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Coronavirus Victims: Annapolis, Md., Activist Robert Eades

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Two words were front and center in Annapolis, Md., this month - I cry.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

I cry was the mantra of Robert Eades, an omnipresent and tenacious advocate for the city's Black community. He died from COVID-19. I cry are the words he used to conclude his Facebook posts, whether they were videos of civil rights leaders, criticisms of public officials or fundraising pleas for local kids' school supplies.

TAVON EADES: And I cry to him was - he wants it to get better. Until it gets better, he's going to weep and he's going to cry until it becomes better.

CORNISH: That's Robert Eades' son Tavon. But Robert Eades didn't just cry. He worked. He led protests. He gave elderly voters rides to the polls on election days. He took local kids on Black history-focused field trips. And he was a fixture at Annapolis City Council meetings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: The next item on the agenda is comments by the general public.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: OK. First person signed up to speak is Robert Eades. Please come forward.

ROBERT EADES: Good evening, Mr. Mayor, city council members. How are you doing? I'm here looking for some respect, some respect.

CARL SNOWDEN: He made it a point to go to city council meetings and raise issues, whether it was on housing, police brutality, any injustice that he thought that needed to be brought to the attention of the city council. He did this.

CHANG: That's Carl Snowden, the chair of the Caucus of African American Leaders of Anne Arundel County. He met Robert Eades in 1976, when they were both working to organize a rent strike. He remembers how Eades would always bring his daughter, now 9 years old, to those council meetings.

SNOWDEN: He wanted her to understand what Frederick Douglass knew - where there's struggle, there's progress; where there's no struggle, there's no progress. And so he took his daughter to all of these meetings and exposed her to how to stand up for what you believe in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

R EADES: But you can start making a big fuss. Somebody will listen.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Absolutely, we can.

R EADES: You start some smoke, and people will know fire somewhere.

CORNISH: Robert Eades didn't slow down. When protesters marched in Annapolis earlier this year to protest the police killing of George Floyd, he was there. Tavon Eades recalls that, at first, his father was upfront.

R EADES: By the time the march got up Main Street, he was in the back of the crowd. And then he said to me later on that day, I finally got through; the youth of Annapolis have actually stood up and did something on their own and did it peaceful.

CHANG: Tavon says he felt in his heart that his father had completed his assignment.

CORNISH: Robert Eades died earlier this month from COVID-19. He was 63 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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