Gun violence in Worcester is the city’s dominant and immediate problem.
Less than four weeks ago, the city held the last of seven dialogues on race. It’s easy to say that in this moment the promise of progress has been overtaken by events. It is also correct.
At the same time we tackle the immediate problem, the city needs to come together and fight the instinct to let those discussions become lost to time.
The root causes of this violent summer were not sown this year nor can they be solved immediately. And while we confront the problems of violence and race we need to perpetuate the understanding that while they are not mutually exclusive neither are they indistinguishable.
Progress is a process, sometimes painful and drawn out, especially when the topic is race. However, the only way to reduce the chances that this happens again is to continue talking now.
This year we have the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, the Worcester Clergy Police Partnership and Summer Impact. Yet the violence continues.
The last of seven discussions on race took place on July 13. Yet the violence continues.
Ike McBride posted a video on Facebook on July 15 calling for an end to the violence. It’s been viewed more than 110,000 times. Yet the violence continues.
There was a Save Our Streets rally at City Hall on July 26. Yet the violence continues.
We face an uncomfortable truth at this moment. Barring a break in the case thanks to the continued diligence and professionalism of the Worcester Police Department, or someone coming forward with information, the prospect exists that this violent episode will end when the criminals decide it will.
This causes a concerned community to feel helpless or anxious. And it should.
A number of people, civic leaders and concerned residents, withheld judgement on the results of the dialogues on race, the feeling being that what’s next is as important as or more important than what’s happened.
Having witnessed all seven dialogues firsthand, we feel it’s important to acknowledge that progress was made. Indeed, despite isolated incidents, the discussions did affect positively the tenor and volume of the conversation online.
The lesson is that far from being powerless, concerned citizens can make a difference.
City Manager Edward Augustus advocates for an all-of-the-above approach to violence and drug addiction. This is reasonable.
As we learned over seven weeks, government, public safety, education, media and economic development all are factors in the overall discussion of race. Recently, when it was revealed that roughly only a quarter of all gunshots picked up by ShotSpotter were followed by a call to police, we’ve become starkly aware that trust is another critical factor.
Just as the City Manager wants an all-of-the-above solution to violence and addiction, we need an all-of-the-above approach to an all-of-the-above issue of race. And if the one thing well-meaning citizens can do is continue to gather and talk, we need to do that.
As Melissa Watson told Samantha Allen of the Telegram & Gazette: “The streets are on fire. We have to do something, for our grandchildren. When we’re gone, what will they have left? What will be left?”
As long and as difficult as the the road ahead is, the Worcester community needs to marshal the strength to push forward. If we don’t, we risk hope being overtaken by events.