The mothers held photos of the killed as they stood silently in a lobby near Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office Friday morning, hoping he would take notice of their plea: Prioritize Boston’s violence and unsolved murders, and commit to change.
Later in the day, in a City Hall meeting room, the mayor told the Women Survivors of Homicide Movement that the city will do just that by upgrading its technology, including replacing antiquated camera systems, assigning more civilian trauma advocates, and more. He said he will release a long-term plan in the coming weeks.
“It’s very emotional for people who lose loved ones to murder and they don’t find the perpetrator,” he said after the meeting. “We have to try and see what we can use technology-wise today in 2014 to try to close those cases.”
The group’s founder, Mary Franklin, held a framed photo of her husband, Melvin , killed 18 years ago in Dorchester when he tried to intervene in a robbery. His killing remains unsolved.
“We’re here today to say it’s unacceptable,” she said outside City Hall. “We have a voice. You must hear us. You must look at us.”
Franklin’s group, which unites women affected by homicide, often advocates for community resources. This time, they were spurred by a recent Boston Herald report that showed racial disparities in the number of unsolved killings, which total 336 in the past 10 years. Black men were killed at 10 times the rate of white men, and only 38 percent of the killings of black males were solved compared with 79 percent for white men, according to the report.
Three of Marcellena Carvalho’s brothers have been killed. She read a group statement to the mayor, Boston Police Superintendent William G. Gross, and other police officials.
“We stand here with humility and respect, asking you to look at us with different eyes,” she read, suggesting changes such as reevaluating Boston’s case clearance system.
Franklin thanked the mayor for his presence, but after the meeting said racism needs to be acknowledged in a more honest way.
“We need to stop pretending the elephant is not in the room,” she said. “He’s there, and his trunk is held up high.”
Walsh said that although homicides are approached case-by-case, “there clearly is disparity.”
“We just need to figure out a better way of dealing with that,” he said.
Shondell Davis, 48, of Dorchester, held a large photo of her son, Johnny. He was 18 when he was shot and killed in Roxbury.
“Our lives have really been corrupted and ruined by my son’s death,” she said outside City Hall. “The pain is unbearable. He was my baby boy.”
She remembers his smile and his dozens of trophies in sports ranging from karate, to basketball, to bowling. He lived for his teams, and he loved to goof around with his mother. Davis said life has never been the same without him.
“Our city is on fire right now,” she said. “There are people dying every single day. How can we prevent more?”Claire McNeill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @clairemcneill.