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This everyday fact became a shattering reality for people in Belmont and
Dorchester the day that Herman Taylor III (HT3) was murdered in July 2006. Herman was
the thirty-seventh murder victim in Boston in 2006. The year closed with
seventy-three homicides in Boston, most of them young African American men,
while the last murder in Belmont was in the 1960s. However, unlike many of the
other young murder victims in Boston, Taylor was attending high school in
Belmont as part of the School Choice program.
He was an accomplished and popular student and athlete and several members of
the First Church Youth Group were his friends. His murder last July put a face
on Boston's homicide epidemic for a community that hadn't had a murder in more
than forty years.
Herm Taylor was not a faceless unknown victim in the inner city; he was a
member of the community. His death led his friends at First Church and their
minister Rev. Edmund Robinson to challenge the urban/suburban divide.
Robinson led a call to action:
"When children are being murdered in the inner city, when children are living
in fear, when children are not safe—the community must act. We cannot stand
aside safely in the suburbs when children are at risk. We stand in solidarity
with the families in Dorchester, in Roxbury, in Mattapan. 'Their' children are
'our' children and it is up to all of us to work for all of our
children's safety and well being."
Taylor's death moved the Belmont and Dorchester communities to work together.
His family, particularly his two sisters, reached out to community and religious
leaders. Belmont organizations, such as Belmont Against Racism and First Church
Unitarian Universalist, joined with the Black Ministerial Alliance, Freedom
House, Dorchester People for Peace, Save the Youth Ministries, the Nation of
Islam, the Roxbury Multiservice Center, and several city councilors and state
representatives to form the HT3 Peace Network in Taylor's memory.
Through this collaborative effort, the network organized a Taking Back
Our Neighborhood Peace March and Rally in Grove Hall, the neighborhood in
Dorchester where Herman was killed. The organizers chose to make the march as
visible as possible—holding it during 5 p.m. rush hour on September 11—to
underscore their point that people's lives were being lost or destroyed by the
"We are sending a message about the critical need for peace and solidarity in
communities terrorized by violence on America's streets. We can no longer
tolerate living in a country where we stand idly by while people's lives—from
grieving families to frustrated officials—are being interrupted more each day as
the issues feeding this problem continue to escalate."
Belmont youth group member Erika Zarowin, who helped organize the march said,
"Herm's death was a tragic loss for our high school class, but I felt the need
to do something constructive. Helping show his neighborhood the power of
voice and importance of demonstrating for peace proved to be a rewarding and
The events brought out 500 people, including over fifty from Belmont. The
First Church youth group helped organize the Belmont contingent from their
congregation and their high school.
In addition, the partnership created the HT3 Peace
Fund, to provide
scholarships to inner city youth for schools and camps, and continued ongoing
anti-racism work that embraces a 'village model' of addressing the crises of
youth violence by connecting youth with resources for education, extracurricular
activities, part-time jobs, and anti-violence programs.
First Church has a history of confronting racism. In response to the violence
that erupted following the beating of Rodney King, the congregation helped
Against Racism, which raises funds
to provide anti-racism training for teachers and community leaders; holding
speakers' series on institutional racism; supporting affordable housing
initiatives; monitoring the Police Department for racial profiling; and
establishing a Human Rights Committee to hear complaints of discriminations.
This year's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast sponsored by Belmont
Against Racism was dedicated to celebrating Herman Taylor's life. His sister,
Marisa Coleman, spoke to the audience of more than 400 people about her journey
after her brother's death and thanked the audience and the town for their
"continued love and support."
As Black History Month approaches, seven months after Taylor's murder, First
Church UU continues its work by launching The Fences that Divide Us as
the month's theme. The congregation will sponsor a workshop on race and class,
and the church's youth group will be in San Antonio during the February school
break, volunteering with a Mennonite and Catholic group, called DOOR
(Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection). The group's work is
focused on providing aid and rights to immigrant communities.
The witness and work continues. First Church's Gulf Coast social initiative
is organizing a service trip from February 26 through March 3 to the Turkey
Creek community in North Gulfport, Mississippi. The week will also include a day
in New Orleans to allow participants to learn more about New Orleans recovery
efforts and provide volunteers and donations for ongoing work in the devastated
city. The congregation is raising funds to purchase Home Depot and Lowe's gift
cards to donate to the Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Warehouse in Biloxi and Turkey
Creek in North Gulfport.
"Universalists are often asked where they stand," Rev. L. B. Fisher said in
1921. "The only true answer to give to this question is that we do not stand at
all, we move." On January 29, Rev. Edmund Robinson took that notion one step
further, in a sermon titled "What Moves Us." In it, he examined the various
strands of theological belief underpinning the liberal commitment to social
justice. Unitarian Universalists are not agreed on theological matters, but they
can agree on the necessity to fight for social justice, he said. "In the end, it
comes down to making love real in the world."
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Tuesday, August 23, 2011.
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Members of First Church in Belmont carry their banner: 'Belmont Against Racism.'
A child from Roxbury Prep participated in the march.
Two young women carried a banner proclaiming the message of the march: 'Love.'
Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR)
Belmont Against Racism
Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Warehouse
HT3 Peace Network
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