Jun 23, 2020
Rayshard Brooks Atlanta Funeral & Eulogy Transcripts
Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally wounded by Atlanta police officers, was laid to rest on June 23. Read the full transcript of his funeral and eulogies from the ceremony.
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Raphael Warnock: (14:42)
How many of you know that the Lord is the keeper? God is the keeper of my soul. Let the church say, amen.
Raphael Warnock: (14:55)
Amen. I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again. And whosoever lives and believes in me, shall never die. We give God praise for the life and the witness of our brother, Rayshard Brooks. Come on, let’s give God one big hand, praise for his life. [inaudible 00:15:32]. We are encouraged by a great cloud of witnesses on the inside and the outside, and all across the land who have come to be with this family. And we are encouraged by a great ecumenical witness, members of the clergy who will come and offer wisdom from the scriptures. The Reverend Jeffrey, of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Rabbi Peter Berg, Senior Rabbi at The Temple, the Reverend Dr. Neichelle Guidry, Dean of Spelman Sisters Chapel and Director of the WISDOM Center, Bishop Dale Bronner, of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral, will offer the prayer. Let the people of God say, amen.
Speaker 3: (16:32)
Thank you. Our deepest condolences. I represent the pastor of Our lady of Lourdes, the mother church for black Catholics here in Atlanta, since 1912. And on behalf of the Catholic community, we bring you our deepest condolences and our pledge to continue to stand for justice. Stand for justice for Rayshard and all of those who have suffered at the hands of cruelty and violence. Listen now to a reading from a book of wisdom. The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead, and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.
Speaker 3: (18:14)
For if in the eyes of men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality. Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as a sacrificial offering, he took them to himself. Those who trust in him, shall understand truth. And the faithful, shall abide with him in love. Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect. Sisters and brothers, the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Rabbi Peter Berg: (19:20)
I am Rabbi Peter Berg, from The Temple. And our congregation stands today with our brothers and our sisters and this beautiful family, to offer our profound condolences. Our teaching, [foreign language 00:19:37], God gives and God takes away. Blessed be the name of our God. From the Prophet Micah, Chapter 6:6-8. You ask, with what shall I approach the Lord? Humble myself before God on high. Shall I approach God with offerings or with calves in the first year? Will God be appeased by thousands of rams or tens of thousands of streams of oil? Shall I give over my firstborn to atone for my transgression? Or, the first fruit of my belly for the sin of my soul? He has told you, Oh man, what is good. What does the Lord require of you? But, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Amen.
Neichelle Guidry: (20:54)
Family and friends, I am Reverend Dr. Neichelle Guidry. I am honored to serve as the dean of the chapel at Spelman College, and I have been charged with bringing the gospel reading this morning. And our reading comes from the gospel according to, Matthew, Chapter 11:28-30. Where Jesus says to his disciples, come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. This is God’s word for God’s people.
Speaker 4: (21:55)
Why don’t you bow and pray with me as we beseech the only one who can bring healing into our own hearts and souls, at a time like this? God, and the blessed name of Jesus, we come to you, God, with brokenness on the Earth and knowing God that you have a tender spot in your heart for the broken hearted. Thank you, dear God, today that brokenness on Earth creates openness in heaven. And we pray in the name of Jesus, God, that you would let the power, the resources, of heaven flow down to us. God, we pray in the name of Jesus, that you’ll bring healing to the entire Brooks’ family, to every offspring, to every sibling, dear God, to every friend, every brother, ever relative. We pray in Jesus name, God, that you will move in our Earth and bring healing to our land. Heal us God, heal our land. May the power of the blood of Jesus, wash us and cleanse us, sanctify us through and through, God. Lord, we depend upon you. We need you. We weep with those who are broken today.
Speaker 4: (23:17)
God, and we pray that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. God, let it flow. God, we pray that there will be systemic change in our world today. We depend upon you. We already acknowledge, God, that where we are, you brought us, what we know, you taught us, what we have, you gave us, who we are, you made us God, and we continue to depend upon you this day. You, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in any disturbance and any distress, God, we depend upon you today. Give us God, that which we can look forward to, in you. To know, God, that you are our keeper, the sustainer of our health, the lifter of us, the giver of every good and perfect gift. God, our hope is firmly established in you today, that all things, will ultimately work together for our good, because we love you, and we have a call according to your purpose. God, I pray in the name of Jesus, that you will not allow Rayshard Brooks’ death to be in vain.
Speaker 4: (24:26)
But father, take it as a seed. And let our harvest of justice and mercy and love and unity and strength and power, come into our earth, oh God. We pray in the name of Jesus, God, that you will restore us, heal us, bind us up in every place where there has been wound and affliction in our soul. God, move and touch the place that only you can heal. And Father, may you do God, what legislation cannot do. May you do God, in touching human hearts, and unifying us, and letting the prayer of Jesus in John 17, Father make us one, even as you and Jesus are one, it is our prayer that we continue to pray today, God.
