Special from The (Akron) Reporter
Jayland Walker was eulogized at the Akron Civic Theater where thousands gathered to remember the 25-year-old days after being shot multiple times by Akron police after an alleged traffic violation that led to a car chase and Jayland being shot 60 times while trying to flee his vehicle.
Mourners did not know what to expect as to what they were about to see during the viewing- the first homegoing service held at this historic theater. In fact, some compared Jayland’s situation to that of Emmett Till, the young man beaten to death during the Civil Rights era for allegedly flirting with a white woman.
Mamie Till-Mobley, Tills mother, chose to have an open casket so that mourners could see the brutal beating that had been done to her son. Jayland’s mother chose to do the same.
Some described Walker’s body as being prepared for viewing but said some evidence of his wounds remained.
Bishop Timothy Clarke, pastor of the First Church of God in Christ of Columbus, told mourners during the eulogy, “We must not normalize this.” “We cannot make the deaths of our sons and daughters at such an early age the normal thing. We must not try to act as if this is alright. There is nothing right about this …. we should not be here, and Jayland should not be in that box.”
Bishop Clarke, who donated $2,000 dollars to help defray funeral costs, urged mourners not to “spiritualize” Walker’s death saying, “I will not allow anyone to say, ‘God need a flower, and came and got Jayland… I’m not going to let you say that God wanted Jayland, and so he’s in a better place. Jayland would be better with his family, alive and loving, and we must not cheaply spiritualize what we cannot explain, nor fully understand.”
Pastor Robert DeJournette, who is Jayland’s pastor and family member, gave a eulogy that spoke about how Jayland grew up in his Church- St. Ashworth Temple COGIC which Dejournette called, “our family Church.”
He humorously recalled how as a child; Jayland had a problem pronouncing the pastor’s name “Robert Earl.” said Pastor DeJournett, “Jayland would call me “Robba Girl,” which grew laughter from the crowd.
“We’re going to keep on pushing,” DeJournett told mourners. “We’re going to keep on fighting and lifting our voices in celebrating the life of Jayland Walker because one must know who he was.”
He reminded everyone that Jayland – and many other young Black men- were not who the media portrays. “There are many Jaylands across the country…. young, respectful, fun-loving men who have never been in serious trouble.”
The pastor read names of other Black people shot and killed by police such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tamir Rice and others, followed by his disbelief that he would ever see something like this happening in Akron and gain this much attention.
“I truly believe this is going to be the last time that we have to do this … we’re gonna continue to push and push until change comes,” DeJournett said.
Other speakers called for peace on the streets, condemned the discriminatory state of police in America, and urged a reimagining of public safety. They recalled Walker’s life, his love of family, zeal for life, passion for music and basketball, and aspiration of starting his own business.
Walker’s best friend, Dupri Whatley, shared not being able to speak with and seek out the advice of a man who was like a brother. “He’s going to live through me,” said Whatley, fighting back tears. “I’m never going to forget him.”
Robin Elerick, Walker’s cousin, recalled the day Jaylen was born. “I’m grateful that I was able to know Jayland his entire life as she described Jayland as soft-spoken, funny, sweet, and “so authentically genuine.”
Tom Addie, the uncle of Jayland, thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers. “I thank you for your prayers for the family…you don’t know how much it means. This is a tough time; it is a storm, but we will get through this storm with your thoughts and prayers.”
Although he was not on the program, Filmmaker, and activist Spike Lee and Rev. Jesse Jackson were present amongst the thousands of mourners.
Pastor Mark Jackson and friends’ musical selections reflected the sacred COGIC homegoing traditions. Rev. R. Walker read the Old Testament scripture while Supt. A Walker read from the New Testament. Min Marvin Walker acknowledge resolutions (to many to read) closing with the reading of Jayland’s obituary.
No Akron City officials were in attendance per Mayor Dan Horrigan’s request. “We don’t want to be any sort of distraction to Jayland and the mourning and the grief that his family is feeling,” Horrigan said.
Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home. Burial at Glendale Cemetery in Akron.