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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh calls the honorees’ service examples of “selflessly working to better their neighborhoods”
BOSTON — Roxbury resident Charmise Galloway, an advocate for local youth and restorative justice, has been named one of four recipients of Mothers for Justice and Equality’s “Courage and Conviction Award,” an honor given to those whose extraordinary community work has come after standing firm in the presence of pain or tragedy to become positive change agents within their Boston and Greater Boston neighborhoods, organizers said.
Galloway said that in 2004, she lost her 14-year-old son, a handsome, rising star in many Boston basketball leagues who loved singing, dancing, family and friends, to gun violence on Boston streets over his favorite basketball hat. After what Galloway described as nine years of deep mourning, she actively dedicates her life today to speaking to local youth and helping them envision positive paths in her son’s honor.
“I feel his wings all over me,” said Galloway, who also works to seek restorative justice solutions after violence takes place. “There has to be different solution instead of just locking the door and not giving them different resources so they can do better.”
The wings described by Galloway have propelled her to serve local neighborhoods in an extraordinarily active way. Her service includes mentoring youth at Boston Arts Academy and Margarita Muniz Academy; receiving trauma and awareness training from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute; speaking about restorative justice to people in Walpole Prison; and advocating for youth at Dorchester Court. In addition, Galloway is featured in “Circle Up,” an award-winning documentary film, with other mothers who are working with young people to end gun violence after losing their sons. Galloway, who has been involved with the Stop Handgun Violence movement and gun law reform efforts, has participated in the MLK March, Million Woman’s March, Mother’s Day Peace Walk and Mothers for Justice and Equality’s 2017 Conference, to name a few events.
“Charmise is an extraordinary example of the untold story of the powerful work that comes from mothers after losing someone so precious,” said Monalisa Smith, Founder and President of Mother’s for Justice and Equality. “MJE is honored to name Charmise a recipient of the 2018 Courage and Conviction Award for her commitment to preventing gun violence and seeking restorative justice when it has occurred.”
As part of this recognition, Galloway joined three other Courage and Conviction awardees, two Community Excellence awardees and approximately 200 guests aboard the Spirit of Boston on June 9, 2018 for dining, dancing and celebration. The event is a catalyst for the annual Mother’s Against Violence National Leadership Conference that is held every fall in Boston.
“This year's award winners represent the impact one individual can have in creating a profound and positive change within their communities,” said City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “The Courage and Conviction Award and Community Excellence Award recipients have gone above and beyond, selflessly working to better their neighborhoods. I applaud them for their efforts, and thank Mothers for Justice and Equality for recognizing these individuals for their important contributions to our city.”
Galloway said that when she began working with youth at a school in Jamaica Plain three years ago, there were only about eight students who came to the sessions because of the cupcakes, juice boxes and other snacks that she brought, until a shift happened. Galloway said that when she brought in a box that had been put together by Boston Medical Center staff containing treasured items including her son’s hand prints, hairbrush and some hair clippings, the students paid attention.
“They began to say, ‘How strong are you, and we’re out here in the streets doing silly stuff and we could either end up like your son or in jail,’” she said.
The group began to grow, and over the course of the past few years, Galloway said she has been proud to see so many of the students graduate from high school and stay on positive paths. Galloway said her strategy involves some very specific advice; words she has also given at other schools, in Walpole Prison and at Dorchester Court, where she once asked a judge to have the teenager who was appearing there for robbery accusations wear an ankle bracelet that imposed a curfew instead of being placed in the Department of Youth Services system since he had a job and needed to focus on positive paths off of the streets, she said. Galloway said that she succeeded in her advocacy.
“The first thing that hurt me when youth started speaking to me was that the thing they were thinking about the most is that they’re either going to die or go to jail,” Galloway said. “I tell them that they shouldn’t be thinking like that at 15 to 17 years old. You should really just be thinking about graduating high school, going to college, traveling outside of the country, meeting people, enjoying yourself or staying in the college dorm. I’d rather your mother or girlfriend bring lunch or dinner to your job or your school instead of doing what we do, which is carrying pictures around or visiting our sons at the grave — or like too many others — going to visit their sons in prison. And as much as you love the streets, the streets literally don’t love you back, they really don’t. Why live that life when you can live something else?”
In addition to finding strength from her son’s memory, Galloway said she has found strength from family including two daughters and women who have become her family — ladies who she calls “legacy sisters.” This group includes about 100 local women who have experienced similar loss and support each other with emails, texts, phone calls and gathering regularly. While they often say that they would’ve rather have met over different circumstances, Galloway said that they support each other on both the toughest days and the brightest days — the ones when they know they are making a difference.
“I know there is a saying, “Reach one, teach one, save one,’ but I’ve changed that saying to ‘Reach one, teach one, save them all,” said Galloway. “There are so many out there who want change, they just need that right person to be able to feel comfortable to open up.”
For more information on Mothers for Justice and Equality, visit mothersforjusticeandequality.org.
About Mothers for Justice and Equality: Mothers for Justice and Equality was founded in Boston in 2010 by Smith and other mothers who had lost family members to community violence. Today, more than 500 members come to MJE’s “kitchen table,” an office space in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where neighborhood mothers receive tools to become community leaders. In the last several years, the organization has provided a variety of innovative initiatives to work toward ending community violence, including:
• Events and discussions that have featured political leaders ranging from former Governor Deval Patrick to most recently, a 3rd annual mothers against violence national conference that featured City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh;
• “You Matter: Personal Leadership Training,” a youth peer leadership program and a workforce readiness initiative;
• Financial literacy curriculum to inmates at the Suffolk County House of Corrections to address the needs of young adult inmates coming back into the community;
• Training to new Boston Police Cadets and Boston EMTs to prepare them when facing individuals dealing with trauma;
• Voter engagement drives;
• Parent/Police Partnership advisory group;
• Being recognized as a Department of Transitional Assistance work service site;
• Becoming an approved provider of services for the Boston Public Schools;
• Receiving a $30,000 grant from The Boston Foundation’s StreetSafe Program, allowing the organization to make changes including the passage of an ordinance to restrict selling knives to minors; and
• Running dozens of billboards across Boston in an awareness campaign that depicted young victims of homicide with the group’s motto: “It’s not OK.”
Note: These interviews and press releases were created in partnership with Mothers for Justice and Equality in the spirit of The Good News Experiment, an initiative that highlights individuals’ extraordinary community work.