It would have been perfectly understandable if the family of Tyre D. Nichols had chosen not to come to Mason Temple on the cold, icy night that was the eve of his funeral. However, they were there because it was another important step in what has evolved into a national campaign in pursuit of “justice for Tyre.”
Nichols’ parents – RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells – walked onto the stage where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his prophetic last address, the “Mountain Top Speech,” and stood with dignity for a little more than half an hour.
They shared the stage of the historic venue with Nichols’ four siblings, Church of God in Christ clergy, the Memphis Branch NAACP president and a family attorney, local activists, other area ministers and the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network.
Sharpton will deliver the eulogy today at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. Vice President Kamala Harris also will deliver remarks and Benjamin Crump, the family’s lead attorney, will bring the call to action.
The funeral will unfold 22 days after Nichols, 29, was jerked out of his car by rogue Memphis Police Department officers, peppered spray, chased down after he ran, beaten mercilessly and left to suffer for what now is calculated as 27 minutes before getting medical attention. He died Jan 10.
Mason Temple evokes a sense of fate. Dr. King was gunned down the day after his speech there. People left the church on that rainy April 3, 1968 night resolved to march on toward justice with King’s assurance they would get there “as a people.”
Tuesday night, a string of speakers made it clear that the beating and death of Nichols had them galvanized in pursuit of justice 55 years later.
Five officers have been fired and indicted, two others relieved of duty, three Memphis Fire Department members fired, and two Sheriff’s Department officers are suspended pending completion of an investigation.
And so many people have so many questions!
Tuesday night and the funeral were hailed as the “beginning of the faith community rallying … to stand with this family.”