Late Friday afternoon, it looked as though the End of Violence Community Healing Night/Vigil at the Edgewater Village basketball court in Edgewood would be rained out.
But, as the scheduled start time of 6:30 drew closer, the rain subsided, the dark clouds left the area and the sun shined over the court, almost poetically giving hope to the neighborhood that recent violence, which has resulted in multiple shootings over a two-week period, could end.
About 50 people showed up to the vigil Friday night to speak against increased crime and violence after 24-year-old Quinton Stokes was shot and killed in the 1800 block of Grempler Way, right next to the basketball court, after 10 p.m. Saturday.
The vigil was scheduled to start at 6:30, but seeing the basketball court empty at the time, the event's organizer, Mildred Samy, co-founder of M.O.M.S. (Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland) was driven around the surrounding streets speaking into a megaphone, alerting the neighborhood to the vigil and shouting "Put a stop to this! This is our community!"
About a half hour afterward, a sizable crowd of young and old was gathered around the edge of the court and Samy traded her megaphone for a microphone connected to a large speaker and spoke about how the violence needed to end.
"We have come here to save a community; a community where many of us came to live," Samy began, almost shouting into the microphone. "A community where our children can make memories, not nightmares; a community where our children can play."
"These kids are out here for the summer! They just got out of school," Samy continued, often drawing applause. "They don't need to be running around here dodging bullets!"
"We've got to communicate," Samy urged the crowd. "We've got to talk this out. We have to reach a solution. Murder is not the solution! Murder begets murder."
"I know you're not trying to copycat Baltimore City, or New York or Chicago," Samy said. "This is Edgewood. I want Edgewood to be remembered as a community that came together! A community that fought to live, a community that loves to live."
"Y'all got me out here again, and I guess I'm going to be out here till I die, but that's OK," Samy said. "But I'm going to fight for Edgewood like you wouldn't believe!"
Next, Daphne Alston, a co-founder of M.O.M.S., spoke about how the event organizers weren't there to preach to or criticize the audience, but to "say that we've had enough."
"We decided that we [don't] want another mother to have to go through what we live through every day," Alston said. "Is this the life that God has for us? How can we all say we love God, who we have never seen, and can't even love our own neighbors and our own family members?"
Alston lamented the fact that not a single elected official or member of Edgewood Community Council was in attendance, with the presence of former state senator Art Helton being the closest thing.
"Every time you go to the poll and pull that lever, y'all better know who's going to do something for y'all, because there's nobody here and they had ample time to come out and show you that they support you," Alston said.
Alston traced the community's problems back to the way parents raise their children.
"This is how the children suffer. It's cry out for help when you see pants hanging down and the hair all over the place going to school," Alston said. "Y'all need to be in the school system every day worrying about the education of your children."
Bilal Ali, a community activist from Baltimore City, spoke about the effects violence can have, and what can be done about it.
"I make my appeal to the men, because if we're sitting back and not stepping up and not manning up, then we are a part of the problem as opposed to the solution," Ali said. "Everybody in the community has to be responsible for everybody in the community."
"If you don't have that type of mindset where your next door neighbor can intervene when your kid is acting inappropriately, then that begins that culture of 'you can't say nothing to me, mind your business, you can't see anything or say anything' when you openly know that it's people in your community that's preying among the vulnerable and weak in your community," Ali said.
Ali told the crowd that just speaking out isn't enough.