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Citizen complaint of the day: Time for a murder memorial to go

Memorial on Rowe Street in Roslindale

The memorial for Brandon John on Rowe Street today.

A concerned citizen has a request about the ad-hoc memorial on Rowe Street:

The memorial where that kid got shot in early January is still here, can that be removed? My family doesn't like the constant reminder that a kid got murdered on our block.

Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

Surely if we just forget about all the murders that happen, they'll all just stop and go away!

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I doubt very much that anyone in that neighborhood is forgetting about the murder. But these street memorials are problematic - who is responsible for them? Who cleans up dead flowers, or mementos that have piled up? A cyclist was hit by a car and killed near where I used to catch my bus to work every morning. Her friends brought enormous floral arrangements from her funeral and left them at the bus stop, where they quickly deteriorated into masses of dead and rotting greenery that made it hard to find a spot to wait for the bus. How is a pile of weather-beaten rubbish a fitting memorial for a loved one who is gone?

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It could be a cross nailed to a telephone pole, or it could be an altar made of waterlogged cardboard boxes -- this doesn't really say or even have a picture attached to the report.

I do think those responsible for setting up the memorial should take care of it, out of consideration for both the young man and the neighborhood, but if you have a problem with it, why not tidy it up. Do you not want to be the "bad guy" to go and remove the rotting flowers? You're not trashing the memorial, you're respecting it. But to tell the city to just got a remove it will probably end up with either a) nothing done or b) the entire memorial removed, including reasonable tributes.

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If it's anything like I've experienced, it's a pile of waterlogged and faded ribbons, candles, stuffed animals, and whatever else piled on the ground.

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A cyclist was hit by a car and killed near where I used to catch my bus to work every morning. Her friends brought enormous floral arrangements from her funeral and left them at the bus stop, where they quickly deteriorated into masses of dead and rotting greenery that made it hard to find a spot to wait for the bus.

OMG, life must have been so difficult for you, dealing with the aftermath of someone else dying and their friends/family leaving a memorial for them!

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"Step around some leaves?" The whole street corner was ankle deep. There was no place to stand to wait for the bus. Oh, and they also took a couple hundred styrofoam cups and poked them into a chain-link fence to spell out her name. When the cups fell out, they added to the rubbish drifting around the corner. And to those who said that I should have cleaned it up myself, at the time there were no public trash barrels anywhere near the intersection.

Believe me, I felt sorry for the victim and for her friends in the neighborhood. But the people who started a free bicycle helmet program in her memory did a whole lot more to provide a fitting memorial than those who left a pile of trash on the street corner and never came back.

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I've made it very clear to my nearest and dearest that if I get wiped out by an eighteen-wheeler (or Markk on a joyride) while riding my bike, I do NOT want to be memorialized by some generic bike painted creepily white. No, no, no.

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The ghost bike at Mass/Vassar was there for 12-18 months? half the time blocking the sidewalks forcing pedestrians into the street. nice.

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Ummm did u see the Boston Marathon Memorial after the rains? Blocked off streets, yah that was an inconvient hot-mess. All those shoes, clothes and piece of paper that no wanted. Bummer.
People just kept adding more stuff to that ".....pile of
(...grief -stricken)..."rubbish."
You should head the committee for memorial "RUBBISH removal. Somebody has to do it and it seems that you, my-dear, have the right aptitude for it. Just a thought.

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Do you think the huge pile of sneakers etc should still be sitting in the middle of Copley Square? There are many wonderful ways to memorialize someone--a permanent pile of loose objects, candles and sodden stuffed animals isn't one of them.

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Glad to know that your personal idea of community awareness trumps the interests of people who actually live there. It's their block. It sounds like they won't be forgetting the murder any time soon, though I'm sure they'd appreciate your desire that they be forced to remember it on a daily basis.

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is precisely the attitude the concerned citizen probably wants to combat, given that if you read the linked article about the shooting, there's a solid chance it was a consequence of gang or drug-dealing activity. (I'm implicating the perpetrators, not the victim.)

I would not be comfortable living on a block where a gang or drug ring was allowed to maintain a floral "head on a pike" to mark their territory by commemorating a past violent exploit.

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Rowe Street isn't "gangland." Its a diverse area. There is no gang whose territory is being marked by this thing. I may think that the time has passed for a memorial, but this would appear to be one of those "we feel bad as our friend/relative died tragically" memorials. The citizen just doesn't want to have his block be noted by a murder, which is understandable.

If you are claiming that this stretch of Rowe Street is "a block where a gang or drug ring was allowed to maintain a floral 'head on a pike' to mark their territory by commemorating a past violent exploit," what would you think of an area where these are actual problems?

