Richmond unites in prayer for 16-year-old lost to gunfire

on November 14, 2014

Standing on the stage of the Richmond Civic Center Plaza, she clutched a red scented candle and surveyed the crowd filling the square. She was one of some 300 people – including the city’s mayor and police chief — who gathered Wednesday night for a peace rally to mourn the loss of Rodney Frazier, 16.

Frazier, a Richmond High School student and basketball player, was killed last Friday in a drive-by shooting outside his family’s home in North Richmond.

As a hush fell over the crowd, a pastor spoke: “Father, we come before you tonight broken-hearted. Father, we come before you grieving tonight in the loss of our teammate, of our brother, of our friend.”

As the outpouring of grief showed, Frazier’s death touched the community deeply. It also came as part of a streak of gun violence in the city that has left two people dead and seven injured.

In a Facebook post, the Richmond Police Department attributed the violence to “interpersonal conflicts, turf conflict between rival gang members, and some unintended targets.”

After the pastor’s prayer, a group of young cheerleaders broke into a verse of “Every Breath You Take,” an old pop song that has found new life as an elegy.

Marquette Davenport, who played basketball with Frazier at Richmond High, said he regarded Frazier as a role model.

“I as a student want the violence to stop, because I shouldn’t have to be in fear of my life every time I step outside my house,” Davenport said. “This year, as a team, we’re dedicating our season to Rodney Frazier, the kid that never gave up.”

A cross section of Richmond came out for Wednesday’s vigil, some holding signs in Frazier’s commemoration, others holding signs calling for peace in Richmond. Sports teams from Richmond High and middle schools were well-represented, as well as students from North Richmond.

Hundreds of small white paper cup candles burned with the name “Rodney Frazier” printed on them, and the air was thick with the smell of scented candles.

When a siren screamed in the distance, all eyes looked up, wondering if the police were on their way to another shooting.

Emil Williams, 14, took the death of his friend very hard. “You know someone is going to die one day out here. If somebody gets shot one time it’s not going to stop, it just keeps going on and on.”

When Rodney went down on Friday night, children in the street saw him fall.

“There is no way that an 11- or a 12-year-old has to see such a thing,” said Frazier’s coach, Rob Collins. “No way!” As coach Collins finished his speech and turned around, his face was pink and wet with tears. “If you’re still out there, put your gun down and take up a basketball. I will teach you.”

“A whole generation is being wiped out,” said Diane Adams, a cousin of Frazier’s. “It’s happened to my brother, dad, cousin. Kids walking around with guns, and they don’t even know how to tie their shoelaces.”

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke, grieving the loss of Frazier and pointing out that Richmond has seen its crime rate decrease in recent years.

Ceasefire and Building Blocks for Kids, two local programs focusing on stopping violence, have instituted night walks at the Belding Garcia Park on Friday, November 14, at 7 p.m. along with the Richmond Police Department

All eyes went down for a last prayer.

“Lord, we pray that your kingdom come, your will be done today in Richmond as it is in Heaven,” the pastor said.

A Richmond High teacher spoke into the microphone: “Richmond High: Back to the bus!”  And with that, the crowd slowly began to walk away.

“He was a good kid,” said Katie Davis, a Richmond resident and relative of Frazier’s. “He’s gonna be missed. He’s really gonna be missed.”

Knowles Adkisson contributed to this article.

 

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