Dr. Sonja Santelises speaks at Baltimore City Public Schools’ Day of Peace and Remembrance. Photo by Brandon Weigel.
Dr. Sonja Santelises speaks at Baltimore City Public Schools’ Day of Peace and Remembrance. Photo by Brandon Weigel.

A bell was struck after each of the nine names was read aloud by Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises.

Rashad Parks, Excel Academy

Tyrese Davis, Calverton Elementary/Middle School

Thomas Johnson, Reginald F. Lewis High School

Jeffrey Quick, Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy

Earlier, Santelises had asked the crowd to let each ding to allow the significance of their individual lives “to really sink into our consciousness.”

Stefon Cook, Excel Academy

Andre Galloway, Frederick Douglass High School

John Brown, Excel Academy

Ray Glasgow Jr., Baltimore City College

Jordan Deshields, New Era Academy

There was a moment of silence after all of the names were read.

As many students across the state were thinking of summer plans, seasonal jobs or the upcoming college semester, administrators, a crowd of a couple hundred elected officials, teachers, students and custodial staff dressed in their uniforms gathered on the steps of Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters on North Avenue to remember the nine students lost to violence during the 2017-18 school year.

“And this day really is a time for us to acknowledge the significance of those lives, each and every one,” said Santelises, the emotion of the moment at times weighing on her voice.

During the solemn Day of Peace and Remembrance, both Santelises and Mayor Catherine Pugh reflected on the young lives cut short on Baltimore streets–lives of potential suddenly snuffed out, leaving a lasting impact on the city.

“They were capable of so many more achievements that will now not be realized, and promise that will go unfulfilled,” said the school system head.

“With each loss,” the mayor said, “Baltimore loses a piece of its future.”

And they urged the community to help these kids by ending the violence that destroys so many lives and to, as Pugh said, “meet the children where they are” and “lift them up.”

“So I say to you all, we must resolve to protect our children, to protect life, to understand that violence is not the way,” the mayor said. “We can’t afford another loss, we can’t afford to continue this kind of pain.”

“I pray for peace, in which our children can thrive,” said Santelises. “I know that peace is intimately connected to justice, and justice will only come when all of Baltimore’s children become our children, and we take responsibility as a society, as communities, for ensuring that our young people have every opportunity to realize their full potential and make their dreams a reality.”

She pledged: “We must lose no more.” The crowd applauded.

The ceremony ended with that promise of youth, in the form of a performance by the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts’s Positive Social Change Theater Performing Arts Troupe.

The ensemble of six students would chant in unison, “It is in times like this,” and then one would step forward with the mic: “When the pain that we feel feels so overwhelming, when doubt, fear and uncertainty throws us in a swirling vortex of depression, anxiety and pessimism”; “when we have no other choice but to search for the commonality of our humanity and face the reality that we are just one human family”; “when we need to embrace the power of now–not tomorrow, not someday but now.”

“It is in the power of now,” they chanted, with two more taking turns stepping forward to finish, “where the true magic of life lies. It is in the power of now, the power of right now that we can decide to do the right choice and do what’s best for all of us.”

“So we can decide, all of us together, to make this world better so we all can rise.”

The performance ended with 9th grader Devine Carr singing Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” A rendition of the song by the Cardinal Shehan School Choir become a viral hit that landed on national news. Here, it felt imbued with even more earnestness and resolve.

After Carr hit the falsetto notes in the “for you” of the first chorus, the crowd cheered, and one man in the back could be heard proclaiming, “Lil angel, lil angel out here.”

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...