BSA Assails Urban Violence

Students press Gov. Deval Patrick to strengthen the fight against crime

Unnamed photo
David K. Hausman

BSA members gather last night at the site of a shooting in Roxbury to urge Gov. Deval L. Patrick ’78 to reduce urban violence.

BOSTON—Bearing candles at the scene of a recent Roxbury shooting, the Harvard Black Students Association (BSA) called on Gov. Deval L. Patrick ’78 to take decisive action against urban violence in Boston.

The event, which BSA President Sarah Lockridge-Steckel ’09 described as a cross between a vigil and a press conference, brought 25 Harvard undergraduates to a basketball court in Washington Park, Roxbury last night.

Echoing an open letter she sent the governor last Friday, Lockridge-Steckel said Patrick has not done enough to fight crime in black communities.

“We want him to give an address detailing his strategy for measurably reducing black-on-black crime,” Lockridge-Steckel said.

The event came in response to two high-profile violent crimes.

Last Saturday, Myron Stovell, a Pop Warner football coach, was shot in the leg near the basketball court that students visited in Roxbury. A 15-year-old Roxbury boy was arrested and charged with the shooting, according to the Boston Globe.

On Oct. 4, Steven P. Odom, 13, was shot outside his home on his way back from basketball, according to the Globe and the Boston Herald. His mother, Kim Odom, demanded a response from Patrick, who met with her and spoke at her son’s funeral.

The governor’s office could not be reached for comment last night, but Kyle Sullivan, Patrick’s spokesman, told the Globe last Thursday that Patrick took the issue “very seriously,” and has devoted millions of dollars to crime prevention programs.

Lockridge-Steckel said that Patrick’s $15 million statewide anti-crime plan, which he unveiled last May, was not an adequate response to the problem. Referring to a billion-dollar, 10-year biotech spending plan that Patrick also introduced in May, she said a long-term plan is necessary to fight crime.

“He can provide a strategy that will last beyond the next two to three years,” she said, but declined to enter into policy detail, saying Patrick should begin by devoting more attention to the problem.

“There are things in existence that have inadequate funding,” she said. “He’s a smart man.”

Lockridge-Steckel said she was optimistic about the impact of the vigil and the open letter, adding that the governor has agreed to a Nov. 2 meeting with a group of high school and college students who recently wrote him a similar open letter.

BSA Political Action Chair Malcolm R. Rivers ’09, who said he grew up in Dorchester, defended the group’s decision to criticize Patrick and said that Harvard students should take this opportunity to show solidarity with people affected by the violence.

“We have a situation where the governor is not doing enough to keep the state safe,” he said.

Patrick, who himself grew up in poverty, is the first black governor of Massachusetts, and promised during his campaign to stand up for the interests of the poor.

Whitney M. Louis, 14, who stood nearby during the vigil, said she thought it had been useful. She showed her bag, decorated with three pins, each with the picture of a friend who had been killed.

“I’m showing my support,” she said.

—Staff writer David K. Hausman can be reached at dhausman@fas.harvard.edu.