Today, we want to feature the “Codman Square, Can We Talk?” program. This program was established as a replication of “Can We Talk?” which originated at Roxbury Presbyterian Church. UB’s Communications Administrator Percy Ballah had the chance to attend a session and interview some of the leaders involved – Read below to learn about how faith leaders in Codman Square are collaborating to provide a safe space to support their neighbors who have been impacted by trauma.
Imagine logging into a zoom room and immediately being greeted by a diverse group of smiling faces with smooth jazz music echoing through your speakers. Seconds into the virtual gathering, a friendly host greets the group with a warm welcome, “Hi everyone. Welcome; we will be starting this session in five minutes. We are glad you can join us tonight!” She encourages the audience to “enjoy the soul music and get your vibe right.” She is speaking to everyone, but the welcoming tone in her voice makes you feel like she is addressing you directly.
If it’s your first time, you may feel anxious because you will notice unfamiliar names and faces in the zoom room. Yet, the first impression you receive immediately makes you feel connected to this virtual family of strangers. Then, a few minutes later, the friendly host speaks again, “Welcome again – we are going to start in just a moment. We are so glad you are here.” Now pause; before you continue reading this blog, I want you to guess what this zoom session is about?
From the description I gave you, you may have imagined the zoom session to be friendly and welcoming to all people. This perception is an accurate description of the positive atmosphere that the community of “Codman Square, Can We Talk?” strives to create at their monthly gatherings. It is “a safe place to share your story and have your voice heard and welcomed. It is a community-based, clinically-supported program that increases awareness and understanding of trauma, offers mental health resources, and a safe environment for what can at times be painful conversations about violence, loss, and everything in between.”
Four years ago, the vision for the “Codman Square, Can We Talk?” sessions was born in response to the increase of violence in Dorchester. Local faith leaders in Codman Square came together to seek God for an intentional strategy to support their neighbors who were grieving and traumatized by tragic experiences. Paul Malkemes, Director of The Boston Project Ministries, Paulea Mooney McCoy, and Maridena Rojas, the Community Engagement Manager, mobilized teams to go door to door. According to Paulea, as they listened intently to their neighbors, “people expressed they needed someone to talk to, someone to tell their story to, and have a conversation with.” This critical feedback informed their decision to seek out a strategic method to support their neighbors.
In their search, they discovered the model of “Can We Talk?” used at the Social Impact Center at Roxbury Presbyterian Church (SIC) – a non-profit organization with the mission to create and implement educational and economic development programs to strengthen the Roxbury community. In response to the increase in violence in proximity to Roxbury Presbyterian Church, SIC worked with Partners HealthCare, Brigham Women’s Hospital, and community members to launch The Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing (CJP) in September 2014. It was named after a young church member who was tragically killed in a random shooting in 2010. Due to its proven track record of supporting families, CJP has been replicated in other parts of the country and in Roxbury, Dorchester, and South Boston local neighborhoods.
As Paulea and the Boston Project team became more familiar with CJP, they partnered with other faith leaders and nonprofits in Codman Square to be trained in facilitating “Can We Talk?” sessions. After two years of preparation, they were confident that 2020 was the best time to replicate this model in their community. The teams working together represented the Emmanuel Gospel Center, Neighborhood Church of Dorchester, Second Church in Dorchester, Life Church Dorchester, Roxbury Presbyterian Church’s Social Impact Center, and Boston Project Ministries. Like many initiatives, their plans were interrupted by a global pandemic – but they were not deterred because they were determined to support families and individuals impacted by trauma. This healing space became even more crucial amidst the trauma that was experienced during the pandemic, especially by communities of color. With the support of CJP, the Codman Square team made adjustments to start remote sessions until it was safe to meet in person. As of right now, they have hosted four “Can We Talk” sessions.
When I participated in one of their sessions, I was very encouraged. As people courageously stepped out of their comfort zones to share vulnerable stories and listen intently to each other, I felt hope rising within me. As a former Dorchester resident, I vividly remember the heartbroken looks on people’s faces and the outburst of tears at funerals when families lost loved ones to gun violence. I often wrestled with how to best support the families and individuals impacted by these traumatic experiences. At times, I felt helpless while serving the community as a Youth Worker at The Boston Project Ministries and a Youth Minister at Morning Star Baptist Church. It never occurred to me that creating a safe space for people to have vulnerable conversations could be a catalyst towards experiencing inner healing. I now understand that inner healing often happens by cultivating a support system to help people navigate through the pain of grief.
Through these interviews, I was blessed to witness the powerful team of local faith leaders, churches, and nonprofits intentionally create this safe space. I am confident that God will continue to use this program to have a substantial impact on many people. I look forward to hearing powerful testimonies of inner healing and wholeness emerging out of Codman Square.
Get involved! The Codman Square “Can We Talk” gatherings would love your help as they launch and expand their ministry. Here’s how you can get involved:
- Spread the word to neighbors in Codman Square / Dorchester who may have experienced forms of trauma and need a space to share “whatever is on their heart.” Gatherings currently take place on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 pm using this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82051403502. For more information, feel free to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-910-0456
- If you have artistic talents through music, poetry, or dance, you can inquire about possibly volunteering to use your gift at one of the sessions.
- They would be grateful for your financial support to host the in-person gatherings and provide meals for the community.
- Please pray for this initiative, as well as the other “Can We Talk” gatherings happening in Roxbury, the South End, and other sites that are being launched.