As Kendrick Meek stood before the copper-colored casket carrying his mother, he felt a sense of peace. He had already shed a few tears. He hardly slept and had barely eaten. None of that mattered now, though, because Congresswoman Carrie Meek — the woman who birthed him and became the first Black lawmaker from Florida to serve in Congress since the post-Civil War Reconstruction — was in a better place after a long illness.
“She’s home now,” Kendrick said as a procession of well-wishers gathered outside Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Overtown.
The three-day celebration of Meek’s life began Sunday afternoon with a viewing inside the high school auditorium, which had been adorned with American flags, palm trees and flowers. The viewing was the first opportunity for the public to pay respects to Meek, who died at home on Nov. 28 at 95. It was well-attended by elected officials and residents alike.
“This was a woman who was a demonstration of what public service is supposed to be: tough, smart, loving and exceedingly loyal to no end,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Republican who represents parts of Miami-Dade County.
Elected officials of both parties were there to pay tribute, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, County Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Kionne McGhee and Mario Díaz-Balart’s brother, former Miami congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart.
Wearing a navy blue dress accented by her first congressional pin, Meek laybeneath a 96-square foot American flag, with a police officer changing guard every 15 minutes. White flowers, baby palms and four smaller flags surrounded each side of her open casket as did two wreaths — one pink, the other red, white and blue, courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives. Seven additional American flags, carried in by Kendrick and his daughter, Lauren, lined both sides of the auditorium. Gospel music played as attendees walked down the aisle toward a display fit “for a queen,” said Miami resident Cynthia Jones.
“She battled for the people who can’t battle for themselves,” Jones said. “She was that spokesperson for the least, the lost and the left out.”
When Levine Cava made her way to Meek’s casket, she and Kendrick shared a few words. Levine Cava later praised Meek’s ability to confront injustices and her unique approach to civil service.
“While she called people to task – and she wasn’t afraid to do that – she did it in a gentle, kind way that made it very compelling, very very hard to say no,” Levine Cava said.
Meek is remembered by her colleagues for her legacy as a social justice activist in Congress in addition to being a lifelong educator and mentor for young people in her district. Prior to Meek’s work in Congress, she also served in the Florida Legislature.
She retired from public office in 2002, but remained active in social causes through the Carrie P. Meek Foundation, which is based in Miami-Dade County.
On Monday, relatives will hold an evening wake from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s North Campus in the William and Joan Lehman Theater. Meek’s funeral and homegoing celebration will take place on Tuesday at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church’s Miami Gardens Campus at 21311 NW 34th Ave. The service will be led by Pastor Arthur Jackson III at 11 a.m.
The services on Monday and Tuesday are open to the public. Face masks will be mandatory.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to The Carrie Meek Foundation, Inc. at 4000 NW 142nd St. in Opa-locka.