Bringing Just Culture to the Streets

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Making judgments without an understanding of the root cause(s) of the situation quenches both growth and learning culture. It is absolutely necessary for us to remain impartial in our judgments until we can adequately discern the root cause(s) of the event.

Recently, a pastor who played a major role in the Boston Miracle, Jeffrey Brown, presented a Ted talk testifying to the power of this.

In the late 1980s, violence on the streets of Boston was increasing at alarming rates, and by 1990 Boston’s homicide rate reached a peak of 152. But by 1999, that number dropped down to 31 thanks to the key leaders within the Boston community. The Boston Miracle, simply stated, was this unprecedented 79 percent drop in the city’s homicides over the span of 10 years from 1990–1999.

In his Ted Talk, Brown shared that after a multitude of tragic events, he realized that it was not enough for him to build programs for the at-risk youth. He began to search for the youth actively involved in violence. He soon found himself walking the streets of Boston during the hours of the night, and by 1992 he and other area pastors had formed the Ten Point Coalition to combat youth violence in the streets of Boston.

Over time, these pastors began developing relationships on the streets of Boston during the night hours. They discovered that the individuals, who many dismissed as cold and heartless, were the exact opposite of their labels, and were simply trying to “make it on the streets.”  By not rushing to judgment, the pastors were able to engage with the youth and partnered with them to change the culture on the streets.

But this journey took time. It was only when these youths viewed the Ten Point Coalition and the law-enforcement as legitimate, fair and just that the culture on the streets began to change. This meant the Ten Point Coalition and law enforcement had to consistently take the time to discern what justice meant for each person involved, determining who needed to be helped, who needed to be coached and who needed to be punished. In turn, the Boston area pastors were able to help the Boston police focus on the truly reckless and intentionally harmful behaviors.

This began the transformation of the street culture, and cultivated a cultural atmosphere ripe for justice. With cooperation at all levels, the Boston Miracle occurred, becoming a powerful testimony to the fruit of not rushing into judgment over a situation. Even now, others are inspired by the result of Boston’s street transformation in the 1990’s. In fact, a group of Baltimore pastors have decided to devote the summer of 2015 to walking the streets of Baltimore at night in hopes of the cultural transformation of the streets of Baltimore.

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