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Amid grief, a call to action

Mourners say goodbye to teen killed in street

For almost two hours yesterday, Kim Odom sat quietly with her family inside Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan during the funeral for her 13-year-old son. Then, she suddenly stood, grabbed a microphone, and led a 60-member choir in song.

Her actions electrified the more than 1,500 mourners who filled the church, and the floor shook as the congregation pounded their feet, clapped their hands, and joined her in singing "Total Praise."

As she has since Steven Odom was shot in the head on Oct. 4 by a gunman police said they believe was targeting someone else, the mother put on a posture of poise.

The teen had just finished playing basketball and was walking to his house in Dorchester when he was shot. He fell on Evans Street, several feet from his house. No arrests have been made, but Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis has said investigators are following strong leads.

At the funeral, Kim Odom was followed by her husband, Ron. He and his wife had founded the True Vine Pentecostal Assembly Church in Dorchester, but the funeral was held at Morning Star to accommodate the large crowd. Ron Odom ushered several members of his youth choir to the pulpit, and shouted, "I feel a breakthrough!" He then led the small choir in song.

The parents were followed by Steven's four siblings, who also sang together from the pulpit. Then, Reverend Reginald Small, the youth pastor of the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Dorchester, where Steven Odom had participated in youth programs, gave the eulogy.

"This is tragic," he said. "The only way it could be more tragic is if it happened to your child. I don't know, if it was my child . . . if I could be this strong," he said.

Kim Odom wore a black dress and a long light-purple scarf around her neck. The day after her son was shot, the family asked neighbors and other mourners to wear purple, which has become the color for peace in the city.

Yesterday, purple dotted the standing room-only crowd in form of women's hats and men's ties, and many of Steven's classmates from the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury wore purple ribbons on their shirts. Some of the students cried and hugged one another throughout the three-hour ceremony.

Commissioner Davis, along with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Governor Deval Patrick, City Councilman Michael Flaherty, and other officials attended the funeral. Patrick and Menino addressed the mourners.

"I feel like it's time for grief, I feel like it's time for praise, and I feel like it's time for action," Patrick said. "This is not the order of things: parents are not supposed to bury their children. If a 13-year-old gets in the way of a stray bullet, we are not doing enough. I accept my responsibility. We must all accept our responsibility."

Menino followed, saying, "I think a new day has dawned in our city. I as mayor have the most responsibility. But everyone in this room must take responsibility. . . . I want every parent in Boston to have the feeling that their kids can walk down the street and nothing is going to happen. Today is the day, the beginning, to say, enough is enough."

The Rev. John M. Borders, pastor of Morning Star, reminded the church that 15 years ago, Robert Odom, 20, who was not related, was murdered, and that a dramatic decline in crime in the city in the mid- to late-1990s grew out of the outrage from that homicide. "The Boston Miracle was the result," Borders said.

As the funeral ended, Kim Odom returned to the pulpit. She recounted the night her son died, saying she and her daughter ducked inside their house as they heard gunfire, then ran outside as she realized that her son had not made it home.

"The clothes looked familiar, and then I looked at the sneakers. They were like Steven's," she said into the microphone. "I didn't want to believe it was him, but it was Steven. My son's life will not be in vain."

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