Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year-old Atlanta man who was killed by an officer in a June 12 encounter will be laid to rest today (June 23). Brooks has become a symbol of the global movement for social justice and change for Black people. BET is bringing live coverage from the Ebenezer Baptist Church beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Watch BET's Remembering Rayshard Brooks Live Here.
An Uplifting Exit
At the request of Brooks' wife Tomika Miller, uptempo gospel music is being sung at the close of the funeral to avoid sadness as mourners come to their feet.
As Eliza E. Hewitt's 1898 song, "When We All Get To Heaven" plays, religious community leaders, Ebenezer Baptist's leadership and others once again offer condolences to the family. Meanwhile, pallbearers lift Brooks' casket from its bier and begin to carry it from the church.
His tearful family follows the casket in a final processional before taking him for internment.
A Socially Conscious Eulogy
"This country has become to accustomed and comfortable with Black people dying. That's what we mean when we say 'Black Lives Matter,' " said said Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in his eulogy of Brooks.
He drew comparisons between coronavirus and the epidemic of Black lives being taken by police. "There's COVID-19 and there's COVID-1619," he said, referring to the year the first enslaved Africans came to American shores, at Jamestown, Virginia. "It is an old virus that kills people."
He encouraged continued demonstrations and marches to call for justice. "This is freedom summer, you ought to keep on marching, because marches can make a difference."
Jyamaco Brooks, Rayshard Brooks' cousin, emotionally remembered his cousin as unique and asks everyone, to "throw away your grudges."
"I love my Black people...no matter how many times they try to beat us down, we still stand up as Black people.
He speaks directly to the rest of his family, ensuring them they could lean on him. But also tells the world that he also is loyal to Atlanta. "I'm a real west sider, rider. I'm a real west side baby."
Uplifting The Spirit
R&B singer Kelly Price steps in front of the altar to perform Donald Lawrence's "Encourage Yourself," which brings many of the attendees to their feet in applause.
Channeling Dr. King
The Rev. Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and youngest daughter of Dr. King, compares her own upbringing to that of Brooks' daughter. "I know the pain of growing up without a father."
She goes on to speak out against the racism that fuels police violence to the Black community. "What's especially troubling about this killing of an unarmed man is that it hit our homebase," she said. "There can be no peace in Atlanta nor anywhere in our nation where there is no justice. "No justice, no peace."
Stories Of A Well-Loved Man
Ambrea Mikollajczyk, owner of ARK Restoration & Construction in Toledo, Ohio speaks about her experiences with "Ray" in which she terfully remembers a caring individual who "never had a bad" day; who walked with a co-worker with his bicycle once, just so he wouldn't be alone; and who once defended a woman who was being abused and continued to look out for her.
She is followed by Brooks mother-in-law Rochelle Gooden. She said he never caller her by that title. "He always called me his mom, and I called him my son because that's what he is to me."
A Musical Salute
Gospel music superstar Tamela Mann performs her hit "Take Me To The King," long considered her signature song, in a livestreamed video as a dedication to Brooks and his family.
Meanwhile, the church, which holds hundreds and is where Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther King Sr. once preached, is only holding several dozen for the private services today. An open casket public service took place on Monday (June 22) in which mourners came to grieve with the family.
Prayers for Healing
Bishop Dale C. Bronner, Pastor of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral opens the funeral with an emotional prayer for social justice and healing for the family. He followed several others from the Atlanta faith community who also offered prayers. "May you do, God, what legislation could not do," he prayed.
Services are underway
A procession of family members, dressed mostly in white and wearing masks have arrived in the sanctuary at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. They are filing past Brooks' gold casket, which is closed.
No choir is present, but instead a gospel presentation is being streamed to maintain social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Georgia has reopened, but many civic leaders there are still encouraging maintaining efforts to mitigate the virus. Ebenezer has been streaming its worship services since March 15, according to its website.
Brooks' wife Tomika Miller and their children are seated at the front of the church recieving condolences from attendees. The ceremony is expected to start momentarily.