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At Memorial For Curtis Gray, A March Against Violence, Appeals For Conflict Resolution, and ‘Dedication’

| April 28, 2019

A fraction of the hundreds of people who took part in a walk against violence in memory of Curtis Gray this afternoon at Central Park in Palm Coast's Town Center. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

A fraction of the hundreds of people who took part in a walk against violence in memory of Curtis Gray this afternoon at Central Park in Palm Coast’s Town Center. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Athletes on Flagler Palm Coast High School’s track team–Curtis Gray’s team–were upset Saturday that they couldn’t be at their teammate’s funeral. They had to compete in Winter Park. 

“I reached out to Carmen and I asked her for some words for some young kids who had hurt,” their coach Dave Halliday, Curt’s coach, told a crowd of several hundred, a sea of white shirts emblazoned with Long Live Curtis and Rise To Greatness insignia at a memorial for Curt this afternoon in Town Center. 

This is what Carmen Gray told the team: “Listen up Bulldog track Team. On Saturday you will have the opportunity to compete in regionals for Curt. I want you to go out there and run with the wind in your backs. Run past the pain in your hearts. Run knowing that Curt runs with you. Run to stamp out violence in his memory. Run knowing that there is hope even when times are dark. Run in memory of the good times you had with Curt. Run because he’d want you to do that. Run, because you’ll never run another race like this race. Run, run, run.”

So they did.

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland with Curtis Gray's mother, Carmen, shortly before the cypress tree dedication in Curtis's memory. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland with Curtis Gray’s mother, Carmen, shortly before the cypress tree dedication in Curtis’s memory. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

They celebrated him in their run, just as their coach told them: they had no choice but to succeed in his honor. “Yesterday is an example of that,” Halliday said. “One of our runners, Nathan Farrell, was in the lead of his race, coming up to his last hurdle. He told me after, he would hear footsteps behind him. And then as he came over, he said in his head for some reason, something shouted at him: ‘Curtis!’ And he said, ‘I will not be defeated.’ And he fought to the finish in the fastest time in the state.”  

Farrell was also second in the 110 hurdle. Jacob Miley won the 800m. The team won first place in the 400 relay, second in the 800, and won the meet, qualifying for the state championship next week. 

It was a victory emblematic of the track team’s dedication of the rest of the season to 18-year-old Curtis Gray, 14 days after he was shot dead in the parking lot of a shopping strip in Palm Coast, 14 days after he’d walked up to a car, unarmed, to be shot and killed with a single 9mm round from a gun Marion Gavins, a 17 year old, allegedly pulled out as he sat in the back seat of an SUV. The two had had words earlier, ostensibly about Curtis’s cousin, Demonte Harris, the 21-year-old Waste Pro employee killed when a truck overturned on him last November. 

Curtis Gray on a poster today. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Curtis Gray on a poster today. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“It was one shot, one victim,” Carmen Gray said today, “but look at the ricochet effect. Everyone was impacted.” She was referring to the hundreds of people, most of them students but many of them not, who turned up at the 4 p.m. memorial celebration in central Park, almost all of them wearing not their school colors but the white of Gray’s RTG shirts, which he’d marketed before his death and which now had the added entreaty to rise “above the violence.” 

That was today’s theme, set by Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland as she addressed the crowd in a voice always one note from breaking. “Mrs. Gray, mother to mother, my heart breaks for you,” Holland said, more aware of Gray’s pain than most people know. “No one should have to experience a tragedy like this.” She had words of comfort for the students: “You’ll get through this,” she told them several times. But she also exhorted the students at least three times in various ways to be friends to each other, to counsel each other, to take a stand against violence. “What can you do to resolve conflict peacefully? How can you take a personal stand against violence?” she asked. “Although this senseless act of violence will have a lasting impact on us, we will not allow it to define us. He was strong, and we can be strong.” 

She spoke to a sea of white shirts symbolic of a leavening of two school colors: Curt had attended Matanzas High School for three and a half years before transferring to Flagler Palm Coast High to be on its superior track team. But coaches and faculty from both schools spoke as if from one, as Halliday had, as his former football coach at Matanzas did, and as district officials, including Superintendent Jim Tager and senior administrator Earl Johnson, did. “Please control your controls, please observe who you’re around when you’re around them,” Curtis’s former football coach said. 

Earl Johnson, implicating the crowd with a relay baton. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Earl Johnson, implicating the crowd with a relay baton. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Johnson spoke repeatedly of Curtis’s struggles with a darker side to contrast the path he could have chosen, but didn’t.  He described him “falling out of darkness” thanks to “significant adults” who were there for him, the sort of adults who “allow you to fall but not stay down. Curtis had those adults who were not going to allow him to stay down,”  Johnson said. 

Johnson was himself skirting an edge about Curtis’s history that few knew but that he knew well, hinting not only about his struggles but about his “choices.” 

“He worked, worked hard, when he stumbled, he worked harder,” Johnson said. “Curtis bent, but he did not break.” And then came that moment shortly after midnight. “On April 13, 2019, choices were made as two paths crossed, two students who had similar circumstances, and we lost a young man because of it.” 

