Community outraged and mourning after police kill 7 year old girlBy Andrea Muhammad | Last updated: May 25, 2010 - 3:37:10 PM
What's your opinion on this article?A painful loss, a call to stop the killing
Several hundred mourners lined up outside of Second Ebenezer Baptist Church May 22 to pay their respects to a little girl whose death has sparked international outrage and concern over a rash of violence gripping the community and police tactics used in bringing suspects to justice.
According to police department spokesmen, Aiyana was shot in the “head/neck area” by Officer Joseph Weekley, a member of the police Special Response Team (SRT).
Accompanied by a film crew from cable television network A&E's “The First 48,” Off. Weekley and other members of the SRT were attempting to apprehend murder suspect Chauncey Owens, 34, for the May 14 slaying of 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake. Off. Weekely also stars in another A&E series called Detroit SWAT. An investigation is currently underway by the Michigan State Police into the shooting, while the Detroit Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation.
During his daily syndicated radio talk show, the Rev. Al Sharpton, of the National Action Network announced that he would be attending Aiyana's funeral and had been asked by the family to deliver the eulogy.
During a phone interview with Fox2 Detroit, Atty. General Cox went on to say, “The bottom line for me is an outsider coming in and exploiting a seven-year-old girl's death.”
The attorney general's comments prompted a response from Rev. Horace Sheffield, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, “He's in a desperate race for governor. He thinks he has to pander to folks who are anti-Black, anti-Detroit.”
Rev. Sheffield said Atty. Gen. Cox should not allow his political aspirations to override his duty as attorney general. “If he is going to be in charge of the investigation, he needs to shut up or step down,” said Rev. Sheffield.
Despite the media frenzy, finger pointing, legal and political posturing, a brief yet poignant pause was made to honor the memory of a child whose life was cut short too early.
A somber mood overtook family and well wishers as they filled the sanctuary approaching the modest white casket draped in pink, Aiyana's favorite color.
Many bowed in reverence as others shook their head in disbelief at the sight of the beautiful little girl dressed in pink and white whose father fondly remembered as “my first Black Disney princess.”
Among those paying their respects were Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), representatives of the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sampson of Chicago and attorney Jeffrey Fieger, who is representing the family in Aiyana's death.
During his remarks, family attorney Fieger, acknowledged, “We live with a fear of violence every day in this community. It is a fear compounded by the sense of betrayal by the very people we should be able to trust to protect us.”
Vowing justice in Aiyana's death he said, “When one dies unjustly, they cannot rest in peace until justice is done. And so this goodbye today does not have the finality of peace until justice is done. By her death Aiyana has paid for a justice that will save the lives of our children.”
In a riveting 26-minute eulogy, Rev. Sharpton called for a holistic approach to violence and problems striking the city at its core. Rev. Sharpton underscored the importance Jesus placed on youth saying, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of God.”
From there, the civil rights leader, prefaced any admonishments with a dismissal of his critics, “I would be doing Aiyana a disservice if we just vented and not dealt with the real problem.”
He went on to talk about how violence helped feed into cycles of victimhood, sorrow and reckless police tactics deemed necessary to counter the violence.
“Maybe this child's death will wake some of us up,” he said.
While the circumstances into Aiyana's death are still under investigation, Rev. Sharpton posed a pivotal question that was met with a rousing applause from the audience, “Do they (police) throw these flash grenades in everybody's neighborhood? Would you have gone in (the affluent suburb of) Bloomfield Hills and did what you did?”
Taking the attorney general to task for being “disgusted” about the eulogy, Rev. Sharpton countered defiantly, “I'm disgusted that I have to do the eulogy.” He said he was further “disgusted” at seeing the community and police more like foes rather than partners.
His sentiment of disgust was not left solely at the door of law enforcement.
Rev. Sharpton levied disgust at the Black community for tolerance of unacceptable behavior saying, “I'm disgusted that some of you Black men are making babies that you won't raise.”
He spoke against the neglect of politicians and business leaders saying, “I'm disgusted that we can come to Detroit and bail out the auto business but we can't bail out the Aiyanas.”
As Rev. Sharpton spoke, the tone of what, at first, was a funeral became a call for a potential defining moment for a city struggling to find its way.
“We've got no choice but to turn this city around. We can do it if we all come together in Aiyana's name and say this child is the breaking point,” he said.
Bringing the audience to its feet, Rev. Sharpton concluded with urging the community to take into action, the words of Michael Jackson in the song, “Man in the Mirror.” “All of us need to do our part so we won't ever have to have this happen again,” he said.
Rev. Sharpton reminded Detroit of its ability to transform tragedy and hardship by invoking the legacies of greatness shown by Nobel Drew Ali, of the Moorish American movement, and the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, which started in Detroit.
Aisha Dawson felt the eulogy was “awesome and it gave hope to the community. I really like it.”
Determined that her life not be in vain, Rachel Connelly was armed with a sense of legacy to carry on in her niece's name. “Aiyana was a beautiful person from conception to death. I believe that her mission was completed (and) her purpose fulfilled,” Ms. Connelly told The Final Call. She plans to establish an organization for young girls called Aiyana's Angels.
As Detroit's “little princess” was taken to her final resting place, for one last goodbye, preparations were underway for the funeral of the original victim in this tragedy.
A family and community paid their respects for the life of the Southeastern High School senior who would've graduated in June. His service was held after Aiyana's funeral. Je'Rean Blake's funeral was held within the “The First 48” hours of Aiyana Stanley-Jones funeral who, ironically, was killed within the “The First 48” hours of his killing. Police said they were seeking the teenager's killer when they raided a home and killed the seven-year-old.
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