The immediate and extended family members of the young black men killed in street violence arrive outside the Manchester courthouse Saturday. Most are women — mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters. They wear blue jeans and T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of the dead. Alongside each face is the date of birth and death and RIP, “Rest in Peace,” “Rest in Paradise.” “Rest,” the shirts might as well say, “because we cannot.”
It’s why they’re here, why the 50 or so of them will march two and half miles down Hull Street, drawing the barber from his shop and the convenience store clerk from the counter and the lady with the shopping bag, who asks, “What are y’all doing?”
One of the mothers stops in midhymn to say: “Protesting the violence.”
“All of us have lost someone,” another woman calls out from among the marchers. She is polite in her use of euphemism. What she means is: Shot dead sitting in the car during a robbery, shot walking down the street, shot on the way to take some movies over to a friend.
“He was shot in broad daylight in front of my mom and my brother,” says Brittany Goode, sister of Brandon Goode, who was killed Dec. 18. Brittany introduces her brother by his place in the homicide count: “He was the 40th homicide of 2012.” This running count is a shared habit among the group.
Evangelist Markeita Boyd of Sister Hope Ministry, Dwayne Hill and Anthony White organized the march to protest black-on-black crime. All three have had violence strike their families. In three separate incidents during an 11-month period, Boyd’s cousin, a nephew and a niece were murdered. Boyd is a slender, tireless woman whose voice roars in prayer.
“Today, Sept. 21, marks a new beginning of the annual faith walk,” she says. “We will not back up. We will move forward until we see the change. … This is an endeavor to take back the city.”
So they march down the sidewalk and past storefronts, occupied and vacant. “What are we walking by?” Hill calls out. The group sings back, “Faith.”
It is, for all the prayers and singing, for the feet that will be sore the next day and the hearts that will remain heavy, a small moment in the city.
At the end of the march, they gather at Circle Plaza and Cassandra Mayo calls out for her son, De’Shawn: “He was the first murder of 2012. I don’t even want to be here because it hurts so bad. I want to hold him. I want to touch him, but I can’t get him back.”
She sits, sobbing, while more people speak and someone says, “We’ve got to believe there is a God.” A light rain begins to fall and still they stay.