By C. Ron Allen
At 2, Prince Malachi enjoyed playing drums. He would tap on the drums at his church after service on Sundays and at home, he often improvised – whether on the table or on whatever he found.
So much was his love for drums that his dad bought him a drum set.
“My baby enjoyed music. He loved to sing, play the drums, the piano, and the guitar,” Montre Bennett shared with me recently. “He was very active at school and he loved to make people happy.”
So it was only appropriate that Mr. Bennett give him a home-going on Saturday befitting of an aspiring drum-major. Master Malachi was fatally struck last week as he rushed into the street to greet his father.
Upon learning that, I reached out to my contacts and called a few musicians who once played in bands. Some said they were too rusty or too old to walk from the church to the cemetery, some seven blocks away, but offered to help me search for available participants. Longtime musician Clifford German brought his horn and blew along the way.
Delray Beach Police Assistant Chief Jeffrey Goldman said they would be happy to help with traffic control.
But it was Ms. Shirley Bryant from the Achievement Centers for Children & Families who saved the day.
Just when I thought we were about to strike out in finding a drum corps, Ms. Bryant provided my lifeline.
“We would love to be a part of this,” she said over the telephone. “Let me make some calls and get back to you. Our kids would love to do this.”
The center recently formed a drum line and the students are so eager to showcase their mettle. (Let me also add that they are in need of equipment, so any help would be much appreciated).
I am not surprised by the level of support from the residents of Delray Beach. I am however moved by their compassion.
The last time I saw anything like this was some 12 years ago at a Jazz funeral in New Orleans. Jazz funerals are traditional funerals with music. They typically begin with a march of family, friends and a brass band. The music is normally somber at the beginning of the march and once the ending is near and friends say their final goodbyes, the music becomes more upbeat.
As the drum line marched from the church on SW 10th Avenue to the Delray Beach Memorial Gardens motorists stopped and residents watched and waved from their front yards.
Never has there been a time in the history of the city that a drum corps ushered someone to the cemetery.
Another memorable moment was when instead of using the automatic belt to lower the Prince’s coffin, two graveyard workers climbed in the vault, cradled the white 4-foot casket and laid it in its final resting place.
While Saturday’s service may not rise to the level of a Jazz funeral, I am sure Malachi would be proud of his final procession from this earthly life.
Thanks to Samaritans Ms. Bryant and Chief Goldman, Saturday’s service was as Mr. Bennett wanted: a celebration of Malachi’s life, not a time of mourning.