By Stacia L. Brown
West Baltimore was quiet yesterday morning, as the family of Freddie Gray prepared to lay him to rest. But I still parked my car several blocks south of New Shiloh Baptist Church, where his funeral was being held. Representatives from Gray’s family had been calling for peace, and on Monday especially, they asked for no protesting to occur. They wanted the day to be reserved for mourning and comfort. Though I hoped Gray’s loved ones would get the respite they deserved, I had my doubts.
Perhaps as a punishment for my cynicism, I got turned around on side streets as I parked. I passed Coppin State University’s campus, an elementary school, blocks of alternately well-tended and condemned row houses, and eventually Mondawmin Mall. When I hit the mall, I knew I was close to the church. They’re a few blocks away from one another; both are landmarks in West Baltimore.
Everywhere I walked was quiet. Schools had long been in session and most of the people headed to Freddie’s funeral had already made their way. I nodded to the few passersby I encountered. They nodded back. None of us knew recognized our benign greetings as the calm before hours and hours of chaos.
Seven minutes into the service, the sanctuary and balcony were already packed. A security guard in the vestibule directed latecomers to an overflow room. A minister asked everyone to hold hands and repeat after him. “I’m responsible for you, and you’re responsible for me. I’m gonna hold you accountable, and you’re gonna hold me accountable. By the grace of God,” he concluded, “peace will prevail.”