A Tale of Two Vigils

Timothy Caughman, a Black man, was slain in New York City by a white supremacist from Baltimore. Two communities gather to honour Caughman in very different ways.

I went out to take pictures.

People gather to remember in Hampden (where the white supremacist murderer lived) to remember Timothy Caughman.

I filter in and out of the crowd. People ask “how could this happen here?” People say “this makes me uncomfortable.”
Pastor Jim Muratore opens: “we have to come to grips with who we are.”
“We have to be more welcoming!” people say. All but one family is white.
Organizer Sarah Rice takes the mic. “Timothy Caughman had a charm that would make him fit right in here.” She’s invoking Baltimore’s nickname; Charm City, mostly used by white residents to describe the white areas of Baltimore. I am skeptical Caughman would actually be welcome here. Hampden has not been a traditionally welcoming place for Black people. She continues: “We’re taking donations for Baltimore organizations”. But not his family…?
A commotion breaks out. A man yells insults from a car “SOROS FUNDED YOU LIBTARDS! Go HOME!” The crowd gets angry and shouts back “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”, but many others shout “Hampden isn’t racist!” (photo by Tedd Henn of Baltimore City Paper)
On hearing people’s claims that Hampden wasn’t racist, Megan Kenny addresses the crowd. “A white supremacist chose Hampden as a place to live because it was comfortable! Wake up!” The crowd argues with her, but she continues “We CANNOT accept this!”

At that point, I stopped taking pictures and join her. Several people come up and argue with us, including the pastor.

Dana Moore, the only Black woman at the vigil, recorded this and then later gave me permission to post it.

Finally, a Black man (whom I later learn is Dana’s husband) speaks up. “She’s right!” he yells over the crowd: “I remember Hampden. I would NEVER feel comfortable walking through here as a kid.” (Photo by Tedd Henn of Baltimore Citypaper
An older man in a hat comes forward and shouts “ALL LIVES MATTER”. One or two people come forward and confront him.

Dana, who shot the video, would later write to me:

My family and I attended the first vigil; we were “the only black family” as described. I felt out of place. In my own hometown. And then I felt unsafe. In my own hometown. I was advised to leave, to take my granddaughter away from the vigil, a prayer vigil. Can you even imagine that? We left.

At that point, I left. I had had enough, and increasingly people were talking among themselves to convince themselves Hampden wasn’t racist. A second vigil organized by Tariq Touré was about to begin in Mount Vernon, so I rode my motorcycle down there. When I arrive, the mood is very different. Somber. Reflective.

People get to work setting up a shrine to Timothy Caughman.
His name is carefully spelled out in vigil candle typography.
Tariq Touré begins speaking. “We know vigils here. We do them all the time. It becomes second nature to go to the dollar store, get the cups, get the memorial set up. We know Hampden. We know that Black people haven’t been welcome there. We know this white supremacist chose that place out of all the places to live.” A man drives by, shouting Trump propaganda. “This is what I mean” Tariq, “People are being preyed upon through their own ignorance.”
A young woman shows a sketch she drew of Timothy Caughman for the memorial.
“This is the time to unite in love and not be silent about these things.”
A leader in the Jewish community speaks: “This murderer is from Baltimore county and from Towson. Baltimore Country, where I’m from, is redistricting its schools based on racial lines. This system encourages this.”
“This could have been my brother Tariq. This racist walked the streets with impunity, and meanwhile someone like me or Tariq has to watch our backs.”
Megan Kenny gets up to speak: “At the other vigil, people were defending Hampden and telling me that it’s bit racist. White people don’t get to say what is racist.
How do we navigate the fragility? Being held accountable isn’t an attack.”
My friend Libby comes forward: “This white supremacist was my literal neighbor. This isn’t new. None of this is new. We have to make it stop.”
Tariq Touré closes with a few thoughts: “Freddie Gray had a knife on him, and he’s no longer with us. Timothy Caughman’s killer had a damn SWORD and was taken into custody safely.
On my way here, a white couple moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk. This happens all the time, just being a Black man.
But given the history, Timothy should have been freaked out at the mere sight of a white man, let alone one with a sword.
I know you feel uncomfortable talking with your families about racism. But if you don’t, we’re going to continue to have more Timothy’s.”

Several news sources covered the events.

The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and Baltimore City Paper also reported on the event.

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