On Christmas Eve, community members gathered in front of Fells Point’s Baltimore Tattoo Museum, some carrying white candles labeled “REV,” as an homage to Jim Forrester, nicknamed Rev. Jim Forrester, a local bassist who was shot and killed last week.
Nearby, sat Forrester’s portrait — featuring his burly beard, a black bandana, and a tattoo on his scalp — illuminated by the flames, while Erricka Bridgeford, 45, leader of anti-violence movement Baltimore Ceasefire, spread burned sage through the air, a ritual she performs to heal and clear spaces where gun violence has occurred.
“Let there be light. … You matter to us. You have not died in vain,” she cried before pressing her forehead to the cold, hard ground — just steps away from where Forrester, 43, was shot.
More than a dozen people gathered outside the tattoo parlor where he worked to honor the bassist and body piercing artist with a candlelight vigil, recalling memories and voicing a need for action in the Fells Point neighborhood.
Musician John Cummings, 48, of Fells Point, was the first to share a humorous memory of when Forrester pierced his nipples. He nearly passed out, and Forrester had teased him that he turned a shade of green, he said with a laugh.
“We played a lot of rock ‘n’ roll together, man. He was a good dude,” Cummings said.
“It’s getting too close to home, and it sucks that he has to be a catalyst for this. He’s number 334.”
Forrester was the 334th person killed in Baltimore this year. The city has surpassed 300 homicides each of the past three years, after not having reached the mark since the 1990s.
Police said Forrester had stepped outside of the tattoo shop Dec. 18 to call his wife when he was shot in the chest. Officers were called to the 1500 block of Eastern Ave. at about 7:36 p.m. and found Forrester, who was being treated by medics. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he died a short time later. Police have not identified a motive.
But Cummings said Forester was far more than a statistic.
“He’s my friend,” said Cummings, later vowing to get the number tattooed on him in remembrance of Forrester.
Adam Jeffrey, 40, a tattoo artist at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum, said Forrester’s first day at the tattoo parlor seemed like they had been working together for years.
Now, “when I step over this curb every morning, I’m going to think about Jim,” he said.
“And I want to remember him as a warrior, as a lover, as a good guy, a friend.”
Tye Tucker, 48, of Fells Point later led vigil-goers on a walk from the tattoo parlor to the neighborhood’s main square to show the community that they were united and unafraid to walk down the street, even after Forrester’s death.
Forrester’s wife Tina met vigil goers in the square, holding a framed picture of her husband.
“I’ve been walking these street every single night, because I will walk these streets every single night, because I am not afraid. Nobody needs to be afraid. You need to be proactive,” she said.
“My husband was a good person. … This can’t happen. These people cannot go down in history as numbers, but they can go down as a revolution and a change and a movement. I will meet with each and every single person who is willing to hear me and that is willing to stand arm and arm with me and take this city back,” she said.
“My husband will not die in vain. … My husband was intense, and he had a lot of stage presence, and he had a lot of people, and he will continue.”
Soon after, the crowd lifted their candles.
“Forever Jim,” they cheered.