Johnson, by then in full preacher mode and brandishing a green relay baton that he pointed at the crowd in jabs that seem to implicate every person there, admonished: “We’re all busy. I get it. But our children are worth the commitment from this community. They deserve it,” he said, as if a conductor to the community’s responsibilities. The crowd responded with applause. “We owe it to them. Get involved. Stop making excuses. Our children need us. Long live Curtis, and may we all choose to make sure his legacy never dies.” 

Almost all heads bowed--to send out #LLC's in Curtis's memory. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Almost all heads bowed–to send out #LLC’s in Curtis’s memory. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

There were several poignant touches from the time the crowd started gathering under the nearly cloudless sky at Town center to the moment when Carmen Gray, the mayor and Curtis’s sister dedicated a cypress tree in his memory, such as the way Matanzas student representative Zoe Estberg opened the ceremony: not with  prayer, or a moment of silence, not with a pledge, but with a  moment of hashtag: she urged everyone to take out their phones and go on their favorite social media platform to say something positive about Curtis, and hashtag it #LLC. Just about every single head then bowed to those screens in a moment of silent tapping. 

And after the speeches the entire crowd, led by student Elijah Exantis drumming what came to sound like a plaintive leitmotif the entire time, marched around the lake at Central Park, at one point stretching half the length of the lake in a moving ribbon of white. They stopped for the tree dedication, then resumed the march back to the plaza for music and the announcement of a scholarship in Curtis’s name, made possible by the proceeds from the sale of so many of those shirts, along with FPC track shirts. 

“We’re walking against violence, but with purpose,” Curtis’s mother said shortly before the walk. She does not intend to be silent in coming weeks and months. Neither does Curtis it appears, after he was given voice by Halliday who daringly quoted the tamer refrain from Nipsey Hussle’s Dedication:

Dedication, hard work plus patience
The sum of all my sacrifice, I’m done waitin’
I’m done waitin’, told you that I wasn’t playin’
Now you hear what I been sayin’, dedication
It’s dedication

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7 Responses for “At Memorial For Curtis Gray, A March Against Violence, Appeals For Conflict Resolution, and ‘Dedication’”

  1. Steve says:

    RIP Young Man. Unfortunately those responsible will not and are not listening

  2. Agkistrodon says:

    Sad that young people are killing each other of simply stupid stuff. Then again, when part of society lives by a Mantra of “Snitches get stitches” And “street credibility” One cannot expect much more. If you cannot speak up for yourself, No one else can either.

  3. Outside Looking Out says:

    This was a wonderful memorial to a young man who had a loving family and many loving friends. It’s sad that someone so young has been cheated of a long life.
    It is a shame that this young man’s family has to suffer but it is also a shame that another young man’s family must suffer also. That is the family of the man who commited a crime and ended another man’s life.
    There is no doubt of his guilt, the video evidence shows it clearly, but there is no doubt from the same evidence that this was not a premeditated act on his part. This horrible and tragic event emanated from a situation that is, yet unknown. No one has come forth to tell what events happened that night. There are many many questions. Why were the “kids” hanging out at an area that is known for selling drug paraphernalia and no doubt anything that has to do with drugs? Was there a drug related argument? Was there an argument concerning boyfriend/girlfriend issues? Was it just bad blood between the people present? Was there a spur of the moment argument between two young men? Were people just hanging out with people they shouldn’t have been around?
    The questions are there, the answers are not.
    Young people today face a great deal of temptations. Some choose the wrong path just to be cool and part of the “in” crowd. Sometimes their choices turn tragic, as may be in this case. Eventually all these questions will be answered but it all leads to the same conclusion: two families are grieving. In seperate ways perhaps but none the less, the sadness is there. Along with the sadness there is anger, frustration and even the thoughts of revenge.
    We, as a people must learn to love and care for our young people, to guide them, to comfort them and to teach them that life is precious and to cherish those around them.
    I pray for the families connected to this situation and hope they find the peace they need to recover and live a joyful life.

  4. JW says:

    Condolences to the family. This young man was no angel. He did belong to a local “gang”. I hate to cast a cloud on the movement. This is a “play with the sword, die by the sword” case. It is sad that young people feel they have to be “hard” in order to be cool. As if being an outstanding athlete isn’t good enough. I hope this is a lesson to all like Curtis that life is short and you shouldn’t get caught up in the wrong crowd. And I hope it is a wake up call to the parents who don’t parent and let their kids do whatever they want. Parenting is hard. Remember the “good ole days” when we got the tar beat out of us? That was parenting and it was hard. Rest in please Curtis. I hope you had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

  5. emej says:

    JW you have no clue what you are talking about.. He was not in gang… we know this young man and his family.. teens overall are no angels but this kid was far from a dealer or gang banger.. sit back and get your facts straight before you run your mouth based on judgments.

  6. ASF says:

    I used to live in Baltimore. Once in a gang, it isn’t so easy to get out.

  7. just ;ove kids says:

    Please no more speculation and accusations….the bottom line is we lost yet another young person in
    palm coast. Out of respect please refrain from speculation. We definitely lost a person who was not only loved, but also admired for his accomplishments.
    please have respect.

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