Amid Baltimore Protests, A 'Little Spotlight Of Joy' In a week when attention was focused on Baltimore, NPR's Rachel Martin visited the city's New Shiloh Baptist Church. She spoke with Rev. Harold Carter Jr. and a young church member, Caleb Studivant.

Amid Baltimore Protests, A 'Little Spotlight Of Joy'

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin, and this is For The Record.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hey, hey. Ho, ho. These racist cops have got to go. Hey, hey. Ho, ho...

MARTIN: That's the sound of protesters Saturday in Baltimore at what some called a victory rally. On Friday, Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney for Baltimore, announced criminal charges for six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. The charges range from murder to assault and misconduct.


MARILYN MOSBY: We have probable cause to file criminal charges.

MARTIN: We've come to Baltimore this weekend to trace what has been a difficult week in the city's history. It started last Monday, as TV cameras descended upon the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore, where mourners had gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It is a very somber scene outside this church in West Baltimore.

MARTIN: Baltimore was on edge in the days after that, culminating in Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's announcement Friday. As she gave details on her investigation, Mosby sought to reassure the city's youth.


MOSBY: I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment; this is your moment. Let's ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come.

MARTIN: We'll hear from two generations in Baltimore this morning. For The Record today, one city, one church, one week.

We are at that church, New Shiloh Baptist, and we're here to meet Reverend Harold Carter Jr.

Nice to meet you.

HAROLD CARTER JR.: Yeah, I can't shake your hand...

MARTIN: This church has been here on the corner of Clifton and Monroe for 25 years. This month, in fact, they'll mark that anniversary. Reverend Carter's father led this congregation for decades before passing away in 2013. The church halls are filled with photos of the elder Carter.

CARTER: He grew up in Selma, Ala. He was licensed by Dr. King and Dr. Abernathy, so he's a product of the movement.

MARTIN: Did you have much of a choice in what you were going to do for a living?

CARTER: (Laughter) That's great question.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

CARTER: The long and short of that answer would be no (laughter).

MARTIN: (Laughter).

CARTER: Obviously, I could have said no.


CARTER: But I didn't want to try.

MARTIN: This church has long been a touchstone for the community here, the same neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived. And last Monday, Reverend Carter presided over Gray's funeral. Later that afternoon, after the service, Carter made his way home. He turned on the TV and saw images of teenagers wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.

CARTER: And they went to the local mall, let's just say three blocks from here. And that's when things started to, as we say, pop-off - young kids throwing rocks, bottles etcetera at the police. And now I'm seeing them putting on riot gear.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, a young man named Caleb Studivant was in his living room watching those same images. The 24-year-old is an active member of the New Shiloh Baptist Church, and he handles their multimedia operations. Studivant lives just blocks from where the unrest started.

CALEB STUDIVANT: It was hard to watch, and it was - it was just crazy. I literally could not turn the TV off.

MARTIN: In that moment, both Carter and Studivant felt like they needed to get back to the church. Caleb got in his car, turned the corner, and on the side of the road...

STUDIVANT: I see a car on fire. And it's one of those out-of-body experiences. Like, you see it in movies all the time.

MARTIN: But this was real. It was happening in his neighborhood. By the time he got to the church, Reverend Carter had figured out his next step.

STUDIVANT: I said, I'm going to start calling some pastors. Somewhere within 30 minutes, we had about 25 pastors here. And within 45 minutes, we may - probably had 50 pastors.

MARTIN: Reverend Carter organized a press conference to call for peace. And by the time the meeting was over, more than 200 pastors had come together at New Shiloh Baptist Church that Monday night. Here's Caleb Studivant.

STUDIVANT: You know, you wake up one morning, and you don't expect to see what happens that night. Like, you - I would never expect to sit in a room like that before.

MARTIN: Reverend Carter says the group of pastors wasn't really sure what to do next. So they decided to march.

CARTER: We were actually literally marching on glass on North Avenue, you know, walking on glass because of the bottles thrown, windows broken. Again, smoke was in the air. We were looking maybe about 20 or 30 yards ahead of us, and here comes a police brigade of police in riot gear with their batons tapping on their shields, click, click, click, click. And they're marching towards us. They do not know who we are because of the smoke, the nightfall etcetera. We got down on our knees right at the intersection and prayed in front of them. And the commander of that particular unit - extremely, extremely good guy - he walked towards us. And we met him as leaders and told him what we were doing. He says to us, if you can turn around, make a U-turn, we need to put these fires out. He said, if you lead, we will follow.

MARTIN: The next morning came. It was Tuesday, and Caleb Studivant was supposed to go to class. He's studying philosophy.