Speaker 4: (25:06)
And may we find strength in you, and power in you, and condolence in you, God. May we find the will to be able to go on, God, without hate and without bitterness, God, but with love and strength and determination and tenacity, God. We pray Lord Jesus, that you will continue to guide us by your spirit and the principles of your word. And may the light of our real Christianity and our relationship with you be reflected. Every place that we go, be with us, God. Show the strength of your strong arm. And Father, may we who know you, be strong and do exploits in the glorious, matchless, and majestic name of Jesus. Amen.
Speaker 5: (25:59)
Praise the Lord, everybody. We just want to say to the Brooks’ family, we love you guys, we’re praying for you through this storm. Thank you, Lord. (Singing).
Speaker 6: (33:06)
God bless you, family.
Raphael Warnock: (33:08)
Come on, bless the Lord, everybody. Come on, praise the Lord, everybody. Come on, praise the Lord, everybody. You know we often say in the black church, “Touch your neighbor.” I don’t want you to touch your neighbor, but tell the Lord, “I surrender all.” I surrender all. We praise God for the spirit that keeps us at a time like this. There’s a sweet spirit in this place. I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord, just a little bit. Come on, just whisper to Jesus. Come on, just whisper. Just whisper it to the Lord. God, we need your spirit. Stay right here with us. Without a doubt, we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place. Amen. Amen. We call now on those persons whose names are printed in the program to provide remarks. We’re grateful for family members and friends who will come to encourage Tomika and other members of the family at a time like this. Hear me, family, in love, hear me in love, when I say that your remarks need not be everlasting in order to be eternal. Rochelle Gooden will come, Ambrea Mikolajczyk will come, and then the Reverend Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The youngest child of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King will come to bring remarks on behalf of the community, then Kelly Price, and then remarks by Gabriel Martini and [Jamaico 00:36:49] Brooks. Amen.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (36:50)
My name is Ambrea. My husband, Kevin, and I own a construction company in Toledo, Ohio. We hired Ray in the spring of 2019, and he worked with us until December of 2019. He told us he was coming back, and we believed him. We thought he was coming back. I believe that people come into your life for a season, for a specific reason, some negative and some positive. Ray was an individual who made a lasting, positive impact on us, and our lives will forever be changed for the better having known him.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (37:43)
Tomika, Mekai, Blessing, Memory, Dream, I want you to know Ray was so very loved by his ARK Restoration and Construction family in Toledo, Ohio. I thank you for sharing such an amazing man with us. You see, your past doesn’t define you. It refines and shapes you so that you are better equipped to step into your God-given purpose. Ray had overcome his circumstances. He was working hard toward becoming the best provider, caretaker, community builder, father, husband, son, brother and relationship agent he could possibly be. The justice system and systemic racism that exist made it fairly impossible for him to try to live a prosperous life well after he had paid his debt. The system kept drawing him in, grabbing a hold of him like quicksand. You see, there is no growth without challenges. Without challenges, there is no testimony. Ray had his fair share of both, which made him who he was, and we loved him dearly for all of it. He was a rare, once in a lifetime individual. Ray wore steel cowboy boots to work. The guys would listen to music while they worked. If Old Town Road came on, you can forget it. Ray would bust out all types of moves. The guys would laugh hysterically while Ray danced to his jam. Ray rode a bike to work in the rain, on hot summer days, in tough road conditions, and was always the first to arrive. There was an instance where one of our guy’s car broke down and he didn’t have a ride. When Ray seen Josh walking home, he got off his bike. He pushed it and walked right alongside of Josh so he wasn’t alone for a full two hours.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (39:29)
You see, that’s the type of man Ray was. Ray looked out for everyone. When a single mother next door to him was being physically abused, Ray gave the guy a taste of his own medicine and told him to never to come back, and he didn’t because he knew what was best for him. He proceeded to look out for that single mom, as well as her child.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (39:52)
Ray had a significant impact not only on our team, but my clients. They affectionately called him legal aid because he knew the answers to everything. He was smart as a whip. There was never a task too great or too small for Ray. He was helpful almost to a fault. He never had a bad day. He radiated such a bright light, that regardless of the cowardly act that took his life, his light will never be dimmed. He will continue to shine so bright, even in his absence.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (40:22)
I believe through Ray’s death we will finally have the tough, hard, long overdue conversations about race and what it means to be black in America. I believe through Ray’s death we will finally have the type of police reform for black and brown people that includes compassion, grace, mercy, understanding, instead of fear, judgment, bias, and the automatic presumption of guilt. I believe through Ray’s death our daughters and sons lives will be spared. They will no longer have to suffer the same fate as Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the countless others before them. I believe there will finally come a day when we no longer have the dreaded police talk with our brown babies.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (41:07)
Through Ray’s death, we will live in a world where we are no longer afraid of police, but we come to know them as guardians, protectors, and peacemakers of our communities. His life will not be in vain. Ray’s life will forever be a beacon of hope, change, love, resilience, living life to the fullest, elevating those around you, displaying agape love. That’s the love that is in its highest form. Ray’s bright light will forever change the world.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (41:42)
Our Ray of Light, a poem: How dare you hurt, hunt Ray down. Didn’t you know he wore a crown? Didn’t you know he was a king to Blessing, Memory and Dream? To Mekai, Tomika, my whole entire construction team, all of his loved ones and everyone who knew him are now left to navigate this pain. Oh, but do you feel it? Because I feel it. Ray’s life will not be in vain. You see, Ray was in the midst of building, building something big, grand, life anew. The Lord tells us joy comes in the morning, and so does the morning dew. I feel it in my spirit and I know you do too. For through Ray’s death, he will save the lives of our daughters and sons. There is a movement, a shift in the atmosphere, for this will be his legacy. The battle is won.
