One of the first to arrive was a man carrying a quilt with the names of 693 Durham murder victims.
Sidney Brodie’s job was to sew the 694th name – Kamari Munerlyn – at the memorial for the 7-year-old boy held in a parking lot and grass beside the Tokyo Express restaurant on the corner of Guess Road and Carver Street.
Kamari died after being shot in a drive-by shooting while riding in a gray Honda Pilot on Sunday. Nine others, including his mother, were in the car, but not hurt.
The Pilot stopped at the Tokyo Express, where an officer gave Kamari CPR. He was then taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Brodie, who arrived at Thursday’s memorial around 6:30 p.m., introduced himself to Kamari’s grandmother, father and father’s girlfriend.
He explained that he and others had started the quilt in 1994, after 2-year-old Shaquana Atwater died from a bullet meant for someone else while she was sitting on a front porch in the now-razed Few Gardens public housing complex.
He’d never sewn the square for a murder victim on in public before, but he thought it was appropriate for another child’s death.
Brodie laid the quilt down on two tables and unfurled it down the grass. It was 60 feet of colorful, pink, orange, blue, red, triangles with names and dates of those who had been killed in the Bull City.
Then he started to sew the square with Kamari’s name into. Silence fell.
Kamari’s father Theo Munerlyn, 28, and grandmother Lisa Gerald watched for a bit. But then Gerald, 52, of Phoenix, Arizona, walked away.
She couldn’t watch her only grandson’s name being put on the quilt, she later said.
As Brodie pulled a needle and a thread through the fabric, dozens of family, friends and strangers gathered on either side of the quilt.
Suspect in jail
On Wednesday, Devon Maurice Fowler, 28, was arrested. He is being held without bail at the Durham County jail on murder and conspiracy charges in Kamari’s death.
The boy’s family has described tension between his mother’s and his father’s relatives.
Munerlyn has said the bullet that killed Kamari was meant for the boyfriend of Kamari’s mother, Felicia Parker.
Gerald has said Kamari should not have been put in that situation. Parker has said she would never put her little boy in danger.
But when Parker, 26, arrived Thursday evening, Gerald, the paternal grandmother, walked up and asked for a hug.
“Give me a hug,” Gerald said.
Parker collapsed in Gerald’s arms. Crying. Wailing. Shaking.
“I’m really sorry,” Gerald said.
Munerlyn stood on the other side of the quilt, and also collapsed in someone’s arms in tears.
Clyde Crews, with City of Joy Ministries in Durham, prayed for God to give the parents strength to deal with such a tragedy and for intervention to prevent future ones.
Gerald released Parker and put her in the arms of a someone else.
Gerald told stories of her grandson wanting waffles, and then having to go to the Dollar Tree to pick them up.
When they got there, he asked for another toy car.
“I gave him my last dollar. I didn’t care,” she said. “Because he gave me that smile with those pretty brown eyes and those eyelashes.”
Now, she said, Kamari’s relatives are fighting to hold him in heaven.
“You need to know that the violence has to stop,” Gerald said. “Because if it don’t stop there ain’t going to be nothing left of us. It just has to stop. It just don’t make no sense.”
Candles and balloons
As others spoke, members of the Bull City United, which is seeking to reduce violence in Durham by negotiating peace, handed out candles and balloons.
Eleven balloons were blue. Twenty-one were white. The numbers represent the month and the day Kamari, a first-grader at Eastway Elementary School, would have turned 8.
There were also seven green balloons because Kamari was 7. And green was his favorite color, said his aunt Jontae Cannady, of Durham.
Bull City United is working behind the scenes to ensure there isn’t retaliation for the arrest or the shooting, supervisor Dorel Clayton said.
Typically Clayton’s work requires him not to act on emotions. But he is a father, and Kamari’s shooting hit close to home.
“Us as a team, we kind of stepped up and leaned on each other,” he said. “It’s a tragedy in the community. We absolutely hate it. And it is unacceptable to have innocent children to lose their life.”
Everyone moved away from the quilt and into a circle in the parking lot. The children were put in the middle, and everyone was asked to release their balloons. They floated up.
“Hug somebody,” someone said. “Everybody hug somebody.”
As the crowd scattered, people put candles, flowers and stuffed animals around a telephone pole by Guess Road.
Kamari’s cousins Lakeisha Barnard, 32, Chase Murrill, 6, and Arianah Murrill, 8, stood among the thinning crowd.
“My balloon went the highest,” Chase said. “It went all the way to heaven.”