Days after Lakesha Baker, her face bruised and blackened, stood in this very same space to proclaim her innocence in the death of her one-year old son Bryeon Hunter, a crowd of Maywoodians, wet from the downpour outside and still-shaken from Baker’s and her boyfriend’s alleged crime, gathered here to mourn.
Participants in this candlelight prayer vigil, hosted by Youth Outreach Services (YOS), were given candles as they streamed through the entrance of the Maywood police station. Two CBS camera crews were on hand to capture the community’s silent outcry. “I’m sure many of you [can] hear the precious sound of a baby’s voice,” said, Sandra Harrison, Director of Prevention Services for YOS. She said that the organization, which is the force behind CeaseFire in Maywood, felt that it owed “it to the community to respond” to Hunter’s heinous death.
The vigil is part of a more comprehensive effort on the part of YOS to embed itself in the Maywood community. In addition to operating CeaseFire, the organization also runs personal responsibility education programs, health and wellness programs and a plethora of prevention services in a wider effort to attack violence at the root. “The reality is all about prevention,” said Harrison.
Other community and governmental leaders that attended the event included outgoing Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Village Manager Bill Barlow and Rev. Jacques Conway, pastor of the Neighborhood United Methodist Church in Maywood. In his prayer, Conway insisted that, “We can’t let this be the end of the story […] We will not rest until this child is put in a proper place of burial […] We will bury this child with dignity […] Love will conquer hate and peace will conquer violence.” Conway also prayed that the event would be a forceful demonstration that, “Maywood will not tolerate this.”
Mr. Barlow said that the vigil was “a good sign for the community’s care and compassion for every child.” It was a sentiment shared by the Mayor, who noted that the vigil reflected a hopeful reality. “People are paying attention; they care. They want to show it,” he said. He was also hopeful that the candlelight gathering would shine light on a cautionary tale about the dangers of abuse. “Hopefully, anybody else will think twice about whipping, spanking, striking their child.
Both Mr. Yarbrough and Ms. Harrison offered ebullient praise for the Maywood Police Department. “The Police Department did a good job investigating and getting it right from the beginning,” the Mayor said. And Ms. Harrison praised the Department for its efforts in keeping the community informed.
As for the future, Mr. Yarbrough struck an optimistic chord. “There’s still hope. There’s no sign of him [Bryeon Hunter] yet, but at least we have some resolution and some charges. We’re going to continue to organize and search until we find where [he] is and bring him back.”