‘A Revolution of Values’

Dr. Bernice King remembers the past and speaks of the future at the funeral of Rayshard Brooks

Rayshard Memorial 2020 6 23103c Copy Web
Photo credit: Courtesy Richard A. DuCree, Ebenezer Baptist Church

At the funeral Tuesday, June 23, of Rayshard Brooks, the Black Atlanta man shot dead by Atlanta police on the night of June 12, 2020, Rev. Raphael Warnock gave the eulogy while friends and family members spoke about him, his body lying in repose at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue. The day before, there had been a public viewing for the father of four who was also a son, a brother, and a cousin to many.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. Neichelle Guidry, dean of Sisters Chapel at Spelman College and director of the Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry; Ambrea Mikolajczyk, business associate and friend; Rochelle Gooden, mother-in-law; Gabrielle Martini, friend; and Jermarko Brooks were among those to speak powerful words and fond remembrances, but it was the reverend Dr. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose words will echo long after Brooks has been laid to rest.

The following is a transcript of the CEO of the King Center’s remarks.

“Dr. Raphael Warnock, members of the clergy, to the family of Rayshard Brooks, especially his wife, Tomika Miller and their three daughters and son, and to all of you, my brothers and sisters, we really should not be here today. This did not have to happen to Rayshard. There are so many ways that Friday, June 12th, could have ended, and a police killing did not have to be one of them. And yet here we are again. Ironically, June 12th, 1963, is the same day that Medgar Evers, the field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP was gunned down in his driveway. June 12th is also the same day in 1964 that Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government of South Africa, but he later became president of South Africa. June 12th is now a constant reminder of the struggle for justice for Black lives throughout the world.

“Tragically, here we are once again. But the Bible directs us in times like these to mourn with those who mourn. Therefore, I, along with this nation, mourn with you, the Brooks family, today as our family. I say ‘family’ because my father so often reminded us that we are tied in an inescapable network of mutuality, a single garment of destiny, and what affects one directly affects all indirectly. These tragic moments remind us that we are one because it impacts all of us and pulls on our heartstrings. Although I did not have a chance to meet Rayshard, I am here to stand with you in what feels like an all too familiar moment. Having a father killed when I was only five years of age, my heart deeply grieves for Dream and Memory, Blessing and Mekai. I know the pain of growing up without a father and the ongoing attention around his tragic loss. I am and will continue to pray for each of you.

“Rayshard Brooks’ life matters. He should have been able to live, to enjoy his family and watch his kids grow up into adulthood. The officers should have gone home that night without blood on their hands. This is the great tragedy in our nation that must cease. How do we find ourselves here again? In many respects, our humanity and our democracy are on trial because justice and equity continue to elude an entire race of people. Increasingly, too many have moved away from being in touch with empathy and compassion as it pertains to Black lives. Instead, there are those who are motivated by power and fear and hate and selfishness and greed and arrogance and racism and prejudice and pride. Unfortunately, this leads to people making decisions that are damning, damaging, and destructive to human lives. We are here because individuals continue to hide behind badges and trainings and policies and procedures rather than regarding the humanity of others in general and Black lives specifically.

“What’s especially troubling about this killing of an unarmed man is that this time it hit our home base. This happened in Atlanta, the city that is supposed to be too busy to hate, the city that is the home to civil and human rights. This happened in the city that has been known as the ‘Black Mecca.’ This happened in the city whose grounds are known for America and the world’s warrior of peace, my daddy, Martin Luther King Jr., who taught us that true peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice. Therefore, there can be no peace in Atlanta nor anywhere in our nation where there is no justice. No justice, no peace. Too often, justice is denied even in Atlanta because Atlanta is not immune to the problem of systemic and structural racism. Atlanta is being called to task now, to respond to the age-old racism virus, COVID-1619. This time, the answer is not more diversity and inclusion. It’s now time for Black Lives Matter.

“So, where do we go from here? Where do we go from here as a nation, as a city, and as a world? We’re faced with the question of, will it be more chaos or community? If we’re going to travel that road of building the beloved community that my father talked about, then we have arrived at a point for a necessary shift, which demands a revolution of values. A revolution of values requires that we move from a thing-oriented society to a person-centered society where Black lives matter. A revolution of values requires that we finally accept the founding document of our nation, that all men and all women are created equal, and since all men and all women are created equal, then Black lives matter. A revolution of values means that we invest in racial equity to ensure equality with regard to the matter of Black lives. A revolution of values means that nonviolence must be more than a tactic, but a way of life for all.

“If we miss this moment, we will find ourselves returning again and again to a pathway of chaos and self destruction. To all of my activists, to all of my organizers and people of good will, we cannot stop our cry for justice and our fight for freedom. We cannot stop our demonstrations until our voices are heard and our demands for police reform are met. We must not stop until white supremacist policies and practices are no longer the order of today. We will not stop until voter suppression is a thing of the past. We will not stop until reparations set us on a path to be free at last. We will not stop until our leaders are no longer polarized between Democrat and Republican, but are united in a clarion call for healing and just and equitable policies that overcome the racial disparities. Don’t you stop until Black lives matter in every state, in every city, in every hamlet, in every village, in every sector of American society, and ultimately the world.

“I close, that in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, in honor of Breonna Taylor, in honor of George Floyd, in honor of Rayshard Brooks and countless others, don’t stop until it matters that dignity, justice, and equity are reality for all Black lives. Rayshard Brooks’ death will not be in vain, because justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” ­— CL —