Film and panel examine real-life issue of Boston’s violence

Film and panel examine real-life issue of Boston’s violence

By Drew Bonifant

On Sunday, “The Departed” won the Best Picture Oscar for its fictional depiction of mob violence in Boston. Three days earlier, Legacy 2000 showed a movie about the violence that actually happens in the city’s neighborhoods.

“Street Soldiers” is a film that tells the stories of gang violence in Dorchester and Roxbury and the children and teenagers who get caught in it. The movie was shown as part of a movement supporting an end to street violence and encouraging a better life for kids growing up in dangerous communities.

The film took a no-nonsense approach to demonstrating violence on the streets of Boston. It contained interviews with parents whose children were killed, people of all ages who were involved in gangs and drugs, accounts of gang activity in Boston and even a simulation of a drive-by shooting.

The result was the illustration of a neighborhood in which trouble is everywhere and no resident is safe.

“I’m just trying to stay alive,” said Jerry Cesar, a resident of Boston who was in the movie and is a contributor to the anti-violence movement. “I’m surprised that I’m still alive, that I made it past 30.”

According to Jonathan Santos Silva, the coordinator for Legacy 2000, a program designed to enhance student retention, Northeastern’s surroundings made it an appropriate place to show the movie.

“I think the reason we did this is because Northeastern is urban, and we interact with the community at a high level,” he said.

The movement began when Mario Rodrigues, a Dorchester resident, gathered some members of the neighborhoods in the film and began working with Peace Boston and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to put an end to the shootings and drug deals in the communities.

“The change started with a friend who was serious about uniting the neighborhoods together,” he said. “We all sat around a table and laid down the plans. We had meetings and set an agenda. That’s why we decided that no convict was coming back out to cause chaos.”

Cindy Diggs, founder of Peace Boston, spoke with admiration about the work Rodrigues had done with a friend.

“I’m really proud of these dudes over here,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”

While the movement began strong, Santos Silva said its continued success depends on the involvement of more people and organizations like schools and medical groups.

“It would be powerful to see a coalition of schools. If universities say they want to help, that’s where the movement will take off and we will make the statement,” he said. “We have the mind power and human capital. We can get something going if people show that they care.”

Gordana Rabrenovic, an associate professor of sociology and education, shared Silva’s view.

“We have to grow, and we have to look at what is happening in the neighborhoods,” she said. “What makes you safe? What makes you safe is if your community is safe.”

While the future still depends on continued contributions and support, Rodrigues said the past and present have been too successful for failure to be an option.

“We’re connected with too many people. If the movement were to lose momentum, it would have happened two years ago,” he said. “It just needed a start, and now that we’ve gotten it, we won’t stop until we get what we want.”

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