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A minister turns his concern into action

REVITALIZING Roxbury is a great idea, says Michael E. Haynes, minister of the community's most influential black congregation and a life-long Roxbury resident. But he has one reservation. ``We can't allow Roxbury to go the way of the South End [a nearby Boston neighborhood] -- white takeover and displacement. We can't allow anyone, a developer or a government official, to change our community without our input.''

The Rev. Mr. Haynes is so concerned about the future of Roxbury that he has given up his secular activities -- including membership on the state parole board -- to concentrate on his pastoral work at Twelfth Baptist Church. He also wants to encourage other clergy to work for community progress, he says.

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``It's up to us preachers and to community-agency leaders to listen and to advocate for Roxbury, to let public officials know where we stand,'' he says, explaining that many Roxbury residents can't attend public meetings because they work day and night.

Mr. Haynes has attended three of these meetings. He says he would like ``integrity and openness'' from public officials. The last time the government came into Roxbury, during urban renewal of the 1960s, ``Roxbury lost,'' Mr. Haynes says.

Aside from black displacement, there's another threat to the city's ambitious plan, says Bruce H. Wall, youth minister at Twelfth Baptist. ``There's too much crime in Roxbury for any [renewal] plan to succeed,'' says Mr. Wall. His solution? ``Let the black church lead.''

The Rev. Mr. Wall is one who has taken that lead, establishing a hot line to crack down on drug pushers. In addition, he spent several weeks last spring on patrol in the area where drug trafficking is heaviest.

``The pastor must do more than preach. He must practice a wholistic ministry that works with the black family and community institutions,'' he says.

Churches in Roxbury have long had an active role in the community. Haynes affectionately recalls his years of affiliation with Twelfth Baptist, which date back to the 1950s when he and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were student ministers there.

Haynes says he is considering ``turning over his Sunday pulpit'' to the Boston Revelopment Authority, so the city can explain its renewal plan. ``Most Roxbury residents are still unaware of renovation plans,'' he says. ``Let the BRA reach the people through church.''

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The BRA plan holds much promise, Haynes says. His vision is for a remodeled Roxbury ``that still meets the needs of its current residents, that offers business and job opportunities to the people who live here.''

Quoting from the late Melnea A. Cass, ``first lady of Roxbury'' and one of Haynes's mentors, the minister warns: ``Blacks can't afford to go to sleep on the case. While we are sleeping, others are working through the night.''

-- Luix Overbea

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