Outside Allen Chapel AME Church, schoolchildren mourning their friend lined up for cupcakes and goody bags filled with candy and decorated with photos of 11-year-old Karon Brown.
Inside the sanctuary of the District church, light shone through the stained-glass windows, highlighting the display of green and blue balloons on the altar. Karon’s name was spelled out on large blocks.
For the nearly 400 friends, relatives and community members who attended, Monday’s service in Southeast Washington was a celebration of life for the boy, who was fatally shot July 18. But it also was a call to end gun violence in the District.
The Rev. Thomas Lee Cardwell Jr. was impassioned as he delivered the eulogy, describing the killings of Karon and other children in the District as “evil.”
“This is not normal,” Cardwell said. “Something is wrong in Washington, D.C.”
He called on city leaders to work to get guns off the streets so “there will be no more funerals for our babies.”
Karon, among five youths between 11 and 17 killed in the District this year, was shot during a dispute among other children and adults that broke out in front of a McDonald’s near Naylor Road and Alabama Avenue in Southeast.
Police arrested Tony Antoine McClam, 29, last week in connection with Karon’s killing.
For many of those in attendance Monday, the funeral was a routine that they have repeated too many times. There have been 96 homicides in the District this year, up from 90 during the same time last year.
Karon’s funeral came one year after another young child, 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson, was shot on her way to an ice cream truck. The two children had been friends and gone to school together.
The same minister, the same choir leader and many of the same neighbors and classmates showed up again with an outpouring of support and a question: How can the community save its children?
“We will never know the impact Karon will have in society,” the Rev. Shirley Gravely-Currie told those gathered in the church. “But we can see from the outpouring here today that he has already made an impact.”
During the service and the private viewing beforehand, Karon’s friends and family wept loudly. Some children filed past their friend’s casket, crying and clutching a parent or older sibling as they made their way back to their seats. Others, too young to fully understand, comforted their parents with hugs and pats on the back.
Karon’s mother, Kathren Brown, sat quietly, accepting hugs and kind words from those who walked by.
Brown and other family members wore blue-and-white T-shirts with images of Karon wearing a halo and words such as “Forever in my heart.”
In a eulogy passed out before the service, Karon, known as “Big Ron,” was remembered as an excellent student and athlete, playing football, basketball and soccer. He loved dogs, babies, playing video games and making his family laugh.
Tucked inside the casket was the yellow football helmet that Karon wore for the Woodland Tigers football team. He wanted to become a professional football player, and one of his favorite teams was the Dallas Cowboys.
Karon had recently finished fifth grade at Stanton Elementary School
Messages of sympathy were read, including letters from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
One of Karon’s teachers, Brian Harris, who has taught global studies and dance, shared a story about how Karon helped him organize costumes one day after school, without him asking.
“If he can walk in and help, we can, too,” Harris said. “We need to help our young people.”
D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) also called on the community to make a change. Karon’s blood is on the community’s hands, he said, and everyone has a responsibility.
“I’m tired of doing funerals,” White said. “I’m tired of going to crime scenes.”
Makiyah’s mother, Donnetta Wilson, partnered with Party Palace to donate balloons, treat bags and dessert for the children who came.
Some of the kids are too young to go to all these funerals, she said, and she tried to make the day just a little easier.
“It’s just a small thing we can do to put a smile on their faces,” Wilson said.
At the end of the funeral, family members followed the white casket, decorated with balloons. Some held flowers and signs with “Karon” in large letters.
Kathren Brown, wearing sunglasses and a blank stare, held a bouquet of flowers and clutched a relative, slowly making her way out.
The choir started to sing:
“Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king!”