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not sure why this would bother anyone. why dont u just worry about bigger things in life? like being a more reasonable person

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Does it matter if it gets removed or not ...it's the fact that a you man got killed there and anyone on that street will always remember someone was killled... that memorial is to keep him alive to friends and family !!! Stop being selfish ....

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Couldn't they keep his memory alive at home? I've never understood the need to memorialize the tragic death of someone with an ad-hoc memorial at the place where they died.

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That is what a cemetery is for...

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Exactly.

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Your concerns about the memorial certainly trump the victim's family's right to memorialize their child. You got it!

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that "kid" had a name. brandon john. instead of worrying about memorials why not worry about why those memorials exist.

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This is a tough one. I completely understand the families of victims who want to memorialize their loved ones, and create awareness of dangerous intersections. There was such a memorial a couple of blocks from my house for almost a year after a tragic motorcycle accident in 2012. But, as Allstonian says, the tokens that are left there are subject to weather and traffic and general entropy, so the memorial are often eyesores unless they're carefully maintained. What's worse, the memorials are often (by definition) in spots that are dangerous to pedestrians, so the upkeep of the memorials themselves is dangerous. I think there was a story a couple of years ago about a serious injury to someone who was putting flowers on a memorial in the southern part of the city.

In any event, it's only been two months since this young man was killed, so this is a little premature, but maybe the legislature could put a statute of limitations on memorials like this? Six or twelve months seems like an appropriate amount of time, and after that, interest in maintaining the memorial has usually quieted down enough that it's better for everyone involved if it's removed completely.

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With one caveat. Did Brandon John live on Rowe Street? If so, he was a neighbor, as are his family. The citizen might want to talk to the family about this, since they have to live with the death of their son/brother/whatever every day.

As for a time period, in my religion, when one dies, after a month there is sometimes a "month's mind" service. A month should be long enough for the memorial to be there. Beyond that, it should be gone. And if anyone thinks I'm crass at one month, every time I walk by 3964 Washington Street, I still remember the double homicide that took place there in 2011. And since it is still unsolved, I'm guessing that it has faded from the memory of at least a few people.

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Don't know if he lived right on Rowe Street, though.

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As for a time period, in my religion, when one dies, after a month there is sometimes a "month's mind" service. A month should be long enough for the memorial to be there.

For your family and friends, that might hold true. For others, it might not.

In fact, members of my husband's family would say 40 days, 100 days, etc. because that matches their cultural/religious observance pattern.

So why do you think that the customs of your religion mean that you get to make such pronouncements or rules?

Putting time limits and behavioral restrictions on grief based on one's own experience or culture or religion is ultimately futile anyway - be they yours, mine, or someone elses. The discussion that needs to take place has to be bigger than just this and not involve people self-appointing to destroy memorials based on their personal beliefs or offended sensibilities. There need to be some city or even state laws that travel the delicate territory between the needs of the victims and the needs of the general public.

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My point is that there should be a finality to this. Fine, let's say 56 days- 8 weeks.

Perhaps if we had a common cultural more, we'd use that. A month is a round number, and it happens to be a number used by a lot of people. Not that he should be forgotten.

I also work by the sight of a recent violent act that was noted outside the area. Sure, tourists come and take photos of the spot, but the City eventually removed the memorial to the fallen. And as you may derive, people are still going on about this tragic act. Thankfully, the anniversary is coming up soon.

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You want to replace a memorial with a statue?

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At the risk of sounding crass, I just don't get these street memorials, except maybe as a very short term expression of grief. I especially don't get the practice of leaving large stuffed animals or other childlike items for victims who were grown men.

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We've become a country that can't move past the events in our lives. The bigger the event, the more likely we are to revisit it frequently. We've stopped looking back because we want to learn more about where we come from or how to stop whatever tragedy it was from happening again. Seeing that memorial isn't going to keep another kid from being shot/run over/abused/killed/whatever. All it does is provide a reminder that something tragic once happened. Yes...every day that happens, but not every tragedy is memorialized or needs to be memorialized by a roadside teddy bear collection or potpourri of Yankee Candles and soggy photographs or a bike best used as a paperweight spray-painted white or a giant white cross emblazoned with the names of the dead jabbed into the roadside every mile.

There is nothing important about the place your relative took a last breath in this world. Did you enshrine your grandmother's bed or favorite chair when you found her dead there? Grieving had times and places, like at the funeral home, the graveside, at home. But we've become a nation of exhibitionists. It's not enough to grieve your loss...you have to do it where everyone can see that you're grieving and wounded and tell the uncaring world about the person you lost.