Ambrea Mikolajczyk: (42:47)
Ray has made it abundantly clear, the rage, anger and fear that appears in the heart, souls and action of those that callously don’t care. Through our Ray of light, all those who turned a blind eye finally recognize and acknowledge the plight of those brown and black, and it is not the same of those that are white. We have to all come together, do better, protect our fathers, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins and sons who are oppressed, so that they can be great, greater than what the system traps them into becoming, for we are all created in his image, designed as masterpieces for living and loving. Our Ray of light, for you can never dim his light. It will forever shine so very bright. Thank you.
Rochelle Gooden: (44:13)
First of all, I want to give honor to God. I want to give honor to God because he’s the leader. He knows everything before it even happened. I’m not much of a speaker, but I am going to say this. I want to thank everybody who supported the Brooks family, Tomika, my daughter, my grandkids. From the depths of my heart, I really thank you guys. Rayshard gave me the honor, not just to be a mother-in-law, but a mom. He never called me mother-in-law, “This is my mother-in-law.” He always took me as mom and I always took him as son. I never called him Rayshard. I called him my son because that’s what he were to me. He still is, in my heart, my son.
Rochelle Gooden: (45:16)
Rayshard took care of his family like any other man, young man out here could do, especially with the time and the situations that’s happening now with the COVID and the jobs that’s less and the churches not opening right now because … but he tried to do what he could do and he did a good job.
Rochelle Gooden: (45:42)
I’m going to say something very funny because right now I think all of us need a smile on our faces. Me and Rayshard used to have barbecue challenges. He knew, Tomika, they love lamb. Now I don’t like lamb. Then I tell Rayshard, I said, “Rayshard,” I said, “Aren’t you going to put the fire down?” Rayshard said, “I got this, Mom. I got this.” He would get a whole glass of water and try to put the fire down, but the smoke would still come, but he could barbecue, but I had to teach him the little secrets to it, but he ate some lamb. Then I told him, I said, “Well, you know what? I don’t eat lamb,” but the last thing Rayshard was saying when he ate that lamb, he said, “Baa.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “Okay, see? You wrong for that.”
Rochelle Gooden: (46:47)
The awesomest thing else was he always loved old school music. I used to tell him, I said, “Oh … ” I always go Baby Boy on him. If y’all seen the movie Baby Boy, I always go, “Boy, what you know about that, youngster?” He would say, “Mama, I know some Al Green and stuff, and I know all kind of music. I love all kind of music, Mama. That’s me.” He would have the biggest smile, the smile that … I mean, I look at my grand baby right there. She looks just like him. When I look at her, I know that he’s not gone because I see her. That’s what he would want us to do, to love, not the love that he gave us, but to love one another like God loved us. Thank you. I love you guys.
Bernice King: (48:08)
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 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.
Bernice King: (49:38)
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.
Bernice King: (51:13)
Rayshard Brooks’s 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, they’re 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.
Bernice King: (52:47)
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 16-19. This time, the answer is not more diversity and inclusion. It’s now time for black lives matter.
Bernice King: (54:21)
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. 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.
Bernice King: (55:38)
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 sets 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.
Bernice King: (57:11)
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.
Speaker 7: (57:49)
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Glory to Jesus. Glory to Jesus. Glory to Jesus. Hallelujah. Glory to God. Hallelujah.
Raphael Warnock: (01:03:47)
Gabrielle Martini? Are you here, Gabrielle? And then Jemarko Brooks. Come on. Give God praise as she comes.
Gabrielle Martini: (01:04:07)
I think it’s too high. I am Gabrielle, Brooke’s daughter. He cannot make it today. So I will speak on his behalf. It is disheartening to know that once you step foot out your door, you might not return home to your family and friends. We can’t get justice if we are divided. We have to come together as one. Us, as the people, need to take a step to help each other love. We don’t need riots, but we need people helping each other as people. We out here, hating and despising each other, but we can’t even love each other. We want to start riots, but we have come together as people. These people looking at us like fools. Why? Because we can’t even love each other.
