By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Hugs Don’t Shoot volunteers stood at the entrance to Empowerment Temple in bright yellow tee shirts offering encouragement.   The sanctuary was awash in bright white, purple and pink balloons alongside life size replicas from the Disney movie, “Frozen.”  Children and their parents wore purple tee shirts and headbands bearing her name and image as they passed by a small purple casket inscribed with the word “Princess.”

Hundreds of family, neighbors and friends spent the morning of July 28 saying goodbye to Taylor Hayes, the spunky 7-year old with an infectious smile and the “biggest heart which she shared with everyone she met” according to her obituary.

Pastor Stephen Lawrence of Abundant Harvest Church gives eulogy during services for Taylor Brown at Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore. (Photo credit: Shantivia Brown)

Hayes, who would have entered second grade at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School this fall, died July 19, two weeks after she was shot in the backseat of a car being driven through Southwest Baltimore.

In a city that has seen more than its share of deaths by gun violence this year, including six children, the Rev. Jamal Bryant – who offered his sanctuary for the service after the outpouring of sentiment from the community – asked those gathered in the sanctuary to repeat with him: “Enough is enough.

“This is a day that should not be,” said Bryant. “A 7-year-old should be at a park…should be at a pool…should be doing back to school shopping.

“We can cry together, but will we stand together, will we lift our voices together?” Bryant said as he implored those gathered to make a commitment to end practices that advance violent crime.  “Today will mark the death of a stop snitching culture in Baltimore.”

The individual who shot Hayes has not been apprehended, but community leaders believe Hayes’ death will change the trend of unsolved murders.

Bishop Bryant Martin prays for children who attended memorial service for Taylor Hayes at Empowerment Temple AME Church Saturday. (Photo Credit: Shantivia Brown)

“She is a spark from the community the Lord has used to draw us together,” said the Rev. Willie Ray in remarks before Hayes eulogy.

“We need to go back to Edmondson Village and say enough is enough,” added the founder of Save Another Youth, a community organization that connects churches and community.

“This message is for Baltimore, Maryland,” said Shirley Calloway Hubbard, friend of Taylor’s grandmother, during remarks. “If the violence don’t stop and peace be still, God is going to crack the sky wide open.”

Rev. Stephen Lawrence, pastor of Abundant Harvest Church, where the Hayes family attends, appealed to Baltimoreans to learn from Hayes’ death.

“This is a teaching moment for Baltimore City; I declare this day there shall be no shootings, there shall be no killings,” Lawrence appealed.

“This day is set aside for Taylor; she’s Baltimore’s baby. Taylor could have been one of our kids. Shame on Baltimore City that we can’t put down guns,” Lawrence added.

After the eulogy, Lawrence held an altar call and requested prayer for more than 100 children who gathered at the front of the sanctuary as the audience applauded and Bishop Bryant Martin of Freedom Baptist Church delivered a passionate exhortation.

“We’re not afraid of any devil. We’re not afraid of any gang or any terrorist. We declare the Devil can’t have our children. They will not go to jail, they will not be on drugs. Taylor has been an inspiration to us,” Martin said.

“I just don’t want any other child or family to go through this,” said Nakyah Carter, 12, who attends Bay Brook Elementary/Middle School, after the service.  “I just want to feel safe.”