|Reverend Eugene Rivers
Pastor, Azusa Christian Community
Co-Founder, Boston TenPoint Coalition
Co-Chair, National TenPoint Leadership Foundation
There was a recognition that there needed to be a higher level of collaboration among the activist black clergy, the police at the street level, and the probation officers who were processing these young people every day in the courts. And so there was a major attitudinal shift with regard to the violence across the black community that this could not be tolerated. That there had to be a zero tolerance posture, vis-à-vis such senseless violence. That was a major Copernican revolution within the black community. And that's central. This would have never happened had the black community not been forced through the faith community to adopt a no-nonsense, law and order posture, vis-à-vis violence. You would have simply had a political spectacle with the race card being played, as it is frequently played in most other major cities. But what was central was that the black community said, through its religious leadership, "Enough is enough. Zero tolerance on black on black crime."
The criminality and the violence of largely black youth had to be challenged from WITHIN the black community and there needed to be an equally vigorous fight waged politically against the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by a largely Irish police department. Two issues. Two challenges. Those were the issues around which there was significant debate and political struggle.
We had no idea that politically enlightened police leadership would evolve that would support community policing, that would be willing to de-racialize law enforcement, that would be willing to partner with a formerly antagonistic black community.
This is something that has been evolving since 1988. This has been eleven years in the making. So this didn't happen overnight. The problem didn't begin yesterday, and it won't be completely corrected tomorrow. Lot of work. Lots of people whose names aren't known, who did the behind-the-scenes, back-room, under-the-table work, who are on those street corners.
So we have been greatly educated by the law enforcement community, and most of the thoughtful members of the police department would agree that the faith community has played a constructive role in encouraging them to look at the importance of employment, jobs, and recreational and cultural enrichment. So it has been a mutually beneficial partnership that's evolved. It's not a neat love story, although there -- but it's a real story. And Boston is a greater city as a result.
If there is a major crisis in the city, there will be phone calls made all across the city, and conversations and communication so that in a fairly short period of time, folks have shifted from crisis description to prescriptions to correct the crisis.
In the city of Boston in 1999, just about any child that falls through the cracks and becomes a problem can be identified by a faith community member, a law enforcement person, probation, or social services. The level of collaboration and discussion is such that the kids from the poorest and neediest neighborhoods are now being reached out to in extraordinary ways.
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