Reflecting on Homeless Persons' Memorial Day 2012

Reflecting on Homeless Persons' Memorial Day 2012

Photo Source: New York Times
Photo Source: New York Times

The Inner Harbor Amphitheater was lit with the glow of 105 luminaries on December 21, 2012. A large crowd had assembled. A festive occasion, it was not, although held during what many call a holiday season. It was a ceremony to honor the homeless people who had died. It was my first and I hope my last time having to attend this event. Many of my good friends were there. It’s a shame the only time of year I had 96 percent of my favorite people on earth in one place was at a vigil!

The Mayor graced us with her presence long enough to read a resolution passed by City Council proclaiming the day Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day (HPMD). It was bone chilling cold out that day. We had a heck of a time securing the signage to the advocacy table with the winds whipping off the harbor. Thank goodness for a lady with the Downtown Partnership, who helped us secure it. All of the organizers were cold, yet they stayed for the whole event. Other elected leaders stayed. Some even read the names of the fallen. Yet, the Mayor could not?

It was a sad and somber atmosphere as people came forward to light and pray over the luminaries. Each one was tied with a ribbon with the name of the deceased on it. Deceased! These people should not have had to die homeless! There are enough buildings here to house everyone. There are enough people who know how to build more buildings. There are thousands of homeless people who need homes right here in good 'ol Charm City. On days like this, I am really failing to see the Charm.

A few days before HPMD, several of us on the planning committee including SHARP (Stop Homelessness And Reduce Poverty) and BHFA (Bmore Housing For All) members gathered together to make the luminaries. As we created luminary after luminary, it pained us knowing what they symbolized, a dead homeless person. Any of us at that table could have had our name printed on a ribbon tied around a mason jar. I could have been a dead homeless person! I was homeless for a few years. Any of you, could become a dead homeless person!

The ceremony was inspiring to me as it brought peace to others. Claire Anthony performed a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace which brought tears to my eyes. The Reverend Heber Brown talked about keeping your pilot light lit. He used the analogy of the water heater but those of you who were there know what he meant. It was about keeping your pilot light in your hearts and minds always on. Jeff Singer introduced the names and the mandala which represents the unity of all creation in many Native American cultures.

Adam Schneider called us to action at the end of the program, saying something from Mother Jones, “Remember the dead and fight like hell for the living!” This is not only my New Year’s Resolution but my forever resolution!

Here are the names of the people we honored at HPMD 2012: Mark Grief, Davey Brooks, William Hamm, Michael Schillinberg, Reginald Rogers, Ez’ra K Bunch, James Otlowsky, Derica Pratt, Michelle Pederson, Jerrine Robinson, Alfredo Rodriguez, William Rothe, Debbie Coleman, Wanda Blackwell, Bruce Cook, William Giles, Laura Mason, Burnette Roane, David Hearne, James Witherspoon, “Gibbs”, Carlos Morales, Nancy Breeding, Jerry Stewart, Denise Zarzour, Terrance Trayham, Willie Shell, Tony Friend, Carroll Raymark, Kathleen Ritchie, Francis Norris, Ronald D. Morrison, Bernard Matthews, Nathan Hickson, Nestor Devencia, John Wagner, Michael Simon, Kenneth Jefferies, Frank Burrus, Velma Wright, Raymond Wright, Daniel Boone, Terry Garrison-Dwyer, Marc Farmer, Mary Elbeck, Selena Isabel, Steven Watkins, Jillian Truevalley, Charlie Tiller, Michael Beatty, Cheryl Madden, Herbert Algire, Charles Davis, Richard Mulbauer, “Sonny”, Donna Haviland, Patricia Ann Shorty-Morgan, Osbie Wiley, Ronnie Vaughn, Lezette Taylor, Garrett Carey, Douglas Jones, Jackie Virginia Graves, Mark Madore, David Heaps, Michael Johnson, Melvin Fentress, Phillip Moore, Phineas Freeman, Darrell Hoerl, Brian Anders, Charles Johnson, Kenneth Johnson, Murray Paul Mahon, Donte Moore, Allen Harris, Sandra Johnson, Marcus Clary, James McCarty, Keith Davenport, Benjamin Cunningham, Rudolph Bell Sr., Milton Royster Sr., Annette Scott, Et’tice Smith, Eric Sullivan, Michael Toscos, Ruth Tucker, Jonathan Cook, Clarence Allen, Tyrone Bailey, George Bell, Eddie Boyd, Mark Carter, Ralph Henderson, Brent Hill, Arthur Hill, Michael Moore, Tonye Parker, Melvin Powell, Lawrence Taylor, Dana Thompson, Ernest Wells, David Wright, and the unknown names. (My sincere apologies if anyone reading this finds out their family, friend or loved one is on this list.)

“An injustice to one is an injustice to all!” said Martin Luther King, Jr. I think it’s a grave injustice to all that in a country as rich and powerful as the USA that anyone should die homeless.

Bonnie Lane writes for  Baltimore's newest street paper, Word on the Street. She has an associate of arts degree in public relations/journalism. Lane is a full-time writer, advocate and activist for the homeless and the 99%.