Maleah Williams, the 14-month-old Chapel Hill girl who was fatally injured in a drive-by shooting on Christmas Day, will be remembered Friday in an “Emancipation Day Prayer Service” sponsored by civil rights and church groups.
The Chapel Hill Ministerial Alliance and the Chapel Hill NAACP will host the service at St. Joseph CME Church, 510 W. Rosemary St., from 1 to 3 p.m.
Three men are in jail on murder, attempted murder and other charges in connection with the Dec. 25 shooting in Chapel Hill’s Trinity Court public housing neighborhood.
The toddler was in the arms of her mother, Tylena Williams, when two men got out of a car and fired shots at a crowd of adults and children playing with their new Christmas toys. Maleah, who was shot in the head, died Monday.
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Jan. 1 is observed as Emancipation Day in many communities. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which announced freedom for 3 million enslaved people in 10 Confederate states, took effect Jan. 1, 1863, during the second year of the Civil War.
The state NAACP, which announced plans for Friday’s service, linked Maleah’s death to other issues.
“We know her death is part of a larger systemic problem that painfully illustrates what happens when the dreams of young black men are deferred,” the Rev. Michelle Laws, executive director of the state NAACP, said in a news release.
“There is a prophetic mourning that demands that we be neither comfortable nor cynical in the face of violent death,” said the Rev. William Barber II, the state NAACP president. “They are our children, whether it is a baby shot amid a senseless crime in Chapel Hill or a child shot in 2 seconds by a trigger happy cop in Cleveland. We must mourn over it and stand against it.”
Shaquille Oneill Davis, 22, of Durham was charged with attempted murder on Sunday, before Maleah’s death the next day. Ramone Jamarr Alston, 22, and Pierre Je Bron Moore, 23, both of Chapel Hill, were arrested Monday and charged with murder.
Laws, a Chapel Hill native, grew up near Trinity Court. She says she has known both Alston, one of the suspects, and Maleah’s father, Shaquille Williams, since the two men were young children.
“This has just torn up our community hard,” Laws said. “It has ripped our hearts open, on so many levels.”
Maleah’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Chapel Hill Bible Church, 260 Erwin Road in Chapel Hill. The family will receive friends at the church from noon to 1 p.m.