Seeing their well-dressed 14-year-old classmate lying in a casket with baby blue lining, students from the Timilty Middle School wept. Tears streaked the faces of teachers, family, and neighbors as they overflowed the Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester.
Still stunned by the unsolved murder of Jaewon Martin in Roxbury last Saturday, his classmates, relatives and community praised, mourned and buried him on Thursday.
Jaewon's uncle, James Martin, walked to front of the congregation and posed the question no one from the balcony down could answer.
"Tell me why Lord, tell me why Lord, you had to take Jaewon, tell me Lord, tell me," Martin said.
Affectionately known as Weezy, Mastermo, and J-money, Jaewon Wilson was the morning star in his school, his neighborhood and family. A problem-solver whose godfather rewarded him with lobster every time he made the honor roll. A model citizen, said the principal. A natural-born mathematician, said one of his teachers.
The more the mourners praised Jaewon, the heavier weighed the sense of loss to the city at large, and the more senseless seemed his shooting on a basketball court on the border of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain line last Saturday afternoon.
"We're sick and tired of the violence, the bloodshed, the hope, the pain, the anguish and we got to do something about it."
-- Reverend William Dickerson"I want you to see their tears, I want you to see their pain," thundered the Reverend William Dickerson, who officiated the ceremony.
"We're sick and tired of the violence, the bloodshed, the hope, the pain, the anguish and we got to do something about it," he said. "Come on...we can do something about it. Come on: we can do something about it."
The age of the victim and his clear non-involvement in street gangs is what shocks the city. But that shock — and sense of shame — comes in cycles. One of the ministers in the church at Jaewon's funeral is the father of Steven Odom, 13 years older than Jaewon. Another Timilty student, he was murdered on his way home from playing basketball in 2007.
It all reminded me of another 13-year-old's murder.
I covered it in 1992. A half-mile away from the church that mourned Jaewon Martin yesterday. His name was Dominic Poochie Mount.
Back then, tears streamed down the faces of so many who loved him.
"He was just a good boy. No trouble. No trouble at all," his sister, Chrystal, said.
In school, he'd written a letter to candidates Bill Clinton and George Bush asking them to stop the killings. But soon after, Poochie was homicide victim No. 57 that year.
Numbers are what's remembered of most of these victims — the yearly statistics that enable the city to say it's made progress in lowering the murder rate from 152 back then to the low 30s last year.
"It seems like yesterday," said Mount's mother, Gloria Mount. She was thinking of Jaewon Martin's mother who, like Gloria, had bought a little suit for her dead baby.
"To me it didn't get better at all because kids are still dying every day."
-- Gloria MountGloria says things haven't gotten any better since then. "And I thought about leaving, but there's no hiding place," she said.
The numbers would say otherwise, of course. But the numbers don't have mothers and loved ones and futures. Poochie would have been 31 this year.
"To me it didn't get better at all because kids are still dying every day," Gloria said.
Shift forward 18 years, to Rev. Dickerson at Jaewon's service.
"After today we have to do something, do something more yes, oh yes, we need to do something. Don't just talk about it, be about it. If you can't sing, pray. If you can't run, walk. Come on," Dickerson called out.
For a final time, Jaewon's classmates passed his open casket, dedicated to remembering him, just as Poochie's classmates made the same vow, years ago.