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Politics And Emotion Set Tone Of Freddie Gray Funeral

Funeral services for Freddie Gray were held at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore where the atmosphere was emotionally and politically charged.
Funeral services for Freddie Gray were held at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore where the atmosphere was emotionally and politically charged.
Funeral services for Freddie Gray were held at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore where the atmosphere was emotionally and politically charged.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR
Funeral services for Freddie Gray were held at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore where the atmosphere was emotionally and politically charged.

Before the riots broke out in West Baltimore Monday afternoon, speakers at the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray at New Shiloh Baptist Church called for justice and reform.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment TempleAMEChurch, delivered an impassioned eulogy called "Breaking the Box."

Bryant referred to the story in Luke's Gospel in which Jesus raised a widow's son from the dead, but didn't open the casket himself.  He said that the scripture was a reference to Black America.

"Don't expect nobody to open the door for you,” he thundered. “If they don't open the door, kick that sucker down and get what you need. Get up!"

Bryant said Luke didn't record what the widow's son said, so he asked the crowd to validate his "sanctified imagination" with its response to him.

"When that black boy got out of the casket, do you know what he said?" Bryant asked. “No justice,” he shouted. “No peace,” came the answer. “No justice,” he cried again. “No peace,” the crowd repeated. And once more. “No justice!” “No peace!"

Gray died April 19 from severe spinal cord injuries sustained while in police custody a week earlier.  His death has sparked demonstrations every day since.  Most had been peaceful until violence erupted Saturday and again following Gray's funeral.

Bryant said Gray did something that black men are trained not to do on the day of the arrest.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, delivered an impassioned eulogy using a scripture reference that he said was for Black America.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, delivered an impassioned eulogy using a scripture reference that he said was for Black America.

  "He looked police in the eye.  And when he looked police in the eye they knew there was a threat.  Cause they're used to black men with their head bowed down low; with their spirit broken," said Bryant who added that police and others stereotype African-Americans in general as having no work ethic and black men as being thugs.

"It's a hard thing and one of the hardest things that you'll ever have to endure in life is trying to break out of a box that unjustified people tried to put you in."

Gray's funeral brought out a who's who of Baltimore politics to gather with the Gray family and others who wanted to pay their respects.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was in the audience along with Congressman Elijah Cummings, members of the City Council and General Assembly and former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Gray family attorney Bill Murphy said that most at the funeral did not know Freddie Gray personally but they "know lots of Freddie Gray's."

What about the family?

Lost in the political atmosphere at the funeral and the violence afterward was the Gray family.  They asked in vain for no protests while they celebrated Freddie's life.

His twin sister,FrederickaGray pleaded Saturday night, "Can y’all please, please stop the violence.  Freddie Gray would not want this.  Freddie’s father and mother does not want violence.  Violence does not get justice."

Her pleas were supported and echoed by the mayor, City Council President Jack Young and members of the council and religious leaders throughout the city. 

But less than an hour after the funeral, as the procession left the church to go to the cemetery, a group of youths swarmed intoMondawminMall hurling rocks, bricks and bottles.

At least 15 police officers were injured, six of them seriously, as rioting spread.

They smashed windows at Pennsylvania and North avenues and looted a check cashing business, a liquor store and a CVS pharmacy before they burned it.

About 20 fires cropped up though the city that officials said were related to the looting.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced a 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. curfew in the city for one week starting Tuesday.

In addition, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the Maryland National Guard. The state police asked for reinforcements from other states.

And a group of church leaders took to the streets from Shiloh Baptist to ask for calm and to pray together.

Below is the full eulogy delivered by the Rev. Jamal Bryant.

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