Gabrielle Martini: (01:05:25)
We need to learn every aspect of ourselves, and it’s not the fact that we are black. Not all people will understand this, but let my uncle death stand for love. And as my dad say, let’s stop being horrible people. Us as humans have to live together, and without rules, there is no order. But with the little more love and companionship, we would recognize that us loving each other is much more deeper and much more powerful than anytime we’re fighting for.
Gabrielle Martini: (01:05:54)
If we had a little more love and compassion for one another, we probably would not be here today. We have to love each other first. We are all we got. You cut on the news, it’s always the typical black man that has been killed. We start riots when the opposite race kills us, but what about when we do it? Not justifying neither one of these acts, but it starts with us, and it ends with us loving each other. So let my uncle death make us better people, no matter the race. Let’s treat each other how we wanted to be treated as people. Let’s love one another and fight for everyone’s rights. Thank you.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:07:15)
To everyone that took a little bit of your time to love on my family, to tell his wife thank you for letting us have him for a little bit. On behalf of my grandmother, who couldn’t be here, I have to tell you thank you.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:07:44)
This young man that everybody is talking about was uniquely different to us, his family members. You couldn’t stay mad with him for five minutes because he’d do something stupid to make you laugh. And he often irritated his wife to death, to where she wanted to throw stuff at him, and it was almost comical. I could have wrote down a thousand things to say about him.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:08:19)
Then I had to stop for a minute and think about the family he comes from. We could argue, we could fight, we could sleep 10 to one bed growing up, with feet and head and arms across each other. And I looked at his big sister and my baby sister. They would be the best of friends five minutes later and be pulling on each other hair the next.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:08:48)
This is the family that we come from. We didn’t have a lot of anything, but we had a whole lot of love for each other. They say black lives matter. I don’t say that. I say all lives matter because this is the type of person my little cousin was. He would love on anybody. He would help anybody. He would fight with anybody. He didn’t really care about any of those things. All he wanted to do with smile, crack jokes, dance a little bit, and live.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:09:22)
So when we sit in here and we look at one another, we have to be thankful for what we got while we got it. Because when it’s gone, all you can sit around and think about it is what you ain’t got no more. 27 years. They predicted one time that the average black man would only live to be 21. He beats your odds. Maybe not by much, but he beat them. He leaves behind a legacy that a lot of us as fathers would never get to leave behind. His children get an education. His wife gets a brand new car. Life insurance.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:10:12)
Some of us would be just happy to be able to go to work and be able to pay the bills. So for all of us that are still here, throw away your grudges, my cousin and live that way. And if you worried about the skin color, and you feel like you’ve done an adequate job that they pay you to do, not according to my tax dollars. People marched and died and shed blood, by precious black folk blood, so that we would have the opportunity to vote, to be considered equal, to be able to say, we can go in the same restaurant that you go in, not be afraid to come outside and say, oh, that’s a white police officer. I’m going to go back there next time. I love my black people. I’m proud of my black people. And no matter how many times they try to beat us down, we still stand up as black people. So to my sister, that took out a time in spite of her own battles, to love on her family. I know you didn’t want to be up here. And I know you weren’t looking for certain accolades, but this family thanks you.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:11:40)
To mother cousin’s wife that got to keep going. You know you can call your big cousin anytime. I don’t care. If you need baby wipes, I’m going to wipe for you. If you need a shoulder to cry on when your brother-in-laws can’t stand in the gap for you, you know you can cry on mine. I don’t care about no wipe. But to all of you that are sitting here around the world, to those people that are Atlanta natives, I love my city and ain’t no white, black, blue, green, or nothing going to make me say nothing different about it.
Jemarko Brooks: (01:12:13)
I’m a real West side rider, a real West side baby. And in this house that God built, to my God Almighty, thank you for my cousin for a little while. Thank you to everybody that came. I love you. God bless you.
Raphael Warnock: (01:12:47)
We are encouraged by the presence of many friends from far and from near. I have a kind letter here from Congressman John Lewis, from his season of challenge himself, he took out the time to write a letter to this family. Let’s hear it for Congressman Lewis. Mean so much to all of us. The mayor of our great city is here. The honorable Keisha Lance Bottoms. I want all of our elected officials to stand. All of our elected officials, past and present, present and past, and those who are running. Thank you all very much. Thank you for being here. My friend Tia is here and Tani. Come on. It’s good to see you. Phaedra Parks is here. These are the notes I got. Everybody in the entertainment community, stand up. All of our artists, actors, actresses, waiting to be an actor, artist. Good to see you.