STUDIVANT: I go to University of Maryland, which is a predominately white institution.

MARTIN: He decided not to go to school that day, though. He says he just didn't want to deal with the questions or comments that might come his way.

STUDIVANT: And I didn't want to have my anger boil over to a point where somebody would say something wrong to me or somebody disrespect my own community not knowing - I mean you've got to think, University of Maryland is 35 minutes from Baltimore. They think I live in the dorms with them. But really, I live five minutes away from everything that just happened Monday. So I didn't want to put myself in that position.

MARTIN: Studivant didn't want to take part in the on-campus conversations about what was happening back in his own neighborhood. But he also wasn't ready to join the marches and protests that were happening just blocks away from his house.

STUDIVANT: Before I jump two feet in or just go all the way with some group, I need to know who's about what and who was here before, you know. Like, I don't want somebody just popping up on the scene like, we're going to save Baltimore. It's like, well, what does saving Baltimore mean if you've never stepped foot in Baltimore before?

MARTIN: The next day, he drove along North Avenue to see the damage for himself. North Avenue, a street lined with boarded-up buildings, abandoned stores, and he thought all about the media flooding into the city. And he worried they would get it wrong.

STUDIVANT: People coming in here would think this was going on for blocks when really, it was just one intersection. But if you've never been to Baltimore before, you think, they did all of this in one night? No, all of that had been done in the last 10 to 15 to 20 years. And it hurt because I couldn't tell where it began.

MARTIN: The next couple days were tense. The whole city was on edge waiting to hear the results of the investigation into Freddie Gray's death. Protests continued to grow. Then on Friday, another turning point. Baltimore's chief prosecutor declared Gray's death a homicide, six Baltimore police officers now facing criminal charges. Reverend Carter's reaction...

CARTER: Relief-surprised, joyfully surprised because it says to the community that you're being heard.

MARTIN: What now?

CARTER: Good question. I would like to, obviously, say that the legal process runs its course. Due process is always important. And I still affirm that one is innocent until proven guilty. However, the community is still suffering.

MARTIN: He says the same issues persist, high unemployment, too much crime, broken schools - many of the same issues his father worked to fix a generation ago. Caleb Studivant also watched that same press conference when the prosecutor read out the charges.

STUDIVANT: I was happy that we got to that point. But at the same time, I'm like, these are just charges. You know, we've got another month. We've got months, maybe even years - I don't know how long a trial necessarily takes. But we've got time before we get to a point where we're reading verdicts.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm good, yourself?

MARTIN: Saturday morning at New Shiloh Baptist Church, kids are running around the hallways, here for Bible classes. Adults take music classes. This is a vibrant living community space. Reverend Carter greets parishioners.


CARTER: Hey, sweetie, what's going on?


CARTER: Good, good, good.

MARTIN: Carter's been thinking a lot about his dad this past week, missing him, missing his guidance in a time like this. He's also been thinking about what he's going to say in his Sunday sermon. He found inspiration in that historic baseball game this past Wednesday.

CARTER: In addition to all of the things that was going on, the Orioles played a baseball game at Camden Yards without an audience.

MARTIN: Crowds were kept away for security reasons. And that baseball game happened anyway. Carter points to the Bible, the book of Colossians.

CARTER: Men are called to stand, to stand up. And sometimes, you have to - you have to come to the plate even though there's not an audience. And I think that that's the concept. That's the idea, regardless of if people are patting you on your back, regardless of anybody shaking your hand - regardless of media. Sometimes, you just have to stand.

MARTIN: That's something Caleb Studivant is thinking about in a new way this week. He saw how Reverend Carter and the others of that generation have helped lead this community through this crisis and Reverend Carter's father before him. And now, after this long, emotional week, it feels like his fight.

STUDIVANT: It hurt 'cause I was like, they did this 50 years ago. We shouldn't have to do it again. But now I'm like, if we got to do it again, we have to do it again. It's not about me anymore. I don't want my niece or my nephew to have to go through certain things that I'm seeing now. It's the weirdest combination of emotions I'll ever be able to explain. It was confusion. It was anger. And then, there was this spotlight of joy that was like, maybe we can shed some light on all of this. And maybe something great will come from all this. But it was like, did we really have to tear everything down to get to this moment? Did we really have to have a kid die senselessly like this? Did we really have to - did all this have to happen? And in a weird sense, in the back of my mind, I'm like, yeah, it did. So there's this, like, little spotlight of joy that's like, maybe we can get something out of this.

MARTIN: That was 24-year-old Caleb Studivant, a student at the University of Maryland and a member of New Shiloh Baptists Church in Baltimore. We also heard from the leader of that church, Reverend Harold Carter Jr.

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