In September 2014, beloved St. Stephen’s Youth Programs community member Jorge Fuentes was shot and killed while walking his dog in front of his house in Dorchester. Just a dozen weeks later, an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut was attacked by a domestic terrorist toting an assault weapon. These senseless deaths left their communities reeling in shock and sadness- and with a new resolve to address the problem of gun violence in all of its forms across the country.
Every year, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence honors the victims of that massacre, of gun deaths across the country since that day, and those shot and killed in Massachusetts in the past year. Every year, members of the B-PEACE for Jorge campaign attend to light candles to honor, in particular, the memory of Jorge, and also the new names added in the past year which inevitably include people who have touched the lives of people in our community.
This year, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs teen organizer Victoria Omoregie spoke at the vigil, kicking off a powerful lineup of anti gun violence advocates that included Imam , Boston’s Director of Public Safety Dan Mulhern and Attorney General Maura Healey. She talked about growing up in Dorchester, and told a story of a shooting that happened in a park in her neighborhood that caught a toddler in the crossfire of a shootout. After that day, her family started driving to a far away park in a wealthier and whiter neighborhood where that kind of violence was unthinkable,and then eventually stopped going to the parks altogether and began playing video games inside their home instead.
The speakers following Victoria echoed her message that all people should be safe in our city, “safe, regardless of their race or gender or immigration status or religion or sexual orientation. I want people to be safe from gun violence, and from all kinds of violence, in their schools, parks and neighborhoods.” With a new presidential administration poised to take office, the well-being of our most vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors is uncertain. We know and feel it is more important than ever to join together with our whole community and and Commonwealth and country to heed the words of Mother Jones who said, “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”