Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. was only 25 years old when he died due to police brutality according to his family attorneys; in Baltimore, MD following his arrest for the alleged possession of an illegal switchblade. The arrest involving six officers occurred on April 12, 2015. After a series of violent events that took place in the back of the police car, Gray was declared comatose and died seven days later from severe spinal cord injuries on April 19, 2015. His death inspired an array of both protests and riots throughout the city of Baltimore. Today he is still remembered in a unique and generous way.
This summer, in honor of Gray, Coppin State University partnered with his family and the McDonald’s food chain to establish a new scholarship which helps students decrease financial burdens while pursuing their education at the Baltimore-based university. The beneficiary of the Freddie Gray Student Success Scholarship will be a graduate of Gray’s alma mater, Carver Vocational Technical High School and will receive $25,000.
Coppin State President Anthony L. Perkins spoke with CBS Baltimore about the new scholarship and what it means to the community.
“It bears Freddie Gray’s name, but this is bigger than Freddie Gray,” Perkins adds. “This is about the young people and the opportunities they’re going to have leaving Carver and where they get to go.”
The scholarship was presented in July on the campus of Coppin State where President Perkins was joined by Gray’s family and other supportive members of the community. After the investigation into his death, the family was awarded a settlement of $6.4 million. Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka Gray, was eager to express how she felt about the philanthropic opportunity being provided to stand out Baltimore youth.
“My family is great. We support each other. We help each other,” Gray said. “We’re friendly. We like to give back,” she said.
Angelyn Armistead, a senior political science major at Howard University said, “I remember learning that Freddie was taken from this Earth too soon and I am equally stunned and inspired by this response from his family. Giving back to students just like Freddie will greatly help the community.”
The scholarship announcement comes at a time of increased awareness and interest in Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as provides incentives for the network of other HBCUs to creatively acknowledge victims of police brutality.
Coppin State’s Mr. Sophomore, Jawaad Williams, says that this opportunity puts them on the map. “Even though they are doing this for the community, it is a way for other HBCUs and the rest of the world to know what we are about.” said Williams. “I love that my school decided to do such a powerful thing, and shed light on the city we’re dead in the center of.
For years, Black Americans have fought for anti-racism legislation and anti-crime bills, but we are yet to see them put in place. Witnessing police brutality for so long has encouraged HBCU students across the nation to speak up against it.
Mariah Cooley, a junior at Howard, serves on the March For Our Lives National Youth Congress. She mentioned what it means to divest resources from the police. “We need to reimagine what policing looks like. Are they actually here to protect and serve? What are the alternatives to police,” Cooley said. “Other facilities may do a better job at policing these types of communities than police. Freddie Gray should not have lost his life due to having a weapon.”
Williams has high hopes for the reformation of police brutality, and says it starts with us. “I feel as though the black community has the ability to change police brutality. Especially since the Covid lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement, more people are starting to act on the issue,” Williams said.