There were probably more people in the room at the Drop Inn Center than would comfortably fit under normal circumstances, but today people wanted to be close and share their memories and their grief. Friends of buddy’s passed along narrow paths between knots of folks talking quietly, shaking hands, hugging, crying, comforting. One woman came up to me and said, “You gave me shock. From the back, I thought you was buddy. The last time I saw him [he] was laying there, not moving.” Staff of the Drop Inn Center were slipping into new T-shirts bearing buddy’s likeness and the message: WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.
The march stepped off promptly at Noon from 12th and Elm with the words “Buddy would have loved this” and a thousand people set forth to walk the streets lined with hand painted posters, escorted by police who stopped traffic and followed respectfully by the media. The pace of the march varied, speeding up when the street was wide and slowing to a crawl when folks bunched up on narrow side streets, lined with buildings that ReStoc and other community organizations had strived to save.
The crowd of black, white, poor and middle-class folks walked largely in silence, often with heads bowed, joyless...but determined. “Jobs” said one sign on a building. “JUSTICE” cried out another sign. “Housing NOW” proclaimed a second floor banner. We passed a community garden and a number of churches as we wound our way to Washington Park, where buddy’s friends gathered to remember his life and their struggles.
At a gazebo in the park, speaker after speaker called upon the crowd to take up the fight that buddy had put down so suddenly and so involuntarily. The choir sang “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest.” Buddy’s aggrieved brother compared buddy’s life to the life of Jesus. In a moving speech, the director of the Drop Inn Center which buddy founded in 1974, told the crowd a story about a media personality who told her cameraman, “Oh, that’s nobody “ referring to a Drop Inn Center employee.” The director went onto say that no one makes sure that the hungry are fed, that the light bills are paid and that the homeless are brought in from the cold. “We are all no one.”
Buddy’s life was seized and destroyed by a neighbor and former client of the Drop Inn Center who came into buddy’s office and shot him—ostensibly to stop the voices in his head that told him to kill buddy gray.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1997 Issue 19