Raphael Warnock: (01:14:44)
I want to thank, speaking of artists and folk in the entertainment community, I want to thank a brother who has demonstrated again and again the depth of his love, his magnanimous spirit, and his generosity toward those who suffer and are struggling. And he paid for this funeral. Let’s hear from Mr. Tyler Perry. Tyler Perry. Thank you, Tyler. There’s nothing that none of us can say that will cause the pain of this family to vanish, but they are encouraged by our presence here today. And I know that in the not too distant future, they will express their love and gratitude in a more formal manner. Let us now take in notes from the life of our brother, Rayshard Brooks. Let us hear from the ministry of music. And then we will come again and open the book and offer words of comfort to this family.
Speaker 8: (01:19:23)
Praise the Lord, everybody. Oh, magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt his name together. Oh taste and see that the Lord, he is still good and his mercy endureth forever. Come on. I need somebody to rejoice in the midst of this pain. God will show up. He will move, he will comfort, he will heal, he will hold, he will guard, he will guide. He is still an awesome God. And as heavy as this is, he promise I’ll take you from sorrow to praise. I’ll trade you a garment of praise for your sorrow. And so in moments like this, it’s difficult to do so, but I encourage you to find enough strength just to tell God, you’re still good. You’re still good.
Speaker 8: (01:20:12)
I’m not acquainted with this family on an intimate level, but the world is acquainted with you right now, personally, passionately, in what you’re enduring. I’m not acquainted with this unique source of your pain, but I am acquainted with pain. And in the midst of my own personal trials and tribulations and pain, sickness, and even sorrow, God birthed a prayer inside of me that he allowed me to pour out to the world. My prayer is that you will hold… Don’t just lean on God, but lay on God, find enough strength to rest in him and know that he is still God. He gave me this prayer and I pray that it will become your prayer.
Speaker 8: (01:20:58)
Not a second or another minute. Not an hour of another day. Lord, Lord, at this moment with our arms outstretched, God, we need you to make a way. As he has always and already, already done so many times before. Thank you, Lord. Sometimes through a window or a barely open door. Father, we stretch our hands to thee. Sometimes I get stuck right here. Lord, please come and rescue me because I need you right away. I need you, Lord. I need you now. I need you now. I need you now. Yeah, I don’t want to wait another second or another minute, Jesus. Not an hour of another day. Lord, this family needs you. We need you right away.
Speaker 8: (01:23:11)
The agony of being alone. The fear of facing life on our own, and the tests and trials that God said would only make us stronger, and I’ve had feelings of heal, hurt, shame, and defeat. And the waves of trials that beat upon me. Hey, but if you knew what I knew, if you knew who Jesus is, if you knew what he was capable of, you would already be dancing. You would already be shouting because we know that in you, God, we’ve got victory. I need thee, oh God I need thee. This is how my grandmother used to say it. Every hour, Lord, it’s me, and I need thee. Come on, if you need God to heal you, if you need God to comfort you, if you need him to hold you right now, point to yourself and make it personal. Say oh, bless me right now, my Savior, my God, my King, my Lord, my everything. I come, weary, wounded, beaten by the broken [inaudible 01:25:08] he’s never failed me yet. Lord, I come, just as I am, without one plea. I come. I come. And when he brings you through this season, when you get beyond it, when he holds your heart in his care, you got to remember to turn around and just say hallelujah. God, you get the glory for this light. Hallelujah. Ain’t it good to know that when God speaks, ain’t nobody else say nothing. It’s just amen. So I sing hallelujah. God, we’ll be ever careful to give your name all the the glory. Please revive us gain. In the black house, we need you. In the white house, we need you. Please revise all over the world right now. We need a fresh anointing, a fresh move, your power, Lord. And I don’t have to wait until the battle is over. I can shout right now because he’s already reviving us again. Don’t wait until the battle is over. Somebody who knows God is God, shout right now.
Raphael Warnock: (01:27:23)
Take the mic. Come on, God, give God praise, praise the Lord. God didn’t tell us we wouldn’t have to walk to make it through the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord promised to be with us and that God’s rod and God’s staff would comfort. Comfort, oh gracious God, your people. Comfort us, oh God. In the name of the one who loves us into freedom and frees us into loving, amen.
Raphael Warnock: (01:28:40)
Tamika and other members of the family, as I thought about this moment and Rayshard’s life, words from the book of Exodus come to mind. I want to lift up just this one verse. Exodus, chapter eight, verse one. Hear now the word of the Lord. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, thus says the Lord, let my people go, so that they may worship me.'”
Raphael Warnock: (01:29:36)
We have come to this house on this day to sit with this family in their hour of grief. And while there is a lot of conversation going on about urgent and pressing matters right now, there is nothing more important than this. Sitting with this family, with their faces baptized in salty tears, mingled with the mists of Jordan, they’ve come to the river to say farewell. And we’ve come to be with them because the ministry of presence is its own power. Sisters and brothers, it’s good sometimes just to show up. It’s good to be present. Remember that the next time you’re called upon to console somebody. It’s not so much about the words, it’s about showing up. Matter of fact, when somebody is dealing with unspeakable grief, can I give you some unsolicited advice? Try not to talk too much. After all, it’s not the words. It is the ministry of presence.
