Sophomore in College when he was murdered. I had seen him the day before. He pulled up to my house, just six houses down from his, and we talked for hours.
The next day, while I was at work, news travelled around my community that Mikey was robbed and shot in the middle of the afternoon on Copeland Street. His murder has never been solved. He left behind a mother and father. He wasn’t involved in gang activity. He had siblings,cousins and friends. He had a tight-knit community where everyone knew and loved him.
There isnt a day that passes that I don’t think of Mikey and how things would’ve been different if he were alive. He would’ve owned a barbershop, record label , fashion line or all of the above. He was that talented and driven. He was special.
He was robbed of his life and we were robbed of his promise. After Mikey, we lost so many more to gun violence. I felt like no one outside of Roxbury and Dorchester cared. In time, I even wondered if we cared anymore.
Recently, in the New York Times there was an article in relation to the Assault Weapon Ban called the “The Assault Weapon Myth,” by Lois Beckett (Sunday Review, Sept. 14): The article includes facts about the reality of illegally trafficked handguns as the cause of most murders in neighborhoods like mine. Too often we forget the murders that happen on a daily basis on streets like the one where I was born and raised.
What about us? What about the walking traumatized who are left behind as we lose friend after friend, family member after family member? What about those of us who are awakened in the middle of the night, and sometimes now even in the middle of the day, with the sounds of bullets flying and mothers wailing.
Banning assault weapons isn’t going to heal us or stop the pandemic of inner-city gun violence across America. However, holding the sources of trafficked handguns accountable will help stop the shootings. It starts by asking, where did the gun come from that was used to kill my friend Mikey.