The corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Charlotte Street in Dorchester resonated with frustration and calls to action today in response to the fatal shooting of Dawnn Jaffier as she crossed the intersection on her way to the city’s annual J’ouvert celebration last weekend.
The rally’s organizers – predominantly youth volunteers – said Jaffier’s death marked a day of reckoning for a community too accustomed to violence.
The 26-year-old Brighton resident was a coach at the West End House Boys and Girls Club and worked for City Year. She was a constant role model and mentor to the area’s youth, many said.
“You look at her pedigree, you look at her acumen, she was a star,” said Robert Lewis Jr., a longtime community leader. In an impassioned speech, Lewis said he was still angry at the loss of “one of our great ones.”
The anger over the death of such a well-loved young woman was palpable the gathering.
Five times, the crowd of more than 100 walked slowly across Blue Hill Avenue in a determined effort to block traffic and draw the community’s attention to Jaffier’s death and their own responsibility to prevent future tragedies.
They called for drivers to honk their car horns and chanted “Dawnn is you, Dawnn is us,” and “You are my sister, you are my brother, we stand together and love one another.”
“If we want peace, we have to hold each other accountable because nobody else is going to do it,” said Bie Aweh, 25. “Peace isn’t going to happen from outside.”
Aweh, who had worked with Jaffier at the Boys and Girls club, said the two had been friends for 18 years. She flew to Boston from California after hearing about Jaffier’s death.
Like most of the crowd, she wore a white shirt emblazoned with a picture of Jaffier and the date of her death. Others wore orange shirts, dresses, and ribbons in a nod to Jaffier’s favorite color.
Lianne Hughes, 25, one of the rally’s organizers, said she wanted everyone to come away from the gathering with the sense that much work still needs to be done at all levels of society.
“I think this is a start, but there’s a lot that needs to be done from the boardroom to the block,” she said. “I want people to know that if they didn’t come today they missed the opportunity to stand for something bigger than themselves.”Todd Feathers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ToddFeathers.