My team at the Peace Institute has been working tirelessly to serve families impacted by murder this summer in Boston. We're grieving with you. And we're humbled that survivors have allowed us into their hearts as they start their healing journey.
Most of the people that work at the Peace Institute are survivors ourselves, and some of us have family members who are incarcerated. We know that that when violence happens, families on both sides are impacted and there are no winners. We, like you, are worried for our children and grandchildren.
We relate to your feelings of being re-triggered and re-traumatized. When we see an increase in violence happening around us, we're brought back to the moment we got the news about our loved one's murder. As survivors, it hurts us to see families go through what we went through. I feel angry when I see survivors shamed and blamed for the death of their loved ones while they struggle through the funeral and burial process.
At the Peace Institute, we remain committed to serving all families of murder victims with the dignity and compassion they deserve regardless of the circumstances. You do not have to go through this alone. We are here to support families so they can lay their loved ones to rest with respect.
It's painful to remind myself that before Louis was murdered, I was one of those moms who thought violence only happened to other mother's children. In the aftermath of Louis' murder, the media speculated about who Louis was and why he ended up dead. When the media found out that he was a good student and a role model, my family received the support we needed to lay Louis to rest. I wondered how my family might have been treated if my son was in a gang or "known to police."
I also wondered who could raise a child that could kill. As part of my healing journey, I built a relationship with the mother of the man convicted of killing Louis. It was a long process. Yet through that connection I felt her pain and I saw her shame. I extended my hands and my heart of forgiveness and she accepted. That relationship allowed me to understand how families on both sides go through grief, trauma, and loss after a homicide happens.
My son Louis taught me so much about how I wanted to live after he died. He believed that all young people had the potential to be peacemakers, regardless of which side of the streets they come from. I knew I couldn't stay stuck in the problem or even the same old "solutions" I had been conditioned to repeat: more police, more prisons. Instead, I made a conscious choice to focus on the assets on my community. In the past twenty-three years, I've worked with countless survivors who choose to use their grief in positive ways to honor the legacy of their loved ones.
When the feelings of fear and anger rise up in me, I think of the families on both sides who refuse to give up on the possibility of peace.
A question that has been weighing on me is: what does a peaceful Boston really look like? I think about my grandson in pre-school, and I wonder what we need to do differently so that his generation can live in peace when they reach high school. I hope we will continue to talk together about what it will take to create a culture of peace and address the root causes of violence. One root cause we cannot turn away from is the institutional racism that leads to profound inequity in our city.
In the meantime, I invite each of you to take peaceful action in the coming weeks:
1. Set an intention to practice the Seven Principles of Peace: Love, Unity, Faith, Hope, Courage, Justice, and Forgiveness. I encourage you to wear or display purple peace ribbons to represent your commitment.
2. Come visit us at our center of healing, teaching, and learning. Make an appointment to try on the healing practice of Peace Play. Sit in serenity, receive support, and cultivate peace from within at your own pace.
3. Bring your family to the second annual Peace B Que here at the Peace Institute on August 5 from 12-4pm. It will be a peaceful afternoon full of food, entertainment, and fun.
4. Share the events you're planning with us so we can help promote the positive things you're doing for our community. Thank you for all you do.
5. Join us in supporting H.742 "An Act to Amend Victim Compensation." When families are denied Victim Compensation, they're punished for their loved one's actions. We crafted a bill to amend victim compensation so that no families of murder victims can be denied reimbursement for modest funeral and burial costs because of the circumstances surrounding their loved one's death.
I hope I can count on you to be a strong advocate for families of murder victims in their time of greatest need.
In Peace and Prayer,
Chaplain Clementina Chery