Funeral directors against violence
On Monday afternoon, two dozen hearses drove through Durham, empty but for the funeral directors driving them.
It was a procession of a different kind – not for one person who died, but for all victims of violence in the state. Afterward, four hearses – two black, one white and one light blue, plus a limousine -- parked at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham for a short vigil. The procession and vigil were the start to the Funeral and Morticians Association of North Carolina’s conference, held here this week.
On the sides of a black hearse were signs that stated: “Stop the Violence Now: Funeral Directors Against Violence.” Those gathered included members of the Durham chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, who held a banner and red balloons. “Stop the Violence” t-shirts were given away.
Durham City Councilman Eddie Davis said the procession was a wonderfully symbolic way for folks involved with funerals to point out how violence is affecting the community, particularly young people. The statement also acknowledges the grief, pain and suffering that goes on, Davis said.
Solving the problem of violence in Durham is going to have to be a community conversation, he said.
“Perhaps those of us much older can provide avenues for that discussion, and it all goes back to the business I was in for 40 years: education. Education is the key to all of this,” Davis said.
Rev. Allen Jones started the vigil by calling people to pray for change. Through God, all things are possible, he said.
“This city struggles with violence, particularly children,” said Rev. Dub Karriker. Seven children who were victims of violence this year in Durham is seven too many, he said.
“We thank you, Lord for funeral directors who came and said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Jones said.
Karriker prayed for Derek Walker, the man who was shot and killed in a confrontation with Durham police in September after brandishing a gun at the bull statue, where the vigil was being held Monday. Karriker also prayed for Walker’s family and for those at the vigil to send up their prayers with all the others.
“Bring our city peace instead of violence, Lord,” Karriker said.
Jones said that if anyone wanted to change their life, they could talk to him and any of the pastors there. He urged those at the vigil to go tell somebody that evil and violence is not the way.
“Tell somebody you love them, and God loves them, too,” Jones said. The group of about two dozen people recited the Lord’s Prayer together.
Samuel Booker Jr., a funeral director at Prominence Funeral Home in Thomasville, said Monday was the second time they have participated a hearse procession. A previous one was held in Winston-Salem. Prominence Funeral Home has three locations, he said, and about 10 percent of funerals they handle are for victims of homicide.
Recently they handled the funeral after a homicide/suicide in Greensboro.
“There are definitely children involved, and we have to deal with families in a different way. You treat them just as everyone else, but with a little more care,” Booker said. “I’m noticing more than homicides – suicides,” he said. There was another recent death in Greensboro, he said, where a son committed suicide while visiting his father’s grave, who had also committed suicide.
The answer to addressing violence is one person at a time, Booker said.
“You have to have faith, approach the city and the people to stop the violence. It’s not just black on black or white on white – it’s everybody,” he said.
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