You may have seen the long line of hearse riding down west North Avenue headed east on Friday, June 27, 2020 at approximately 6:15 p.m. in Baltimore, MD, but let’s talk about the reason for the caravan.
Harri Close, President, National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association (NFDM), a Black Funeral Directors and Mortician Association, organized this event in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement and protest in the midst of the corona virus Pandemic, and the continued rising murder rate in the city. Mr. Close sees lost of life on a regular basis and decided to organize an event that last responders see and participate in, often. Funeral cars from March Funeral Homes were first in line and led the parade of hearse bearing Black Lives Matter signs. Cars from the following funeral homes participated, each bearing a sign with the name, year, picture, city and state of a murder victim from the last few years; Joseph Brown, Wylie, Estep Brothers, Chatman-Harris, John Williams, Brooks-Clinton, William Brown, Redd, Harri Close, and Bennie Smith Funeral Home from Easton Shore, MD. A few private vehicles of contractual directors were in the caravan as well.
Reaction from the community went from raised fists, cheers, applause, honking horns and even tears. As the police escorts stopped traffic to let the caravan pass through, the honking horns from stopped vehicles were overwhelming in their acknowledgment to the caravan. I imagine the current environment of ongoing protest had something to do with the reaction. In years past, the caravan of hearse did not get that same energy from the community.
When the parade of hearse reached the end of east North Avenue, stopping in from of the Baltimore Cemetery, a small ceremony was held introducing Ms. Alice Bazemore-Manns (Alice Elliott) the oldest living licensed, black female, mortician in Baltimore City. Ms. Manns is part of the family that owned and operated the Robert A. Elliott Funeral Home, which was situated in west Baltimore in the early 1900s. Ms. Manns offered words of advice to the funeral directors gathered saying “Be kind to your families.”
In the midst of a pandemic and BLM protest folks often forget about the last responders, but Close reminded the directors of their importance and shared that the lives of 39 funeral directors had been lost to Covid-19, however that information is not reported in the news media.
The signs posted on each vehicle are traveling from state to state and were removed and packed up to be shipped to the next destination, Newark, NJ. They had arrived in Baltimore from Atlanta, GA.