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BY SAM SPOKONY | Community members continued to grieve last week over the loss of Raphael Ward, 16, who was shot and killed near his apartment building in Baruch Houses on Jan. 4. The Grand Street Settlement, the community center at Pitt and Grand Sts. where Ward had been enrolled in recreational programs, held a tribute event last Friday night, which included two basketball games in Ward’s honor and a candlelight vigil at the makeshift memorial on Columbia St.
After the games were over, several friends and relatives of Ward’s performed a song through tears, and his cousin from Ghana — a rapper who goes by the name of King Shabadey — also gave a brief performance. The settlement house also took donations from attendees that night and presented Ward’s mother, Ali Delgado, with $400 as a token of the community’s support.
“We all took a loss, and I’m just so frustrated by all this,” Delgado told the crowd. “But your love, prayers and support have been astounding. Now, please don’t let his name die in vain. We’re killing each out there, and let’s try to make a change.”
During the vigil later that night, friends and family members stood for a moment of silence before a local pastor gave a rousing sermon that once again implored the neighborhood’s youth and adults to make the changes Delgado was talking about. Some people also took a moment to write notes of remembrance on the wall behind the memorial, either sharing a fond memory or simply telling Ward that they love and miss him.
Shaheeda Abdush-Shaheed Smith, 33, a Grand Street Settlement employee who led one of the programs Ward had been involved in, said that she wanted people to leave the tribute event feeling a “sense of unity.” Smith also recalled Ward’s presence in the neighborhood, and was quick to respond when asked what she thinks of while remembering him.
“I think of his smile,” she said.