Yesterday in Dallas,Texas the families of Yolanda Carr and Marquis Jefferson flanked by friends, and the community converged upon Concord Church in Dallas to celebrate the life of a light gone extinguished by injustice. Since news of the shooting broke, the Fort Worth community has been embroiled in relentless demand for justice. Less than two weeks after Amber Guyger was convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for killing Botham Jean, the Dallas Fort Worth community was faced with another officer involved tragedy.
This shooting was different. Officers were called to the Carr home because the door was open. Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew well into the early morning, but a call for a welfare check garnered an “open structure” (burglary) response, resulting in the tragic loss of life. Atatiana Jefferson was eulogized as a caring and compassionate young woman who moved home to help care for her mother. The outpouring of love is perhaps the best response to the way she lived her life, with high regard for others.
The family wished to honor and celebrate her life rather than bemoan the tragedy and that wish was carried out in a touching service lasting about an hour and a half. Following a final viewing, the service commenced with a stirring selection from her cousin who remarked that “she would be up before the music even started!”
A number of resolutions were read and acknowledged during the service, including one from congresswoman Maxine Waters. Congresswoman Waters intimated that she felt a deep sense of connection when she heard of the tragedy. Not only has she been a justice fighter for years and a steadfast presence fighting for her constituents, her maiden name is also Carr. Though familial certainty is unsure, she offered her condolences, assistance and echoed the demand for justice in the name of Atatiana Jefferson. Other resolutions included submissions from the office of John Wiley Price, The United Methodist Women, The St. Luke Community United Methodist Church and Nicole Collier, State Representative for Miss Jefferson’s district.
Atatiana was remembered by her mother for her “humble boldness” and for the way she always felt that she would change the world and still believes that even through this tragedy, that her legacy will.
“…you my dear have indeed changed the world by your sacrificial love, unrivaled work ethic and your legacy that is yet to unfold.”Yolanda Carr, in a written statement to her daughter
Her father was strengthened by his daughter’s life and memory saying that because of his daughter, his purpose is “clearer now than ever before…it is my hope that your life be remembered, honored and loved through others through the Atatiana Jefferson Foundation.”
Do all the good you can.John Wesley
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.”
For a life whose light has gone out way too soon, senselessly and unjustly, what is a family and community to do? After the beautiful songs were rendered, it was time to tune our hearts to the prophetic moment. In messages replete with calls to action and demands for justice were reminders of God’s sovereignty and righteousness. The service was attended by several notables including: Fort Worth Police Chief, Ed Kraus and numerous FWPD officers, Fort Worth mayor, Betsy Price, Councilwoman Kelly Allen-Gray, noted journalist Bob Ray Sanders, State Senator Royce West, Attorney S. Lee Merritt, Former FWPD Chief Joel Fitzgerald and the Reverend Kyev Tatum and his wife.
Standing to deliver both a charge and words of encouragement were host pastor, Bryan Carter and Pastor Carl Ming, Southwest Region Conference SDA Youth and Young Adult Ministries. While Pastor Carter admonished attendees to trust God in trying times, Pastor Ming instructed attendees to ask hard questions!
We must stand up and begin to ask some serious questions like why is injustice sitting down on the throne while righteousness is cast in the dungeon? We have to begin to ask the question why is that we’re asking people to protect our people who are afraid of our people? Why is it that the pledge to protect and serve changes when they turn up and realize that the skin color is different?Pastor Carl Ming
From his text found in Job 14:1-2,14, Pastor Ming expounded upon 1) the evidence of iniquity in our world, 2) the faith of God’s people and 3) the infinite wisdom of our God. and though he admonished the jubilant worshipers to steadfastly acknowledge God as the author and finisher of their faith, there is a dichotomous disturbance plaguing our humanity. This was illustrated in his introduction by the invocation of the poem “If We Die” by one of the first and foremost voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay.
If we must die, let it not be like hogsClaude McKay
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
For tense moments like those expressed by Claude McKay, felt by the Carr/Jefferson families and the punctuated throughout the service, Pastor Carter shared that though we are tired, we can indeed trust God in trying times, knowing that as promised in Psalm 46:1-2, God is our shelter and strength and promises stability to his saints.
Many of us are tired. Tired of talking to our kids about the police. Tired of seeing tearful mothers on tv. Tired of having to protest to prove that black lives do matter. Tired of hoping that the jury will get a conviction. Tired of hoping that the bodycam will prove what we already know. Tired of gathering for funerals, tired of protesting, tired of praying, tired of incarceration, tired of underserved communities, tired of racial profiling, tired of checking the box on an application, many of us are tired!Pastor Bryan L. Carter, Concord Church
Pastor Carter confirmed to the family that “God has been giving you strength. On days when you didn’t want to get out of the bed, God has been giving you strength.” For the family and surrounding community, strength is what will be needed as both a criminal and civil trial ensue in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. Reverberating throughout the service was the pulse of the community whose citizens’ trust in law enforcement has been irreparably eroded. To that, Pastor Carter gave redress, saying, “we live in a broken, fallen, unjust world. But despite the world we live in, we can find strength in God who gives us help to deal with these struggles. And, at some point, He gives us the ability to move from why to what now?“
What now do you want me to do, God? How do I build my life back? How do I keep her legacy alive? What now God, how do I move forward and still honor the woman of God that she was?Pastor Bryan L. Carter, Concord Church
These questions ring out from the sanctuary in Dallas to the 1200 block of East Allen in Fort Worth, to a waiting, watching world yet again looking for answers. Last night, citizens and city leadership again tried to sift through the rubble of the aftermath to find some semblance of answers but the meeting ended with much of the same frustration billowing through council chambers at city hall. Though the answer remains unclear, what is clear is the duress of the road to healing that lies ahead for both the family of Atatiana Jefferson and the city and residents of Fort Worth.