Raphael Warnock: (01:31:16)
The prophet Ezekiel said, “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib and dwelt by the river Chebar, and I sat where they sat.” And America and Atlanta would be a lot better off if we would learn how to sit where other people sit, so we can see what other people see. See life through their lens, see life through the experiences of others.
Raphael Warnock: (01:31:52)
We come to sit with them. We’ve come to pray with the whole family, but especially for Tamika and the children, as they cherish precious memories of a life taken too soon. Can I tell you, I did not come to offer easy pious platitudes, spiritual bargains at discounted prices? Can I tell you something? This is not the will of God. God’s will is not shown in tragedy. God’s will is shown in how we respond to tragedy. Everything that happens is not the will of God. Everything that happens is not good.
Raphael Warnock: (01:32:38)
But if we attend to the work of the spirit, God knows how to take everything, the good and the bad, and cause it to work together. Are there any church folk in here today? Cause it to work together for the good. And so we’ve come to sit where they sit, as they lift up precious memories and say, that’s what-
Raphael Warnock: (01:33:03)
They lift our precious memories and say that’s what Rayshard was like. Tomika was telling me yesterday how Rayshard thought he could dance. She said he couldn’t really dance. 27 years old, she said he danced like an old man, just moving from side to side. We all know brothers like that who think they can dance. Then I sat the other day with a family and I met eight-year-old Blessing, such a sweet and precious child. On the same day her father was killed, they had been celebrating her eighth birthday. Think about that, they celebrated her birthday. It turned out to be his dying day. The same day.
Raphael Warnock: (01:33:59)
What do you do when you’re eight years old and you’ve got to come to terms with that? These precious children of God will need us to surround them and support them and embrace them and love on them and reassure them that they are as smart as anybody, that they are as worthy as anybody, that they are as valuable as anybody, and they are not alone. Are you going to stand beside these children? Everybody’s here today, but in the weeks to come somebody’s got to stand beside these children.
Raphael Warnock: (01:34:44)
Now that’s why we are here. We are here to sit with this family, but we would not be honest if we did not discuss what got us here in the first place. Rayshard Brooks is the latest high-profile casualty in the struggle for justice and a battle for the soul of America. This is about him, but it is much bigger than him. A couple of weeks ago, a reporter asked me, “Pastor, what was it like to stand in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood and preached following the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd?” I said, “Well, it was sort of like it was the Sunday that I stood preaching in a hoodie following the killing of Trayvon Martin. Then Michael Brown. Then 12-year-old Tamir Rice playing on a playground, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Natasha McKenna, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery all before George Floyd.” Sadly, we’ve gotten too much practice at this. While we were addressing the death of George Floyd, in no time flat, we found ourselves here again.
Raphael Warnock: (01:37:03)
I hear somebody saying, “Reverend, they are not the same.” A lot of chatter going on. I hear somebody say, “These cases are not the same. George Floyd complied. Rayshard Brooks,” some argue, “Ran and so these are not the same.” George Floyd complied, Rayshard Brooks ran, yes, that’s true, but they are both dead and therein is the problem. Black parents do not really know what to tell their children in order to keep them alive and that’s a problem. That’s not just a black problem although it’s happening to black people, that’s an American problem because we are tied, Dr. King said, in a single garment of destiny. We’re not so sure some days what to tell our children in order to keep them alive. Make no mistake, I think you should obey the law unless it is an unjust law. Dr. King said if it is an unjust law, not only do you have a right, you have an obligation in an act of civil disobedience to disobey an unjust law but generally speaking, I think you should obey the law and respect authority, but if your skin is the weapon, and your complexion is the crime, what do you do to stay alive, comply like George Floyd or run like Rayshard Brooks?
Raphael Warnock: (01:39:19)
I’m not asking for a friend, I’m asking for myself and my nieces and my nephews and my children. This country has become too accustomed and comfortable with black people dying. That’s what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter. It is a way of saying, “See our humanity. We’re trying to stay alive and keep our families alive.” Can I tell you, that’s why we insisted that you wear masks today inside the church and outside the church. That’s why we are trying our best to be socially distanced. That’s why we had the choir sing virtually rather than stand in the loft. We’re trying to stay alive. Don’t play with this virus. If Black Lives Matter, then we must do all we can to fight for our lives, fight this virus. Take care of yourself and take care of your loved ones. Fight this virus, COVID-19.
