Teen leaders host Roxbury RISE Rally to condemn gun violence


Lynn Edwards

Organizers for the R.I.S.E. Rally against community gun violence gathered with Boston residents in Roxbury Saturday.

Nicholas Stolte, news correspondent

Dozens of people from Roxbury and other neighborhoods came together Saturday at the R.I.S.E. Rally to speak out against gun violence in their communities and connect with local youth organizations.

The R.I.S.E, or Realize, Interpret, Stop and Empower, Rally was organized by the Violence Intervention & Prevention Youth Organizing Institute. It featured student speakers, musical performers and seven organizations that work with youth in underserved communities to discuss gun violence.

“It’s time for us to stop turning the other cheek and ignoring what’s going on in our communities everywhere,” speaker and R.I.S.E planning committee member Catanzia Casey-Cooper said to a crowd of residents from Roxbury and surrounding communities such as Dorchester, Chelsea and Hyde Park.

The student organizers who hosted the rally said they hoped to spread awareness about the issue of gun violence in their community and to empower youth to effect change in their own surrounding communities.

“I really just wanted people to realize what’s going on in their neighborhoods and feel like they have the power to change it,” said Neil Cheltenham, a member of the planning committee for the R.I.S.E Rally.

Several organizers of the rally spoke about their experiences with gun violence, including R.I.S.E. resource coordinator David Decoteau.

“Me personally, I’ve been affected by violence,” Decoteau said. 

Decoteau said the rally gives him a reason to “make sure that, not just me, but other kids can come together and sort of create the change that they want.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh also spoke at the rally, thanking the student leaders and community organizations for their work against gun violence.

“It’s time to break the cycle of gun violence,” Walsh said. Speaking to the R.I.S.E student leaders, he said, “The city of Boston supports you.”

Local residents and community members spoke about their concerns regarding violence in Roxbury. Jasmine Olivier, a graduate student at Harvard studying police-community relations in Boston, recalled an incident that resonated with her.

“[In] one incident last summer… there was a child in the neighborhood [of Roxbury] who passed away from gun violence, and I believe it was a stray bullet,” Olivier said. “That was kind of a wakeup call of the reality of gun violence in Boston.”

Residents from outside Roxbury, including Chelsea and Hyde Park, attended the rally as well.

“I have family in Roxbury and Dorchester, and they’re definitely affected by gun violence,” said Taddley Siffrap, a 16-year-old student at Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers.

Boston Police Department Youth Coordinator Tammi Espinola voiced her hope to communicate more with the youth about the issue of gun violence in their communities.

“We’re all about breaking that barrier of them feeling like they can’t approach us because of the past, because of a current situation,” Espinola said. “We’re looking past that opposition, and, in breaking that barrier, letting them know that the police… are here for you too.”