The pulpit at the Harlem church where a funeral service was held Thursday for a recent shooting victim served multiple purposes: to mourn, to pray, to preach and to advocate.
The funeral, for Ackeem Green, whose death last week has grabbed the attention of many in the neighborhood, took a religious and somewhat political tone as leaders and politicians, including Representative Charles B. Rangel, denounced gun violence and the community’s response to gangs.
Mr. Green, 25, was playing basketball with friends on the afternoon of June 3 when bullets were fired and he was shot in the back. The police have not made any arrests. Mr. Green’s family and friends say the shots were not intended for him, and his death has reignited anger about the use of guns to settle disputes.
His family, friends and community members mourned Mr. Green at Memorial Baptist Church on 115th Street, where he was given a military-style funeral by the Harlem Youth Marines, a nonprofit program he had been a member of since he was 15. Members of other cadet programs and some active-duty members of the military were part of the crowd of more than 200 people at the service.
Standing before them, Mr. Rangel told stories of when he was 20 and serving in the Korean War and saw bodies of fellow soldiers. Garnering applause from the audience, he drew parallels between the war and Harlem’s situation with gun violence.
“I’m mad as hell because as I drive through the streets of Harlem and I see groups of youngsters outside, I get the impression that these children have lost someone,” said Mr. Rangel, who has been a longtime financial supporter of the Harlem Youth Marines. “Someone has been killed by our children. And I have that pain over and over and over. We are accessories to these murders if we don’t do something.”
Councilwoman Inez Dickens, whose district includes Harlem, and Lloyd Williams, the president of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, gave similar speeches about how Mr. Green’s death reflect larger societal concerns.
Gregory E. Collins, the founder of the Harlem Youth Marines, who helped raise Mr. Green since he had been 15, sat pensively in the front of the church. After the funeral, he and other members of the youth marines joined members of the armed forces to escort Mr. Green’s coffin out of the church.
As people filed out and down the steps, military men and women, young and old, lined 115th Street at attention. It was, Mr. Collins said, a proper military send-off, joining Mr. Green’s two families — his youth marine comrades and his family, including a 2-month-old son.
“We wanted to make sure we send him home with full honors,” Mr. Collins said as the hearse prepared to take Mr. Green’s body to the cemetery. “He deserves it.”