Raphael Warnock: (01:40:52)
So we haven’t been in this church. We have not worshiped in this sanctuary since March, but we had to come here today because there’s another virus in the land and it’s killing people. There’s COVID-19, and then there’s what I call COVID-1619 and they are both deadly and we have to fight both with the same determination and focus COVID-1619 in this land. We’ve been trying to beat back this virus of racism since 1619 when 20 slaves arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, mass incarceration is its latest mutation but it is an old virus that kills people. You don’t have to be shot down by a police officer for racism to kill you if you don’t have access to healthcare, that will kill you also. If you got crumbling schools, there are more ways than one to kill somebody.
Raphael Warnock: (01:42:20)
So I hear God say go to Pharaoh and say to him, ” Thus says the Lord, let my people go so that they may worship him Pharaoh, it’s not so much as a person as much as it is a system. Liberate them so that they may live lives of human flourishing and promise and possibility to the glory of God. Go and tell Pharaoh that these people do not belong to you, they do not belong to private prison corporations, they belong to me, let my people go so that they may worship me. Oppression is not just a social issue. Oppression is not just a political issue. Oppression is a moral issue. It is a spiritual issue. Because every form of human bondage gets things out of order. Every form of human bondage inflates the self-understanding of the oppressor. It injures the soul of the oppressed and it insults the sovereignty of God. There is but one God in the heavens above and the earth below and if God breathe into me the breath of life, who are you to kneel on my neck until that breath is cut off? You have [inaudible 01:43:58] to yourself the things that belong to God and that is a form of idolatry and sin. So let my people go.”
Raphael Warnock: (01:44:12)
That’s why I’m grateful. Can I tell you? I have not lost hope. I know these are dark days but I’m encouraged and when I feel discouraged, I encourage myself in the Lord and I’m grateful for what I’m seeing I’m seeing a [inaudible 01:44:38], I’m seeing a great coalition of conscience pouring into our streets in non-violent protest. I want to say to you, keep on protesting. They thought that we were just upset for about 15 minutes but we keep showing up. We keep saying America can be better than this and can I tell you, keep showing up, keep marching, keep protesting, keep raising your voice, keep raising the issue. This is Freedom Summer. You ought to keep on marching, because marching can make a difference. You don’t think these congresspersons decided all of a sudden to do this by themselves. It is because of what’s going on in the streets, so keep on marching.
Raphael Warnock: (01:45:35)
Matter of fact, I came here today to announce another march. I don’t want you to miss it. Make sure you show up for this march. It is happening on November 3, 2020 at a voting booth near you and it’s a contradiction to march in the streets and not march on the voting booth. If you really want to strike fear in the hearts of the adversary, show up and vote like you’ve never voted before. So God is speaking to us and I hear God say, “Let my people go.” The United States of America is 5% of the world’s population, but we warehouse 25% of the world’s prisoners. No other nation even comes close. Now that’s a dubious form of American exceptionalism that none of us ought to accept. We have a greater percentage of our people and we have more of our people in jails and prisons than any nation in the world by far. The land of the free is the mass incarceration capital of the world, 2.2 million people in prison and twice as many, 4.5 million people on probation or parole.
Raphael Warnock: (01:47:26)
So we demand police reform. We need police reform. God knows we do, but hear me this day. This is much bigger than the police. Police brutality is as predictable as it is tragic. We will always have police brutality as long as we remain a nation committed to mass incarceration. Systemic racism is the framework. Mass incarceration is the beast, and all beasts have to be fed, and the escalation of encounters between police and citizens is the means through which the beast is fed. Some die a physical death, some die a social death in custody. Some are released and they still feel like they have died a thousand deaths. We mourn Rayshard but there’s more than one way to die. You can die a social death, you can die an economic death, you can die a spiritual death. If all the doors of re-entry into a productive life are closed to you, after you have paid your debt to society, you can feel like you’re dying, like you’re trapped, like you can’t breathe and that’s what’s happening in our country.
Raphael Warnock: (01:49:18)
So that’s why a few years ago, Ebenezer Baptist Church organized the first one-stop expungement event, record restriction event in Fulton County, and then we later partnered with our friends at the temple and we got together with all of our county officials and we began expunging criminal arrest records. Think about that. There are people living under a cloud, they haven’t been convicted of anything. It happened years ago, and they still can’t get a job, can’t get an apartment, just because they were arrested. Have you been in the hood? Have you seen the police officers and how many there are in the hood? It’s not all that hard in some places and some communities to get arrested. So we had the first record restriction event here four years ago, and I look across to see your faces, and I celebrate it because I knew that everybody in church that day had a record. As I think about it, that’s true in church every day. Everybody in church has a record. You can come here and look all sanctified and sanctimonious and holy, but you’ve got a record. You may not have a criminal record but you’ve got a record, you’ve got something that you’re not so proud of, you’ve made some mistake, you’ve made a detour and you don’t want to be judged by your worst day. Thank God for grace and mercy, because everybody has a record.
