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Homegoing for ‘Tyre’ was more than a funeral

Yes, it was streamed live and those who chose to witness it that way were the better for it.

Others chose to brave a treacherous mix of icy sheets and snow that made driving – even walking – an exercise of caution.

“I think many people who decided to get in their cars on these hazardous roads were thinking some of the same thoughts that I had. This was not just a funeral service,” said Joseph Kyles. “This was, as (family attorney) Ben Crump said, a call to action.”

Joseph Kyles, retired director of Shelby County Veteran Services. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell/The New Tri-State Defender)

Kyles has a son and a grandson. They were on his mind during Wednesday afternoon’s service at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

“I believe all of us want to know that we did everything in our power to make sure that something like this does not happen in their lifetime. The fact that some things keep happening should not deter us from our purpose. Black men and Black boys are due the same respect that others who don’t look like them get from not only the police but others who represent our society.”

He voiced what some others said and many, many more thought: “Had Tyre Nichols been white, we would not have been at a funeral today. We want our children to have a greater quality of life, and our grandchildren to have an even greater quality of life than our children.”

Nichols was beaten savagely on Jan. 7th by five now-former members of the Memphis Police Department. They’ve been fired and charged with multiple charges, including second-degree murder. Two others have been relieved of duty pending an ongoing investigation.

Three members of the Memphis Fire Department have been fired for not living up to their duties. Two Shelby County deputies, who also were on the scene, have been relieved of duty pending the completion of an investigation.

On a parallel track are the continuing investigations of Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Steve Mulroy and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.

Nichols was pronounced dead on Jan. 10th. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said he essentially died on the night he was beaten.

Video footage released on Jan. 27th is running on a mental loop throughout the country and the world.


Celebration the Life of Tyre Nichols

“This was not just a funeral,” said Kyles. “I believe we all were eyewitnesses to history. By my presence as an African-American man, a proud African-American man, I stand with others who stand for equal justice.

“My presence today was a small price to pay for the cause of justice. This was a moment in time I think we will all remember. I will long remember this day, and I thank God for what we heard and what we saw; what we experienced today.”

Brett Demas (Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell/The New Tri-State Defender)

Brett Demas resolved that he had to get to Mississippi Blvd.

“Tyre Nichols’ story is touching, and I really wanted to be here. My office was closed today because of the weather. I was determined not to let the weather stop me from getting here. I will always be happy that I came.”

For Brooke Fairfield, being at the service was a continuation.

“I went to Mason Temple last night,” she said, referencing the press conference held on the eve of the funeral. The setting put Nichol’s family, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy, local activists, and clergy in the pulpit where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his prophetic “Mountain Top” speech.

It was the last speech for Dr. King. He was assassinated less than 24 hours later.

Brooke Fairfield (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell/Special to The New Tri-State Defender)

“I attended the candlelight vigil (for Tyre) at the skatepark,” said Fairfield. “The story has been very sad for me. I wanted to come today to be here with all the other people who have been touched by Tyre’s story in some way. I think we begin to heal when we come together to share our grief.”

Terry Bell came to support Nichols’ family.

“As a mother of sons, this could have easily been one of mine. The Lord led me to be here today. I feel a connection with this family and especially this mother. I know it was the Lord who led me to come and be here.”

Wayne King is a self-described “concerned citizen,” who drove up from Coldwater, Miss.

“I drove all the way up here to this funeral because it was important for me to be here,” King said. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere Dr. King said. I thought it was important to be present to show a commitment to being involved in the fight for justice, not only for Tyre but for people in our community everywhere.”

Chris Wieland (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell/The New Tri-State Defender)

Chris Wieland “met Tyre and spoke with him several times at Starbucks. He was a friendly guy and seemed to always have something funny to say. I wished I had known him better and spent more time with him. I felt I just had to be here.”

Jerry Sallis lends energy to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“…I believe in protesting for change. Tyre’s funeral is our call to action.”

Jerry Sallis. (Photo: The New Tri-State Defender)

For Sallis, “There was never a thought of looking at this funeral on live-stream. I am energized and encouraged about what I heard here today.”

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