This sounds callous, but it's not meant to be directed at any one person who is recently grieving a lost relative or friend. It's a rejoinder to a trend I've seen in the past 20-25 years where it's not good enough to remember the dead and move on with them in your heart while living each day to the fullest...now you must pay tribute to the dead and raise monuments to the fallen no matter where they fall or how long ago it happened. Constantly reminding everyone that passes by "that spot" that someone died there isn't important, but it's become the only thing we care about. So much so, that the lessons to be learned are ignored and any suggestion that we've gone off the rails when it comes to these things is met with derision and questions of how much shame to put on those that would speak out against this ugly trend of memorialization we've arrived at.

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In this part of the country, at least, it seems to have been going on for far longer than you are saying. Nearly every intersection, overpass, and structure bears the name of somebody who died before 1975 or so.

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I think it's a Princess Diana thing. I think all those streetside memorials started sprouting up after the huge outpouring of public grief (and subsequent piles of flowers) after her death.

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It was the late 90's and early 2000's when this sort of memorialization started to really spring forwards and overtake the whole point of rememberance and reflection.

I found this article from a few years ago really appropriate to the discussion: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2007/jan/26/architecture

And whenever I look to find others voicing this opinion louder than I can, it always tends to be architects and designers who have to deal with making the greater monuments to our dramatic episodes. I don't think anyone more popular has either the spine or inclination to make this a bigger point of discussion, which is a shame.

http://architizer.com/blog/design-leadership-designing-memorials/

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If I recall, the city has a moratorium on new memorials in the Public Garden--a moratorium that was temporarily suspended to build a 9/11 memorial garden. I wonder if a Marathon bombing memorial can be far behind.

I'm against the rush to create public memorials for any and all tragic events. I think it dilutes the scale of every tragedy, and over time we become inured to the whole idea of a memorial because they are commonplace. I wish that instead of creating whatever make-shift street side thing, that we all went to the Red Cross to donate blood, or something similar, instead.

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You are absolutely correct about Princess Diana's funeral being the starting point for all these over the top memorials. Before that, there had been large public and televised funerals for beloved public figures such as John and Robert Kennedy. But I knew we had turned a corner when Princess Diana's funeral was packaged and made available as a VHS tape (the prevailing media of the day) for the public to purchase. Funerals of public figures had become ENTERTAINMENT for a public ever hungry for stimulation. After that, funerals of even relatively minor, if decent, figures like Eunice Kennedy Shriver got the wall-to-wall treatment, at least locally. I'm not sure there was really a reason to broadcast her funeral in it's entirety on all local stations.

Likewise for this trend that everyone must suddenly become involved. After the marathon bombing hordes of people traveled from hundreds and even thousands of miles away to dump old pairs of running shoes in Copley Square. I understand the need to sometimes do something physical and/or symbolic to mourn, but it has gotten to the point where it is too much.

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When I was a kid there were no crosses and memorials on the sides of the road where there had been a fatal accident or murder. Then I moved to an area with a larger population from Mexico and Central America and would see them. Then I traveled to the southwest and saw that they were even more prevalent there. Someone told me that in the ________________ (fill in the blank with "religious belief", "superstition" or "custom" as you see fit) of people from that area the spot where you die is sacred as that is where your soul leaves the earth and ascends to heaven.

I have a feeling that the custom was then picked up by others and expanded to other communities. Having pictures or video of them plastered on the news only added to it as other people would then monkey-see, monkey-do.

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TLDR

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I understand the issues folks have with these memorials,curbside, roadside or otherwise. But is this even worthy of a "citizen complaint"? As I typed I just realized the ridiculousness, trivial, "white people problems"nonsense that gets posted as complaints. I sustain myself and say way to stay in touch with the plight of your fellow man.

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Are you kidding? Clearly you have never had a murder memorial on your street. I think half the reason they are put out is as a warning to the neighborhood and as a reminder of exactly whose territory you are entering. You think this guy should go out and throw away the flowers and candles? Not unless he wants a beating or worse.

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Or they could call the cops on you.

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There are missing variables in this situation, but trust me, this is not gangland.

That said, if the citizen lives/owns the property where the memorial is, he should take it down himself. Irvy has a point with that. If not, and as noted above the family lives on the block, talk to them. Offer your condolences again (and if not again, just stop right there) and ask if it would be okay to take it down. If neither are the case, Wednesday night before going to bed, the citizen should go out with a garbage bag and take care of it. It will be gone before noontime on Thursday (yes, I live close enough to know that Thursday is garbage day.)

