Thursday, April 18, 2024

I want to celebrate the success of the city’s Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team program passing through the City Council. This was an example of the incredible success that can come from community support when we follow the leadership of community members most affected by an issue and support their proposed solution. The Heart program is sitting with the city manager, awaiting final-stage approval and implementation.

As a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Boston, I have had the chance to be a collaborator and supporter of the Heart program and the incredible leadership of The Black Response Cambridge. It has been powerful to see how our community can come together to work toward a safer Cambridge for all, choosing alternatives to our current policing and carceral system.

Thanks to Cambridge Day for reporting on Heart passing and including the nuances of the council’s vote and the process with the current city manager (“Alternative policing proposal for ‘Heart’ unit passes City Council with hopes for fast action,” June 8). This reporting missed the opportunity to name how this program could support us all over us! It decided to focus on the fear of increased violence with this program rather than the immense opportunity to invest in communities, provide differentiated services and allow for people within communities to be trained to care for each other.

I am a passionate advocate for mental health care, community support and relationship building, and I have benefited from these services in my life. I am excited to see Heart bring these services and more to our community. These services will help people in need during a crisis, and on a larger scale, they will build community education, relationships and investment. For example, Heart will offer conflict resolution through Transformative Justice Practices, as well as aftercare support and nonviolent public responses should incidences arise. Heart will also offer community-based skill training, a resource database of other service providers; and mutual aid services to provide access to food, material goods, community and more.

I am eager to see the Cambridge we can build together – a Cambridge that is better and stronger for all of us, that centers our most affected community members and that listens deeply to their voices. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore, director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics and a prison abolitionist and prison scholar says, “abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” The Heart program is the affirmation of life and community that we are building together.

Please take the time to talk to your loved ones about Heart and a future without policing and surveillance that would allow us to build and sustain community. I’m very supportive and excited to have the Heart program in my community, and hope you are too.

Ellie Carver, Reed Street