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Mother’s Day Walk carries message of peace

Thousands march in Dorchester

Lila Bucklin of Jamaica Plain carried a message as she took part in the 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace in Dorchester on Sunday.

DINA RUDICK/GLOBE STAFF

Lila Bucklin of Jamaica Plain carried a message as she took part in the 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace in Dorchester on Sunday.

Thousands of Bostonians called for peace early Sunday, following several recent shootings and stabbings and an unprecedented attack on the city last month.

Those killed in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings were remembered alongside men, women, and children lost to street violence as marchers wearing purple — a color they said represents peace — advanced down Dorchester Avenue in the 17th annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.

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Among the marchers were Carlos Arredondo, the Costa Rican-born peace activist photographed aiding injured spectators in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings, and his wife, Mélida Arredondo.

Mélida Arredondo, who works in Uphams Corner, said they have participated since she learned of the walk in 2005. Just months earlier, Carlos Arredondo’s older son from his first marriage, Alex, had been killed by a sniper while serving in Iraq.

“There are a lot of people losing their children to gun violence in Uphams Corner,” said Mélida Arredondo, 47. “So when we heard about this march, we said, ‘They’re going through the same pain we’re going through.’ ”

“It’s my responsibility as a father to honor both my sons and all the sons of the other parents, [and] to find a way to stop the violence,” said Carlos Arredondo, 52, who lost his younger son, Brian, to suicide in 2011, after years of depression following his brother’s death.

Remembered, too, were the 20 children and six adults killed last December in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Scarlett Lewis, who lost her 6-year-old son, Jesse, in the Newtown massacre, briefly addressed participants, saying she walked “for all the mothers who’ve lost a child to violence, to honor you.”

“Let’s all remember and spread the word that love is a choice, and that we make it every day, several times a day,” Lewis said. “We’re all choosing love today, and let’s keep doing it.”

A drizzle fell as the walkers gathered just before 8 a.m. It turned into rain during the short speaking program but tapered away as the crowd prepared to march.

Some sang hymns or folk songs such as “If I Had a Hammer.” Others chanted slogans including, “One, two, three, four, no more violence at my door.” Many carried signs or wore T-shirts with messages of peace and tributes to the dead.

Families gathered outside homes along Dorchester Avenue to cheer on the marchers.

“Thank you! Happy Mother’s Day,” a woman called from a second-floor porch.

“May you have a peaceful Mother’s Day,” a man in the march called back.

Organizer Tina Chéry said the walk was a celebration of the people of Dorchester, the entire city of Boston, and neighboring communities that came together to show their support.

“There’s a sense of joy, because this is who our community is, and not just our community but the communities around us,” she said. “When we have our neighbors come out, words just cannot express the meaning and the gratitude and the power and the strength.”

Chéry organized the first Mother’s Day Walk after founding the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. Brown was Chéry’s son, killed by gang crossfire at age 15 while walking to a Teens Against Gang Violence event just days before Christmas in 1993.

The Dorchester-based nonprofit organization works to promote peace and provides assistance to the families of murder victims.

Agnes Portalewska, the event’s coordinator, said as many as 10,000 were estimated to have participated in the walk, which generated more than $130,000, far exceeding its $100,000 goal and its previous record of $78,000. The money will support the peace institute.

Chéry, 52, said her son would be happy to see the impact made in his name.

“He would just say, ‘Way to go,’ and, ‘Thank you,’ because this is what he believed,” Chéry said. “He couldn’t understand why adults always blamed children for violence. You know, this is what they grow up in.

“It’s his vision that I’m called to bring forward, to continue to create an environment where people come together in peace and in unity,” she said.

Alisha Assee walked with a large group wearing “Team Dre” T-shirts in honor of her godson, Andre Matthew Jr., killed in Grove Hall last October.

“We’re tired of the violence that’s occurring on the streets of Boston,” said Assee, 37. “Too many young men and women are losing their lives for no reason.”

Dorchester resident Amina P. Muhammad walked in memory of her nephew, Rashad Lesley-Barnes, stabbed to death last Aug. 15.

“His birthday is next month, but he’ll never turn 25,” Muhammad said. “That’s the reason I’m here. For him and for all the mothers.”

Muhammad, 52, said the young man’s mother, her twin, was too overcome with emotion to attend.

“This is a difficult task for my sister,” she said. “This is the first Mother’s Day without him. . . . I can’t even imagine the depth of her pain.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.

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