Because we parachute in only when bad things happen. At least that’s what I’m hearing.
One thing is clear: Reporters were not welcome at Wednesday’s double-funeral for Eyanna Flonory and Amani Smith. And we weren’t allowed at the funeral the day before, for Simba Martin. The funeral next Monday for the fourth murder victim, Lavaughn Washum-Garrison, is also closed-press.
When I arrived yesterday morning at Morning Star Baptist Church, on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, an usher immediately spotted me and said, “Press?” I guess I didn’t look like I belonged.
The church was ready for us. I was introduced to the press liaison, who told me where I could sit and what I could (not) do. No pictures, she said. The ushers reminded me again and again. No pictures.
My colleague Bianca Vazquez Toness and I found a seat at the far end of the balcony. Bianca asked two women behind us for a look at their program; the women scowled and declined.
As the service got underway, Bishop John Borders delivered clear instructions to the congregation:
I would ask you to be mindful enough of the family that if members of the press begin to question you as we’re on our way out, say to them, ‘We are going to the cemetery now. You’ll have to talk to us later.’ Because I don’t want this service to turn into anything else but a time for a community to deal with this grief and mourning and be healed.
The people chanted in approval. “Amen.”
On Tuesday, I felt like I didn’t have the right to photograph the mourners at Martin’s funeral in Roxbury, people I have never covered before. I can’t imagine anything more infuriating than a photographer in your face as you grieve. One woman shouted at me, “Don’t take her picture! Don’t do it!”
But I kept snapping, because I had to tell this story. WBUR ran the photo, as did the Globe and the Herald. No one in, say, Cambridge or Brookline would know this grief unless we showed it to them.
Sometimes reporters make people’s lives unpleasant for the greater good.
In his eulogy, Bishop Borders challenged us: “Stop recording all the bad things that happen in our neighborhood, and learn to start recording the positive things that happen in our neighborhoods.”
I hear it. Bianca and I will be digging into this story more over the next few days.