After Everybody Else is Gone

February 22,2010
Talia's Blog
Talia Rivera( )

Talia Rivera is a 33-year-old mother of two. As Executive Director of Villages without Walls, she works with high-risk gang members in Boston. [Read more]

My phone rang. "There's been a shooting on Lenox Street. Four shot. One's dead." I put on my hat and gloves and quickly walked to Lenox Street Project. It was a very cold Friday night in December, 2005. A score of Boston Police officers questioned residents and searched for spent bullets. The media was in full force. The bright lights for the TV cameras beamed on a group of black ministers being interviewed. In the large crowd I found other street workers. We knew this meant late nights and early mornings for us. After the police, media, and ministers left, we street workers walked throughout the projects, pausing only to sit in a car to unthaw. And then we were back at it. Young people gathered on the doorsteps of the murder victim's apartment building. They cried. They smoked marijuana and drank liquor. They were medicating. They began making a memorial, thoughtfully placing candles, empty beer cans, and other items that spoke of their lost friend We gave them space to grieve. When the last of the youth dispersed, we went home. But we'd be back. After a homicide, street workers stay behind for days -- depending on the gang, maybe months -- reaching out to the youth, working to prevent retaliation. Saving lives is a street worker's job.