RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It has been almost a year since the city of Baltimore was convulsed by the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police last April. Violent demonstrations followed in that city and gave momentum to an intensifying debate about the relationship between police and communities of color around the country.
Last May, we spoke to Reverend Harold Carter, Jr., of the New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore. Rev. Carter presided over Freddie Gray's funeral. He was also involved in some of the peaceful protests that took place in the days following Gray's death. He joins us now from the studios of WYPR in Baltimore. Rev. Carter, it's nice to talk with you again.
HAROLD CARTER, JR.: Rachel, as always, it's a pleasure.
MARTIN: So how are you doing? How is your community at this point?
CARTER: The community of northwest Baltimore, in particular the Sandtown area, is still up against it. However, there, at the same time, seems to be some sense of healing, and the area and as well as the city at large is slowly but surely moving in a better direction.
MARTIN: What are the metrics you can point to that demonstrate that? What is changing that's moving in a better direction?
CARTER: Excellent question. There is a better sense of hope and optimism, and I would directly associate that with maybe the change in leadership that we're dealing with. We have a new police commissioner, Kevin Davis, as well as the upcoming elections that are on the city's horizon for the mayoral piece and certain certainly council persons. I think all of that is giving us a new outlook on things.
MARTIN: What about in your community, in your church community at New Shiloh Baptist?
CARTER: Well, the church has certainly experienced a reformation in our community and I think in a larger way throughout the city of Baltimore. The church primarily - and I'm speaking at this particular point of the African-American church especially. But really since the days of civil rights and that whole era, the church has been basically withdrawing itself more and more behind its walls. Certainly the Freddie Gray unfortunate death and the subsequent riots, et cetera, have awakened that kind of a sleeping giant where the church may be concerned. And from that perspective, clergy and layette (ph) as well are much more visible doing, I think, what in many ways the church is called to do outside of evangelism and that is to be, I guess, on the front lines of activism and social justice, things of that nature.
MARTIN: And that had not been happening.
CARTER: Not to the extent that it has been over the last 11 or so months because we were gathering ourselves, preaching to ourselves, singing to ourselves and that kind of thing. There were pockets of some concerns, you know, over the years, but this has galvanized the church to say that, yes, we are here. Moreover we are doing kingdom work and we're doing it to better our own plight. We're not going to wait on others to come in and help us, but we're going to take our own stand.
MARTIN: Rev. Harold Carter, Jr. - he's the pastor at the New Shiloh Baptist Church in west Baltimore. Rev. Carter, thanks so much for talking with us again.
CARTER: Rachel, again, it's been my pleasure and God bless you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.