NEW YORK -- The Rev. Al Sharpton's voice echoed off the packed pews of Mt. Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem Wednesday night as he decried the recent surge in gun violence that put 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan Jr. in the small white coffin before him.
"I'm angry at myself and all of us, 'cause it shouldn't have gotten to this," Sharpton said, pointing to the 4-foot-long casket as he delivered Lloyd's eulogy. "This is not about the blame game no more. This is about all of those who will stand up and take responsibility for our part in making sure our babies grow up."
Lloyd Morgan was shot and killed July 22 outside a South Bronx public housing project when three men began shooting indiscriminately on a basketball court near the playground where he and several other children were playing. Hundreds of family, friends and community leaders gathered in the church Wednesday for his funeral.
"This is, I hope, the worst I ever feel in my life," Lloyd's mother, Shianne Norman, said as she bent in anguish at the podium near her son's closed coffin. After thanking the community for their support, Norman read a poem someone had shared with her.
"Please don't tell me my son is in a better place. Though it's true, I wanted him to be with me," Norman read. "Don't tell me to be thankful for the time I had, because I want more."
Norman was with Lloyd at a neighborhood basketball tournament when the shootout began. Witnesses said last week that several men began firing at each other in retaliation for another shooting the night before two blocks away. Two teens, Rondell Pinkerton, 17, and Ronald Jeffery, 19, have been charged with Lloyd's murder and the attempted murder of two more injured during the shooting. Courtney Kelly, 26, who organized the tournament as a memorial to his murdered sister, was shot in the abdomen and has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon. It is still unclear who shot the fatal bullet.
Lloyd is just one of many young victims in a wave of New York City shootings this summer. Two weeks before he was killed, bullet fragments hit 3-year-old Isaiah Rivera in the leg while he was playing in front of his Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment in Brooklyn. Ariyanna Prince, 2, and Kentrell Simpson, 13, were among six injured when more shots were fired in the same borough Sunday night.
Cassell Brooks found his 14-year-old son, Kemar Bryan Brooks, dead in a Bronx park with a bullet in the back of his head four days after Lloyd was shot. As Brooks grieved for his own son, he attended Lloyd's funeral in support of the Morgan family.
"A man goes out to look for his son and he finds his son, not in a crackhouse ... but in a tennis court," Sharpton said of Brooks' tragedy. "We've become so [desensitized] we walk by our children laying there, dead."
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also expressed despair at the city's tolerance of gun violence after extending his condolences to Lloyd's family.
"Four years old, life snuffed out -- there's not a lot else to say," Bloomberg said at the time. "We all know about the scourge of guns on our streets."
While homicides are down 15 percent citywide, shootings have increased 12.1 percent through July 8, compared to the same time last year. The spike has caused some city politicians to reconsider their opposition to the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targets black and Hispanic males. In June, Sharpton said stop-and-frisk is "racial profiling in its most basic and blatant form."
But at the funeral, Sharpton called for the community leaders and politicians in attendance, including two mayoral hopefuls -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson -- to stop arguing about policy and actually do something about the violence.
"We've become so caught up in our own careers and ambitions. ... Who cares who you think you are?" Sharpton said. "If babies can't watch basketball in the park, ain't nothing we got to lose."
As they followed Lloyd's coffin out of the church, a weeping Norman clutched her remaining child's heaving shoulders. Onlookers wiped their eyes while a choir, dressed in white, filled the room with a somber hymn.
"I can take the pain, the heartaches they bring," the choir sang, swaying as mourners left. "I'm going up yonder ... to be with my Lord."
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