A Sad Send-Off
Four waitresses from Sabatino's, each wearing the same standard-issue black uniform and toting a digital camera, stand among the dozens gathered on both sides of the street, peering westward and waiting to see William Donald Schaefer's last appearance in Little Italy.
The motorcade carrying the longtime mayor's coffin has stopped at important spots in his bio, including Camden Yards and the Aquarium, but it could've stopped anywhere in the city and found a way he had an impact.
In Little Italy, well-wishers gather in front of Café Gia's, which used to be Iggy's Sandwich Kings, a regular Schaefer haunt. A sign reads, "William Donald Schaefer Election Day breakfast held here for over 30 years."
"He was a Baltimore original, a neighborhood guy," says Pete Monaldi, who grew up nearby and holds a sign representing the Saint Vincent Pallotti Council of the Knights of Columbus of Little Italy. "He didn't have kids, so Baltimore was his kid."
Finally, the roar of engines comes from the west, and a squad of police motorcycles turns from President Street onto Eastern Avenue. They
are followed, slowly, by the hearse and two black limos. Schaefer's U.S. flag-draped coffin is visible through the hearse's windows.
When they stop, longtime Schaefer aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs steps out of a limo and greets the assembled, including former Baltimore Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro III and Father Sal Furnari of St. Leo The Great Church, where Schaefer often attended annual spaghetti
Near the curb, Lily Blatterman talks to her 3-year-old granddaughter Maryanne, who clutches her stuffed bear.
"This is history for you," she explained. "You may not understand it now, but you will."
On the screen, Nelson Mandela has just stepped off a plane on his first visit to the U.S. when he recognizes a face in the crowd on the tarmac below. He walks over and embraces the man, who recalls Mandela's greeting: "Hey, Harry boy."
In the front row of Baltimore's Charles Theater, Harry Belafonte smiles at his own recollection.
Belafonte, 84, has come to town for the screening of a documentary about his life, Sing Your Song, the closing event of the 2011 Maryland Film Festival.
The focus of Sing Your Song is less on Belafonte the performer—he made the "Banana Boat Song" ("Day-O") famous, among other things—as on his use of the forum provided by his celebrity to address social ills here and across the world, putting him at the forefront of the civil and human rights movements.
Interviewed after the screening by local historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, Belafonte says that having to choose between time spent with family and being away for art and activism was "not an easy road to walk."
Asked about his surprising role in bringing Barack Obama into the world (Belafonte was among a group of celebrities whose support helped fund scholarships for Kenyan students to come study in America—one of them Obama's father), the aging activist voices discontent with President's choices since talking office.
"I am waiting for Barack Obama's moral sense to be awakened," he says.
But despite having witnessed grave racism at home and injustice around the world, the sparkly-eyed Belafonte remains an optimist.
"History moves at its own pace—there are ebbs and tides, highs and lows" he says. "I think I still live in a time of hope and progress."