By Briahnna Brown
Howard University News Service
BALTIMORE — Concerned residents, friends, political figures and police officers came together to finish what a slain father had started.
Kendal Fenwick, 24, was gunned down outside his home on Park Heights Avenue in west Baltimore. He was in the process of building a fence around his backyard to keep drugs and drug dealers away from his family home.
A truck driver, Fenwick wanted to give his three children a a safe haven in the midst of a city plagued by violence. For his actions, police said, he became the 295th homicide victim in a city where murders have now climbed past 300.
On a bright, crisp Sunday morning, dozens gathered to pitch in and help complete that dream. Attorney Ivan Bates, a friend of Fenwick’s father, helped launch the event through social media and a hashtag #FinishTheFence.
“We decided we had to do something,” said Bates, who is also defending one of the police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. “I was able to get out of court early, go over to Home Depot, and I think I had the easy part. I was just getting the supplies.”
Keith Talley, a pharmaceutical company employee who also is a good friend of Fenwick’s father, echoed those statements.
“Our mission here was to just finish what he had started to just show solidarity throughout the community to say we support him and we support their family,” Talley said.
There was a strong sense of community among the friends and strangers that came to help finish what Fenwick started.
Many people were ready to pitch in, most wearing their old and worn jeans, sweatshirts and boots that would soon be covered in fragrant dirt and grass. Some even came straight from church service, still in their Sunday best, to show their support.
Jeremy Eldridge, also an attorney and a family friend, walked up to the house with boxes of donuts and coffee to help the volunteers get the day started.
“We just had a lot of people who were hurt and didn’t know what to do with the pain,” Eldridge said, “and in manual labor we are able to find catharsis.”
About 60 people pitched in to help, so many, Talley said, that they ran out of tools and gloves for the workers.
More than a dozen police officers from the department’s Community Partnership Division were digging holes and placing posts to help finish the fence.
Baltimore’s newly-elected police commissioner, Kevin Davis, came to lend support. Davis said he was pleased that so many officer volunteered to help.
“What a way to honor Kendal Fenwick,” Davis said. “I wish we could do this for every person whose life is taken in Baltimore, because there’s a story behind each and every one of our victims.
“There’s an unfinished life behind each and every one of Baltimore’s homicide victims, and to do this today, I think it’s a shining example. Hopefully, it sets the tone going forward that we just can’t accept violence and we can’t accept the taking of such an innocent and productive life.”
The rate of homicides in Baltimore this week climbed to 301, something the city has not seen since the 1990s. The homicide rate began rising in May of this year after the riots following a march in memory of Gray, who died in police custody after being taken to jail in police van.
Six police officers, three of them black, have been charged in Gray’s death.
Even though the rates slowed to 29 homicides in June, there were 45 in July—the deadliest month the city has seen since 1972.
About 10 members of the 300 Men March movement were also helping Sunday. Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott, who spearheads the group, helped dig holes for the fence. Some of the members of the movement chatted with the police commissioner.
“This gentleman, Kendal, was everything that myself, members of my organization, 300 Men March, have been preaching about,” Scott said. “I know every day when I wake up, it might be my last day. The key to that is don’t let people give their lives and their energy in vain. Pick up where they left off and carry it.
“Very few men step up to do what he did in the first place, and to do that and not have the support makes it even worse. So, we need to honor this gentleman—not just today, but every day moving forward.”
Scott said Baltimore must combat the violence that has overtaken the city this year with a multi-pronged approach.
“It’s not one enemy we’re fighting,” he said. “We’re fighting a thousand enemies. We need people that are out here willing to mentor our young men.
“We have to have more family strengthening programs, like Center for Urban Families. We have to create more jobs. We have to start breaking down this culture that leads to some of this violence. Black men are taught that this is what they’re supposed to do—not just through life, but through media, through music, through TV.
“We have to take those stereotypes down ourselves.”