Paw­tucket neigh­bor­hood hosts non­vi­o­lence-themed block party

Woonsocket Call - - VALLEY / NATION - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­

PAW­TUCKET – With every pic­ture she takes out of the box, Melissa DaRosa’s heart breaks just a lit­tle bit more.

In­side the box are more than 100 im­ages of smil­ing, laugh­ing faces, but what the peo­ple in those pic­tures share in com­mon is that their lives ended all too soon. Whether it was from a gun, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, or drunk driv­ing, these 100-plus peo­ple will never know the fu­ture that lay ahead for them.

Yet on Fri­day af­ter­noon, de­spite the heart­break from look­ing at those pho­to­graphs, DaRosa worked into the evening to hang the pic­tures with a ma­son jar which was par­tially filled with glit­ter and a sin­gle can­dle. The memo­ri­als adorned a chain- link fence in­side Payne Park in the city’s Wood­lawn neigh­bor­hood, as part of to­day’s non­vi­o­lence com­mu­nity block party.

“I’m cry­ing for 72 hours, since I’ve been tak­ing the pic­tures out of the box,” DaRosa says be­fore paus­ing. “I wish I’d never have to look at those pic­tures again.”

“For you to have a healthy com­mu­nity,” she ex­plained of the pur­pose of to­day’s block party and the memo­rial fence in­side the park. “We have to en­ter­tain each other, ed­u­cate each other, sus­tain each other, and grieve to­gether. This en­com­passes what a beloved com­mu­nity is sup­posed to look like.”

DaRosa, the founder of the com­mu­nity group Knowl­edge is Power, says that the block party started 10 years ago as a non­vi­o­lence can­dle­light vigil in sup­port of the lives lost to street vi­o­lence. But over the years, more peo­ple have ap­proached her and asked if their loved ones could be memo­ri­al­ized, even if they weren’t vic­tims of street vi­o­lence.

“Now it’s a com­mu­nity can­dlelit vigil,” she said. “We rep­re­sent all of the peo­ple we’ve lost.”

What’s most im­por­tant, DaRosa ex­plains, is that the im­pact of the memo­rial wall could reach the com­mu­nity’s youngest and most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents. Her hope is that “some ele­men­tary kids are able to get some­thing out of it.”

“Those are the mo­ments when I re­al­ize how im­por­tant the vigil and event is in the com­mu­nity,” she said. “It em­pow­ers fam­i­lies. Some don’t know what to do when they’re af­fected … This keeps those mem­o­ries alive.”

Prior to to­day’s block party, a pa­rade for unity, love, art, cul­ture, and peace will step off at 1 p.m. from 10 Rocks at 1091 Main St. and pro­ceed to Payne Park, where the fes­tiv­i­ties will com­mence un­til 8 p.m. Among the sched­uled fun and games in­cludes bas­ket­ball, live en­ter­tain­ment, mu­sic, in­flat­able bounce houses, and food.

The memo­rial wall will be cel­e­brated around 7 tonight with a mo­ment of si­lence, roses, po­etry, and a cer­emo- nial re­leas­ing of bal­loons into the twi­light sky.

Kathy DaSilva, the pres­i­dent of Knowl­edge is Power, said the goal is to bring aware­ness to the is­sue of street vi­o­lence in Paw­tucket.

“A lot of the fam­i­lies will grieve and we grieve as a com­mu­nity. Peo­ple from the east and west, both sides, have a re­ally good day by heal­ing and re­mem­ber­ing and bring­ing peace to the com­mu­nity,” DaSilva said.

DaSilva, who now re­sides in Cranston, said that even though she may not phys­i­cally live within the con­fines of the city, her heart will forever be in Paw­tucket. When asked where in the city she grew up, DaSilva said it’s not about where you were raised, but in­stead it’s about “one Paw­tucket, Paw­tucket strong.”

File photo/Ernest A. Brown

Or­ga­niz­ers pre­pare the memo­rial fence at last year’s non­vi­o­lence com­mu­nity block party at Payne Park. This year’s event takes place to­day.

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