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I can't believe some of the things I see posted on CC! Many of the issues posted could be reconciled by neighbors talking to each other, working together, and getting off their backsides, instead of taking pictures and typing complaints. I don't know what "white people problems" are exactly, I am white and would never expect CC to address some of the nonsense posted, that's quite offensive.
That memorial does not seem to be taking up a lot of space and is tidy,if you will. There is a video on FB of the deceased young man's friends having a tribute (party they called it); smoking weed, and drinking at the memorial. I would be more concerned about that as a neighbor, than I would be about the memorial itself. Hopefully the parties are not still happening.

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I drove down Rowe Street this afternoon and stopped to take a couple of photos, one of which is now at the top of the post.

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Then what would the person complaining do about it.

If it isn't already on private property - sidewalks don't always follow property lines.

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I doubt the family that owns the house behind wants a permanent cluster of bodega candles and liquor bottles on their lawn. I respect people's right to grieve in their own way--I think most of us were familiar with the sight of Carlos Arredondo's mobile memorial to his son before his Marathon fame and I always found it very moving. But the spontaneous expressions of grief that pop up after a tragic event--flowers, teddy bears, candles--aren't designed to be permanent--that's why we have stone gravestones, bronze plaques, charitable foundations and scholarship funds, memorial softball games and the like. Hopefully the family is moving on and this spot will be of diminishing importance to them as they heal and remember the life, not the death.

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The picture suggests the memorial is on a public sidewalk, which belongs to all of us. How is the person who claims a public space for a private memorial any different from others who use an old toilet or a broken lawn chair to mark a public parking spot for private use? I would argue that either case is inappropriate but Boston being what it is, perhaps the mayor should declare that such memorials may remain in place for forty-eight hours after the victim is taken away but must be removed thereafter.

I'm just trying to be consistent.

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Ok I get both sides of this situation....but come on. This concerned citizen is being a little bit dramatic. I looked at the photo and it's just a few candles and a teddy bear! It's not anything at all like what one person described (with the cyclist that was hit). Nothing seems to be in bad condition or taking up a bunch of space on the sidewalk. This person just "doesn't want to be reminded of it." In that case I think he could've waited a few more months before complaining. Geesh...

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Those look like liquor bottles and nips.

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I rode by on Wednesday morning and at least 2 of the candles were lit. Obviously someone is still paying attention to this and keeping it tidy. I don't see why it can't stay for now.

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Mayor Menino didn't want these sidewalk memorials all over the place either. Constant reminders, etc. He would say: "If you want to have a memorial, go to church, that's where they belong...not on someone's front yard."

Same thing for traffic accident memorials.

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Be patient. As awful as this reminder is, the family has to live with the loss.
So let them grieve as long as they need to.
In time they will take it down, so that they too will be able to move on with their lives. You, your family and maybe the community have moved on from the crime but they may need a little more time.

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So let them grieve as long as they need to.

Nobody is telling them to stop grieving.

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I love reading articles on universal hub. It keeps me updated with current events going on around me, but all this yapping about stupid shit has to stop. The last time I commented on here I was ridiculed about my grammar and spelling, when in fact it doesn't make a difference about the situation at hand. The problem with all you yuppie mother fuckers is that you don't have anything better to do with your time then stereotype and judge. No it was not a gang or drug related murder he was a young teen who was a senior in high school worked at stop and shop. A role model to some of the younger kids for the simple fact he had a good kind heart and helped in what ever way he could. Only problem was the crowd he hung out with. He would feed his friends younger siblings since their house is a mess and parents (who knows). This was a tragic event which will never be forgotten. I agree with what people say about leaving the memorial unattended things do get trashy but does it really bother you that much. Clean it up, throw away the rotten flowers or even have a talk with the home owner whose sidewalk it's on but really there are more important things in life then sitting here speaking of roslindale/hyde park as a "troubled gang struck drug flooded area" I lived on hyde park ave for about 20 years and recently moved to the blue hill ave Morton at side of town. Now that's what you call a shit hole. Crackheads left and right shootings and stabbings happen on a regular basis but you don't see or hear any of you assholes raving and rantin about the rest of boston just this one small part where a little bit of unfortunate situations have occurred. In all reality there is always going to be violence where ever you go but the crime in this city has to stop and instead of worrying about a two month old memorial how about using all this time and energy to work on non profit organizations for the city's youth (I know there are a lot out there but none that can really relate or that really calls anyone's Attention) with that being said get off your ass and stop complaining about such stupid little thighs and worry about your life or your children being safe. Having a memorial removed is not going to bring anyone back or make anything better or worse so for this to really be a citizens complaint of the week is a fucking joke as is the person who is so personally hurt by this memorial.

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This has to be performance art.

The problem with all you yuppie mother fuckers is that you don't have anything better to do with your time then stereotype and judge.

I mean, come on, nobody can be that self-unaware, can they?

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