The effectiveness of Rev. Willie Ray's bullhorn may have been diluted across the wide parking lot of the Walbrook Shopping Center in West Baltimore, but his message was clear.
"We're fired up and we're not going to take the violence anymore," Ray shouted through a bullhorn yesterday afternoon at the southwest Baltimore shopping center. Dozens of people looked on and started shouting, too.
"We love Tiffany," said Ray, 42, leader of two anti-crime groups, Save Another Youth Inc. and Stop the Killing Coalition. "We love Shanika."
Ray was referring to two young girls who were killed this summer by gunfire.
Tiffany Smith, 6, was gunned down July 9 while playing in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. On Aug. 17, Shanika Day, 3, was killed along with a man, 20, who tried to shield her in an apparent drug-related shooting. Her mother, Mona Lisa McClain, and another man were wounded in the incident.
"They were angels," Ray told about 100 people who joined him in a candlelight prayer vigil in memory of the girls. Later, the group marched across the street to the 2100 block of Garrison Blvd. "to where Shanika went to meet with the Lord," Ray said.
So far this year at least 190 people have been murdered, compared with 195 at this time last year, police said. Forty percent of the murders were drug-related, police said.
"Many times things happen in life that we don't understand," Councilman Lawrence Bell, D-4th, told the crowd. "But their lives weren't in vain. Their deaths weren't in vain," he said of Tiffany and Shanika.
Bell and Ray said because of the children's senseless deaths, people are ready to take action and unite.
In order to make conditions better, the community, particularly black men, have got to get involved, Bell and others said. The violence occurs partly because people who become drug dealers are taken in by the glamorized life of drug kingpins they see in movies, the easy money and what the enormous sums of cash can buy, speakers said.
"That's fantasy," Ray said. "Looking slick is a joke. Gold chains and Adidas [athletic shoes] do not put you in power."
Next week, Bell and members of a drug patrol are scheduled to begin a door-to-door campaign in the area to fight drugs. He criticized President Bush for spending billions of dollars on the Persian Gulf War and next to nothing on the drug war in the inner cities.
Joyce Jones, 53, a resident, brought her two grandsons and granddaughter, Jamarne Jones, 6, to hear the anti-crime message. Jamarne, a schoolmate of Tiffany's, said of her slain classmate, "she didn't live to do anything."
"Black people need to get back to being black and put God first," said Joyce Jones, who lost a son to violence in 1964. She has not learned who killed him or why.
Police Lt. Joe B. Richardson, head of neighborhood services for the Southwestern District, said yesterday's vigil helps make a difference. "If you don't have the community behind you, you won't solve the problem," he said.
Richardson pointed to an apartment building behind the group and said he participated in a drug raid there in 1979. Today, drugs are still in Walbrook Junction, he said.
"Once [drugs] set into a community, it's hard to get them out," Richardson said.
Drug dealers, mostly untrained in firing weapons, purchase guns to help them get out of tight spots, he said.
"The only thing they know is if you get into trouble, start shooting," Richardson said.