Raphael Warnock: (01:51:21)
Can I quickly tell you this? So after we had our first event, one day I was sitting in the chair, [inaudible 01:51:31] barbershop. Yeah. I was in the barbershop and his brother came up to me, he said, “Reverend, I want to thank you for that event. That was a great event you had at the church the other Saturday.” I said, “What event?” He said, “The record restriction event.” I thought he had seen it on the news, I said, “God bless you brother, thank you.” He said, “No Rev, you don’t understand what I’m saying to you. That day you expunged my record.” He was a middle-aged man, looked respectable. Didn’t look like he had a record. He said, “You expunged my record.” He said, “I had a job before that event, but I could never get the kind of job that my skills would demand but after you cleared my record I was able to get a better job and now I’m making more money than I made in years. My whole life has improved.” I said, “Thank God for you brother.”
Raphael Warnock: (01:52:33)
Then I was trying to get out of the chair and get on to my next appointment. He said, “Reverend, wait a minute. You don’t understand. There’s more. He said, “A little while ago, there was a young couple in my own family. They had a child and things weren’t going so well and the child was about to go in foster care. Now you know that if I had a record I wouldn’t be able to do anything for that child but because somebody cleared my record, I was able to adopt my own family member and take them into my home.” Two generations helped, and all we did was clear an arrest record.
Raphael Warnock: (01:53:22)
So when I heard Rayshard’s story, when he decided to show up, because I understood he was on probation in a state that despite its reforms is ground zero for keeping people on probation for extended periods of time. One in eighteen Georgians on probation or parole. That’s staggering numbers. One in eighteen. On probation or parole. So when somebody said the other day, “Well, why did he run? Didn’t he know that that’s not a good idea?” Well, life is complicated. People find themselves in desperate circumstances and sometimes you have to sit where other folks sit in order to feel what they feel and know what they know. He stopped at a Wendy’s because he was tired, but he’s not the only person tired. I’m tired and every black person I know is tired. Matter of fact, we’re sick and tired as Fannie Lou Hamer would say, we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Why are black folks so tired? We are tired because we can’t fall asleep or get any asleep anywhere, not in a drive through, not in the dormitory of the university that you attend, not on the side of the road, not in your own bed in your own house. We are tried because we cannot get any rest.
Raphael Warnock: (01:55:41)
So Rayshard Brooks left a record for us. You don’t have to take my word for it, google it, and listen to it. He left a video in his own words. Back in February, I watched it several times, it is heartbreaking. He talks about how hard it is to come back, to recover when you return. He was trying, he had been digging his way back and he knew that night that he could lose his liberty. I’m not excusing it, I’m explaining it. He was afraid of losing it all over again and afraid of losing his liberty, he lost his life running from a system that too often makes slaves out of people.
Raphael Warnock: (01:56:46)
This is much bigger than the police. This is about a whole system that cries out for renewal and reform. So let me close in this way. America, the city on the hill, Atlanta, the city too busy to hate, rather than trying to destroy one another, maybe God has summoned us here and maybe God wants us to use Rayshard’s tragic story and this dark story to move us toward finally turning the page. After all God has a record of using people with a record to do extraordinary work. Problem with church folk is they’re so holy that they’re not realistic, talking about the things I used to do, I don’t do them anymore. You ought to be honest about some of the things you used to do. Matter of fact, some of the things you used to do, you don’t do them anymore not because you’re so saved, not because you’re so sanctimonious, some things you’re too old. Some things you just outlive.
Raphael Warnock: (01:58:25)
God uses folk with a record. Have you checked the record? Don’t dismiss people just because they have a record. You’ll have to erase half of the Bible. Moses had a record. He killed an Egyptian. He killed a man, he was a fugitive from the law but God had more in store for him and God turned him into a liberator and a lawgiver. Joseph had a record. He was thrown in prison but he held on to his dreams. Three Hebrew boys were sentenced to death, they had a record for engaging in civil disobedience. Daniel was charged and convicted and thrown in the lions’ den. Daniel had a record. John had a record. He was in prison on an island called Patmos. It was the Rikers Island of that day, but there on that island, he saw a new heaven and a new earth and he said that the old order is passing away. God has a record of using folk with a record.
Raphael Warnock: (01:59:49)
Then there’s another brother who had a record and it’s not so surprising that he would have a record. I mean look at his family. Born in a barrio called Bethlehem, questions about who his daddy really was, smuggled as an undocumented immigrant, a Dreamer into Egypt, raised in a ghetto called Nazareth, but he came saying that the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to open the eyes of the blind, to set the captives free and one hellish week that we now call Holy Week, they brought him up on trumped up charges. They convicted him without the benefit of due process. They marched him up Golgotha’s Hill. They executed him on a Roman cross. They buried him in a borrowed tomb, but his movement was so contagious that he got off the cross and got into our hearts. Early Sunday morning, he got up with all power in his hands and in his name, in the name of freedom, and in the name of love, and in the name of justice, we need a