Ayanna Pressley, before heading to Congress, listens one more time
They were victims of violence and, in some cases, perpetrators of crime themselves.
They had suffered trauma, as had their families and friends.
They shared stories of lost loved ones and spoke out for better education and expanded mental health resources.
At a City Council committee meeting Monday night, more than a dozen residents from across Boston took the rare opportunity to air their grievances about life in their neighborhood and ways to make it better.
The event was billed as a listening-only “Community Voices” hearing before the City Council’s Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities, and for more than two hours city councilors heard a range of stories, from people young and old.
They spoke of being pushed out by gentrification.
Of distrusting police officers.
Of being victims of crime and causing crimes themselves because they had no guidance or resources.
Christian White said he spent 10 years in prison while his son grew up. White cares for him now, after seeking mental health treatment he said is lacking in Boston’s underserved communities.
“I felt devalued long before I ended up in gang life, long before that,” he said.
Mirlande Joseph of Mattapan brought many in the crowd to tears as she recounted the 2006 murder of her twin brother, Gardy Joseph.
Florence Kallon, 17, of Mattapan, urged councilors to push for better education for city youth, saying too many youngsters have given up hope.
“I’ve been invited to more funerals than I have to . . . high school graduations,” she said. “So many young black kids have given up on education because they don’t believe they’ll make it past 18, so college doesn’t matter.”
Lavell Fulks, a lifelong city resident who works for the city’s neighborhood trauma teams, said city officials need to do more to help black and Hispanic young men and disadvantaged communities.
“It’s about how we teach people to see each other, it’s about how we teach people to believe in each other,” he said. “Trauma has created this wound where they can just continue to live off of hate, off of despair, live off hopelessness.”
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who chaired the meeting, said the idea of a listening-only meeting was modeled after one she hosted 10 years ago when she was first elected to the council. It was the last meeting Pressley will host before she leaves to become the US Representative from the Seventh Congressional District, a seat she won with a grass-roots movement of community support in the fall.
Pressley said she will take lessons from the hearing with her to Washington D.C., just as she acted on community concerns after the first hearing a decade ago.
Legislation was passed to ban the sale of knives from convenience stores, for example, and a bereavement center was set up at Boston Medical Center.
Pressley said Monday’s hearing brought her work “full circle.”
“It was important for me to finish my time here as it began,” Pressley said. “You taught me then, the best solutions come from those impacted . . . people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, driving and enforcing policy making.”
Earlier Monday, Pressley said she would support Nancy Pelosi for House speaker based on her history of advocacy for gun violence legislation, saying reforms are needed.
“Our mandate is clear: to push legislation that saves as many lives as possible as quickly as possible,” said Pressley, who has been appointed to the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.