Putting Pain into Words

Tufts Now All Stories

How do we deal with trauma in our own communities? The Reverend Liz Walker and her church, Roxbury Presbyterian, are doing something about it, helping people face the pain they feel. Walker, well known to many Bostonians from her long run as an anchor on the WBZ-TV news team, has been a pastor since 2011 in a neighborhood that has suffered a disproportionate amount of violence and shootings.“The residual effect of violence is trauma, and our neighborhood has been compared to Afghanistan for the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder,” she told a packed audience at the Rabb Room on October 9 at a Tisch College Civic Life Lunch. “It affects your ability to reconnect to the world.”
With others, Walker founded the Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing, which seeks to help community members come to grips with their suffering and begin healing. Johnson was a twenty-seven-year-old member of her church who was killed in a random shooting in 2010. “Hurt people, hurt people, that’s kind of a mantra we speak in our community,” she said.
The last Thursday of every month the church hosts a free dinner and an open discussion where anyone can talk about any pain they are experiencing. “It is a safe space to talk about pain,” Walker said. “Your brain actually begins to change when you talk about something, when you release something deep down inside you,” she noted. “Psychological or spiritual wounds—just like physical wounds—need light and air; if not they fester.”
Initially, the program was just for those who had suffered from violence, but it has expanded to include people affected by racism, homelessness, and other forms of trauma. Between thirty and fifty people come every month. “All kinds of people, talking about all kinds of deep, deep pain—and there is something cathartic about that,” Walker said.
Pain is widespread, she …

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