By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Recently, scores of parents, students, school employees and school board members and political officials stopped for a few brief moments as the names of nine Baltimore City Public School Students who died this year from gun violence were read. The names of those fallen students are:

Rashad Parks, Stefon Cook and John Brown of Excel Academy; Tyrese Davis, Calverton Elementary/Middle School; Thomas Johnson, Jr., Reginald F. Lewis High School; Jeffrey Quick, Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy; Andre Galloway, Frederick Douglass High School; Ray Glasgow, III, Baltimore City College High School; Jordan Deshields, New Era Academy.

BCPSS CEO Sonya Santelises paused between each name as a small bell rung quietly. At this first Peace and Remembrance Day ceremony to Baltimore City Public School students whose lives were cut short by gun violence Santelises on May 30 called for peace with the recognition that the peace students need in Baltimore doesn’t come without justice.

“Justice will only come when all of Baltimore’s children become our children, and we take responsibility as a society, as communities in ensuring that our young people have every opportunity to reach their potential and make their dreams a reality,” she said.

Mayor Catherine Pugh conceded to the parents, teachers and friends assembled that Baltimore’s violence reduction plans are moving more slowly than she would like, but measurable progress remains her number one priority.

“With each loss, Baltimore also loses a piece of its future. Violence reduction is my number one priority. Even though we are reducing violence, we’re not reducing it fast enough,” she said.

She assured the crowd gathered at the North Ave. administration building she is connected to every shot fired in Baltimore and brighter days are ahead.

“Every time a gunshot goes off in this city, it comes to my phone. Every time someone is killed, every time someone is cut my heart bleeds and the pain is unbearable.”

“I want to assure all of you that our future is in front of us and it is bright,” Pugh said.

“Baltimore, we will move forward and every young person in this city counts, regardless of what neighborhood they come from or what income they do or do not have.”

The melancholy morning tribute shifted toward hope as the Positive Social Change Performing Arts Troupe from Augusta Fells Savage Institute closed out the ceremony.

Savage Institute student Devine Carr seemed to convey the aspirations of the audience with the final chorus of her tribute to the nine fallen students.

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves