Long live ‘Wop’

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The family of the late DaMarco Duncan are joined by Chowan University students and staff, and members of the local community as they march for peace and unity on Sunday afternoon in Murfreesboro. | Staff Photos by Cal Bryant

The family of the late DaMarco Duncan are joined by Chowan University students and staff, and members of the local community as they march for peace and unity on Sunday afternoon in Murfreesboro. | Staff Photos by Cal Bryant

MURFREESBORO – It was a day, an event, that DaMarco Trevon Duncan would have loved.

It was a day, an event, that attracted the young and old; black and white. A day where the weather was picture-perfect, ideal to the point where it would lead one to think that Duncan had a hand in asking his maker to bless Murfreesboro with sunny skies and just enough of a breeze to keep the temperature in the upper 60’s.

In a rally here Sunday that highlighted peace and unity, nearly 100 individuals walked the short route from the grounds of Hertford Academy to Chowan University, all in an effort to remember Duncan’s life and speak out against violence.

Duncan, a Chowan student from Maryland, was murdered in the early morning hours of Dec. 5, 2015 at an off-campus party near Murfreesboro.

The event was staged by Chowan’s NAACP Chapter, of which Duncan was a member.

“This event is to rally and march in the name of those who have been lost to violence,” said event organizer and former Chowan University NAACP Chapter President Dana Williams, who called for a moment of silence for those lives lost. “DaMarco’s death was very tragic, as are all senseless deaths. We’re here today to remember Da’Marco’s life and all those lives loss due to gun violence.”

From left, Flora Duncan Lawson, Tracy Duncan and Wesley Bowman proudly display an honorary Chowan University diploma presented to them in memory of the late DaMarco Trevon Duncan, a Chowan student murdered in December of last year.

From left, Flora Duncan Lawson, Tracy Duncan and Wesley Bowman proudly display an honorary Chowan University diploma presented to them in memory of the late DaMarco Trevon Duncan, a Chowan student murdered in December of last year.

Prior to the march, those gathered on the grounds of Hertford Academy heard from Duncan’s aunt, Flora Duncan Lawson of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as she spoke on behalf of her family. She started off by saying how grateful her family was for the outpouring of love and support shown by DaMarco’s fellow students at Chowan as well as university officials.

“DaMarco loved the college life here; he loved his friends and he shared so many stories about his time here,” Lawson noted. “He was his mother’s only child; he was my big baby and we adored him. You can only imagine the pain and the emptiness we are enduring.”

Lawson added that DaMarco’s dream was to make his family proud by receiving his degree from Chowan and becoming a productive citizen in society.

“DaMarco had already made us proud as he was a very respectful, kind and loving young man,” stressed his aunt. “He was an amazing human being; a gentle giant. We loved him beyond words and miss him every day. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t miss him and shed tears wishing he was here with us.

“It has been four months and two weeks since DaMarco was tragically taken away from us and time has not made it any easier nor the pain lesser,” Lawson continued, her voice now trembling with emotion. “We continue to pray for God’s strength and comfort.”

She thanked Williams for her efforts to put together Sunday’s event.

“There are no words that can accurately express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Dana,” she said. “We also need to express our love and thanks to the Chowan University faculty, students and staff, and to the (Hertford County) Sheriff’s Office. We thank you for your continued support and for you honoring DeMarco in this special way.”

Lawson said that a memorial fund has been established in DaMarco’s name with the funds aiding a student who wanted to follow a dream. The money will also be used for the purchase of a granite bench engraved with his name to be placed at a suitable place on the Chowan campus.

In conclusion, Lawson said in order for the Duncan family to find some measure of peace and healing, “the coward responsible for this senseless and tragic crime that took his life must be held accountable, arrested and convicted.”

Rev. Mari Wiles, Minister to the University and Associate Dean of Students, offered an opening prayer. She asked God to call on those attending the event to renounce violence, and to love everyone.

