Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Daughter Bernice Delivers Powerful Eulogy at Rayshard Brooks' Funeral

On Tuesday, June 23, the daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Bernice King, gave a powerful speech during Rayshard Brooks' funeral.
von Pamela Avila Jun 23, 2020 22:13Tags
Dr. Bernice KingCurtis Compton-Pool/Getty Images

On Tuesday, June 23, the daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Bernice King, gave a powerful speech during Rayshard Brooks' funeral. 

"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," King said. "This did not have to happen to Rayshard. There's so many ways that Friday, June 12 could have ended and a police killing did not have to be one of them. And yet, here we are again."

Brooks was fatally shot by two Atlanta police officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan on June 12 at a Wendy's parking lot, after the officers responded to a 911 call that the 27-year-old had fallen asleep at the wheel. He reportedly failed a sobriety test and when officers tried to take him into custody, he resisted and reportedly stole on of the officers' Tasers. During the brief pursuit, Rolfe shot Brooks three times. 

"These tragic moments remind us that we are one because it impacts all of us and pulls on our heart strings," Dr. King continued during her speech. "And 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 [Brooks' children] Dream, Memory, Blessing and Mekai."

The killing of Brooks came weeks after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. 

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During her speech, she then expressed that she knows 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," she added. "Rayshard Brooks' life matters and he should have been able to live to enjoy his family and watch his kids grow into adulthood and the officers should have gone that night without blood on their hands. This is the great tragedy in our nation that must cease." 

The daughter of the late civil rights leader then asked, "So how do we find ourselves here again?" 

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"Justice and equity continue to elude an entire race of people," she continued. "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 and 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." 

The 57-year-old expressed that what's "troubling" about the killing of Brooks' is that this time "it hit our home base," adding that Atlanta, Georgia is not "immune" to the problem of "systemic and structural racism." 

"This happened in Atlanta, the city that's supposed to be too busy to hate," Dr. King said. "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 for 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." 

"So, where do we go from here," Dr. King asked. "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?'"

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She went on, "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."

On June 17, Fulton Country District Attorney, Paul Howard, announced that warrants were issued for officers Rolfe and Brosnan in connection to the killing of Brooks. 

At the press conference, Howard announced that Rolfe is facing 11 charges: one count of felony murder, four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, multiple charges for Atlanta Police Department SOP oath violations and one count for kicking Brooks. Howard said that he recommended no bond for Rolfe in consideration of the "severity of his act" and his "excessive" use of force.

Brosnan, Rolfe's partner on the scene, is facing three charges, including aggravated assault for stepping on Brooks' shoulder and two counts for violating his Atlanta PD SOP oath. 

Bosnan is currently on administrative leave, while Rolfe was fired from the department.