BY TINA SFONDELES
The mother of slain teen Demario Bailey had a message for the thousands of mourners at his funeral Saturday.
“Today, I ask of you all to live and not die, for my son,” Delores Bailey said. “The way you can do that for me is to just love all your babies. You all want to change the world? Your kids are the world. It starts with them.”
Delores Bailey sat near the front of New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church with her family, including Demario’s twin brother Demacio, dressed in his Johnson College Prep uniform.
Hundreds of Demario’s classmates and friends packed the church. At one point, dozens of the school’s basketball players and cheerleaders put on t-shirts which read “Live And Not Die” and “Get Us Home.”
Demario Bailey’s funeral / Photo by Al Podgorski
Just days shy of his 16th birthday, Demario was killed Dec. 13 when four teens shot and robbed him of his winter coat near 63rd and State streets. Demario was going with his brother to Demacio’s high school basketball practice. They were walking the rest of the way to school after getting off a bus.
The four teens have been charged as adults in his death.
On Saturday, Delores Bailey’s words brought mourners to their feet. Many were recording her eulogy. She told them God is working within her to send a message.
“I promised myself when I see them lay my baby on the ground that I would stand up because he couldn’t,” Delores Bailey said. “They took one of mine. I’m coming for a thousand one of theirs. One of mine didn’t make it through the tunnel, but a 101 will if I got something to do with it.”
Demario Bailey / Submitted photo
The mourning mother has asked the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for cars to transport children in Englewood to their extra-curricular activities, to prevent what happened to Demario from ever happening again. Delores Bailey has vowed to fight for the children of her neighborhood.
“God knew I was going to stand up to fight,” Delores Bailey said. “I ain’t going nowhere. If I got to put them in a Neon, I’m going to bring them home.”
She said she doesn’t question why God took away her son. And she urged parents to love and pay attention to their children.
“I will not be selfish,” she said. “He gave me 16 years, and I won’t ask for nothing else. I will not even question my God. But who I will question is every person in this room. Stand up for your kids. We have been there, done that. They are our future. Without them, we ain’t nothing … I want you to stand up and hug your child. Love your child. Be there for your child. And no matter what they do, love them anyway.”
She also had a message for the four teens charged with her son’s murder.
“To the boys that took my babies, I’m sorry. I wish I would have had a chance to love on ya’ll,” Delores Bailey said. “I’m sorry that you all got to spend the rest of your life in prison because your mama didn’t love you. And you can say that mamas ain’t go nothing to do with it. The devil is a liar. Because if you love them, they wouldn’t pick up no gun and blow out nobody’s brains.”
Demario Bailey’s funeral / Photo by Al Podgorski
Demario’s grandmother Bernice Fitzpatrick also made her grandson’s death a call for parents to lead their children into good lives, lives rid of crime and full of purpose.
“Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, anybody that can help, get your babies,” Fitzpatrick said. “I want to say get your babies, because they’re dying like dogs. If you love them, if you care for them, the devil can’t snatch them.”
Fitzpatrick reminded mourners that her grandson died protecting someone he loved.
“We raised him to be honorable. He protected his brother. He wouldn’t let nobody steal his pride and dignity,” Fitzpatrick said.
Emanuel sat several rows behind the family, paying his respects to Demario, hugging Delores Bailey and kneeling to speak with her for several minutes before the service.
Emanuel spoke during the service, pausing often to collect himself. The mayor’s 17-year-old son was himself a robbery victim Friday night outside the family’s Ravenswood home.
“There’s an angel in this room. He’s one of God’s angels, and he’s lying down. But he stands tall among us,” Emanuel said. “There’s nothing in this room when you see the love, when you see the passion, and you see the strength. This room is stronger than what is out there, with the hatred. Don’t ever allow this love, this passion and this strength to think it’s less than the darkness and the evil that sometimes lurks out there.”
The mayor also urged Chicagoans to “do better.”
“We will not be who we are and can be to these children, to these young souls if Ravenswood is not as pained as Roseland; if Englewood is not as angry as Woodlawn; and if Sauganash is not hurt as much as South Shore,” Emanuel said. “These are Chicagoans and God’s children, and we must take this as our measure because Delores is not the only one being challenged and called upon. All of us are being called upon.”
Demario’s classmates shared stories about the teen: his girlfriend sharing her excitement when she first learned he shared her affection; a friend recalling a day Demario cheered him up on a bad day; and another friend sharing a story about Demario knocking on his bedroom window to wake him up for school, then blaming it on a cat.
At the end of the service, Pastor John Harrah brought the teens in the church up to use Demario’s “casket as an altar,” asking them to vow to have God in their lives and to do good in Demario’s name.