“God, we need to hear your word of peace. Help us to become holy people, those who practice non-violence. We need to pursue a new world, one without hate, war, poverty, weapons and violence. Have mercy upon us.”

Murfreesboro Police Chief Darryl Rowe, who guided the marchers along their route from Hertford Academy, across Main Street, and to the Chowan campus, said of his 27 years in law enforcement, the toughest job is sharing bad news to family members concerning a loved one.

“I’m tired of telling parents that their children are dead or have been hurt,” Rowe said. “After all these years, I still have trouble understanding why people have to resort to violence. The way to stop it is for people like me in law enforcement and people like you in the community to work together. If we don’t stand together, we will fall apart.”

Rowe encouraged residents to call on him at any time.

Rev. C. David Stackhouse, pastor of New Ahoskie Baptist Church, also spoke to the crowd.

“My heart breaks for this family, for you, the students, and for the university,” said Stackhouse, who was in attendance representing the Hertford County Chapter of the NAACP.

“I’m so proud of Dana (Williams); we’re here today because of her vision and her passion. She knows that we need to do more than just hug the Duncan family. We have to put our love into action,” he added.

Stackhouse touched on what he called an “epidemic” of gun-related deaths, saying that in his hometown of Charlotte alone, there has been more black-on-black crime in the first four months of 2016 than the last 10 years combined.

“What are we going to do if that level of crime grows here in Murfreesboro, Ahoskie and our other local communities,” Stackhouse asked. “We can do this; the Bible says one can change a thousand and two can change 10,000. If just one of us will do that, look at the change it can make. Just think if all of us join in that change. And remember that love sees no color. We need to all come together and love each other.”

Randy Harrell, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Chowan for the past 16 years, said he has often filled the role of a surrogate father over that period of time.

“My spirits soar with my students’ success as they graduate; and my heart is broken at times when my students find a roadblock they cannot overcome,” Harrell said. “But my heart has never been broken more ever in my life when we learned of DaMarco’s senseless death.”

Harrell remarked that Duncan came to Chowan because it promises a better life.

“He did not come here as a man of violence; he came here pursuing an education,” Harrell stressed. “Marco went to that dance, that night (Dec. 5) to celebrate the end of a semester with his friends, not to engage in any violence. DeMarco was a victim of circumstance that night and nothing makes sense of his passing.

“But there’s so much about DaMarco that does make sense,” Harrell continued. “And Dana, thank you so much for doing this, because this makes sense.”

Harrell revealed that when Chowan students return to campus in September to begin the fall semester, they will be asked to sign a newly created “DaMarco Pledge.”

“That pledge says that we, as Chowan University, will not tolerate violence on our campus, nor will we accept members of our community remaining in our community if they choose violence,” Harrell said. “We know DaMarco did not choose violence, but we, in his name, want to stand together and say never again.”

Following the march, which included a trip around Squirrel Park on the campus, the group came to a stop next to Dunn (residence) Hall. There, in a touching moment, Wiles presented DaMarco’s parents, Tracy Duncan and Wesley Bowman, with an honorary diploma in his name as the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.

“We give thanks that DaMarco was and will forever be a Chowan Hawk,” Wiles said. “He was much too young to part from our midst, but we are thankful for the life he lived. We need to make measures to be non-violent people. We need to look at ourselves as sons and daughters of God. In that respect we can hopefully see less evil and more love.”

“We, my family, are in awe,” said Mrs. Duncan, tightly clutching the diploma. “We appreciate this; we love you.”

Several of DaMarco’s closest friends on campus spoke of the young man known at Chowan as “Wop.” The last of that student trio referenced the ongoing rash of gun-related deaths in his hometown of Norfolk, VA.

“There’s a murder there almost every day; it’s sad, I’ve lost a friend to a murder there,” he shared. “I know how you feel (referencing the Duncan family). What I can tell you is what a great friend DaMarco was to all of us here. His death has bonded this campus together, students from all walks of life; students from different states.”

It was a day….it was DaMarco Duncan’s day….Long live Wop!

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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