Ma'Khia Bryant's family gathers for her funeral in Ohio

MARLENE LENTHANG
·3 min read
Ma'Khia Bryant's family gathers for her funeral in Ohio

Ma'Khia Bryant was laid to rest in a funeral service at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, Friday afternoon.

Bryant, 16, was fatally shot by white Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon on April 20. Body camera footage from the incident showed Bryant with a knife.

Family, friends, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020, gathered for the service, where a quilt bearing Bryant's likeness was displayed on the stage.

The funerals for Casey Goodson Jr. and Andre Hill, two Black men who were killed by Central Ohio law enforcement in recent months, were held at the same church.

PHOTO: Mourners gather for the funeral for 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Paul Vernon/AP)
PHOTO: Mourners gather for the funeral for 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Paul Vernon/AP)

Jamal Harrison Bryant, the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in his opening remarks, saying, "We are here because injustice is here."

"We have to be mindful that today she should have been thinking about SATs, should've been thinking about going to prom," he said. "The reality is we can't sugarcoat the fact we should not be here today."

PHOTO: A banner with portraits of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, is displayed next to her casket during her funeral in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)
PHOTO: A banner with portraits of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, is displayed next to her casket during her funeral in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)
PHOTO: Paula Bryant, center, releases a butterfly in honor of her daughter, Ma'Khia Bryant, following the funeral for 16-year-old at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)
PHOTO: Paula Bryant, center, releases a butterfly in honor of her daughter, Ma'Khia Bryant, following the funeral for 16-year-old at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

Don Bryant, Bryant's cousin, said she loved the color blue and making hairstyle videos.

"Today the family is sad. The family is hurt. The family is angry. We look at a grieving mother and father who miss their daughter so much. We look at her brothers and sisters who don't understand why Ma'Khia had to die," he said. "I look at every person in this church and say Ma'Khia did not have to die. She should be here."

"Ask yourselves, what are you doing to make sure no more Ma'Khias are taken from us?" he added.

PHOTO: Ma'Khia Bryant in an undated selfie photo provided by family members Don Bryant and Paula Bryant.  (Don Bryant and Paula Bryant via AP)
PHOTO: Ma'Khia Bryant in an undated selfie photo provided by family members Don Bryant and Paula Bryant. (Don Bryant and Paula Bryant via AP)

Emmanuel Anthony, the principal of the Academy for Urban Scholars High School, presented Bryant's mother, Paula Bryant, with an honorary diploma at the service, spurring a round of applause from mourners.

"Even though she was taken on a Tuesday, that's not going to stop us from celebrating her early graduation this Friday," he said. "As the principal for Urban Scholars High School, I want to present [an] honorary high school diploma."

MORE: Ma'Khia Bryant's family demands answers, investigations into teenager's death

Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty gave a moving speech at the service, promising to fight for justice.

"I'm going to bestow this congressional resolution to you," she said. "We need to send a message. I go back to Washington in seven days and I will fly a flag over this nation in the name of Ma'Khia Bryant."

PHOTO: Mourners wearing shirts with Ma'Khia Bryant's picture, arrive for the funeral for the 16-year-old at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Paul Vernon/AP)
PHOTO: Mourners wearing shirts with Ma'Khia Bryant's picture, arrive for the funeral for the 16-year-old at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Paul Vernon/AP)

She added, "Ma'Khia, we will do better because we know better, because we can do better. ... Beautiful child, rest in peace, and we will take it from here."

Bishop Timothy Clarke, leader of the First Church of God, called for police reform in his eulogy.

"We'll get Ma'Khia back when police training changes," he said. "We'll get Ma'Khia back when white officers don't see Black skin as a threat to them. We'll get Ma'Khia back when we learn how to de-escalate, when we learn how to talk, when we learn how to communicate."

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty speaks during the funeral of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021.  (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)
PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty speaks during the funeral of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, in Columbus, Ohio, April 30, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

Pall bearers wore bright blue ribbons on their chest, paying homage to Bryant by wearing her favorite color. Clarke said the service would conclude with the release of butterflies outside the church.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating Reardon's actions for potential wrongdoing, Mayor Ginther said. Reardon was placed on paid leave following the shooting.

Attorney Michelle Martin, who is representing Bryant's family, is calling for a Health and Human Services investigation into Ohio's foster care system, which Bryant was a part of, as well as a probe from the Department of Justice.

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