When the Late Rep. John Lewis Came to New Bedford [OPINION]
More than 14 years ago, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia came to New Bedford at the invitation of Mayor Scott Lang. He came for a murder victim.
John Lewis inspired and changed America. He tried to do the same thing for New Bedford in the wake of an alleged gang-related slaying. Voting rights improved and KKK terrorism waned because of Rep. Lewis' leadership and dedication. His pilgrimage to New Bedford had some positive results, but the murder of a mother still remains unsolved in our justice system.
The New York Times explained the 2006 visit by Lewis in a 2008 article on the city: "Gang violence became such a problem that John Lewis, the Georgia Democratic congressman, and civil rights leader, visited New Bedford two years ago to lead a peace march in the city after the mother of a suspected gang member was found murdered in her home."
Bernadette "Bunny" DePina was an innocent person. A family member described her as "almost a saint" at her funeral wake. Her son was in the gang world and is currently in prison after pleading guilty to murder. He was in prison when his mother was murdered.
Her murder became a national story. Congressman Barney Frank joined his Georgia colleague at the funeral home along with lots of other elected officials and community leaders. The crowd of friends and family was enormous at the funeral home.
But today, the murder of a mother goes unsolved. The enormously successfully investigative crime show America's Most Wanted featured the murder of Bernadette DePina on a segment in an effort to help the police bring the murderer to justice. The New Bedford Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police had detectives in the television studio that night. Almost nobody called. Nobody called to help solve the murder of their neighbor.
John Lewis worked hard to inspire America but he was only one man and he couldn't do it alone. He was successful in Alabama because enough of the people of Alabama had similar courage and they weren't willing to live in fear. I imagine now that he has met Bernadette DePina on the other side she has said, "Thanks for trying to get justice for me, too."
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.