“Our Mattapan. Many Pasts. One Future.” part of $2 million collaboration to reduce gun violence and support high-risk youth and families

Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined dozens of community members this evening at the Mattapan Community Health Center to launch a new violence prevention campaign for the neighborhood called “Our Mattapan. Many Pasts. One Future.” The campaign highlights 12 individuals from Mattapan who shared personal stories about the impact of violence in their lives and its destabilizing effect on the broader community. The diverse group of community members that took part in the campaign includes two mothers who lost sons to gun violence, a local police officer, an incarcerated young man, a violence interrupter, neighborhood businesspeople, and community activists.

“A gun is a powerful thing.  These guys think they’re cool, but we gotta stop glamorizing that life,” reads one of the campaign’s posters that features Tony Seymore, or “Big Time,” as he is known on the streets. Big Time has been a violence interrupter working with at-risk youth in Mattapan for nearly a decade. The poster and several more featuring similar messages will be displayed throughout Mattapan for the next two months on billboards, at subway and trolley stations, and along popular bus routes. The campaign encourages people to visit to learn about community resources and how to engage in violence prevention work through the Boston Public Health Commission’s Violence Intervention and Prevention initiative.  Visitors can view all of the posters on the website.

“Our plan to reduce gun violence across Boston and in Mattapan includes many different approaches. We go after impact players and their illegal guns.  We offer job training opportunities.  We connect families to city resources and programs,” Mayor Menino said.  “But this work must be paired with a strong public message – one that is for residents and by residents – to stop the violence and engage everyone in achieving that goal.”

Residents and community members worked hand-in-hand with city officials to produce the powerful “Our Mattapan” public awareness campaign.  The campaign empowered residents to tell their own stories and to share their thoughts on building an even stronger Mattapan by discouraging violence.

“It’s their stories in their own words,” Mayor Menino said. “The people delivering these messages are our friends, our neighbors, our local store owners.  Though they have been impacted by violence in different ways, their voices come together in one message: This is Our Mattapan. Many Pasts. One Future.”

Created by the Boston Public Health Commission, “Our Mattapan” is part of a collaborative effort to reduce homicides and shootings in the neighborhood by targeting individuals and families that are at greater risk for becoming perpetrators or victims of this type of violence.  The initiative, whose partners include BPHC, the Boston Police Department, Youth Options Unlimited, and the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, is being funded by a $2 million grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

In addition to the poster campaign, other strategies involved in the collaboration include utilizing a team of place-based violence interrupters in Mattapan, connecting high-risk youth and families to case management, career development, and other positive opportunities, and re-examining Operation Ceasefire, a youth gun violence intervention strategy, to ensure that the current violence prevention strategy adapts to the changing culture of gang violence.

BPHC’s Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) initiative began in 2009 as a way to address gun violence from a public health perspective.  VIP coalitions now operate in five micro-neighborhoods of up to 900 households in Mattapan, Upham’s Corner, Grove Hall, Orchard Gardens/Madison Park, and Bowdoin-Genva.  The goal of the program is to strengthen the capacity of residents in these neighborhoods to develop community initiatives that prevent violence from occurring.  Community mobilization and resident engagement are at the heart of this strategy.  VIP coalitions work to educate residents about available resources, reinforce the notion that violence is not acceptable, and help community members improve neighborhood surroundings to create more peaceful environments.