Thursday, August 23, 2001

Takeya's mother tries to be strong


Emotions raw at funeral of slain girl, 8

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The mother of the dead girl fainted. The girl's aunt sobbed in an older woman's arms.

        Shocking, tragic truth hit African and Charmaine Evans on Wednesday as they sat in Olivet Baptist Church in Silverton and stared at the open coffin holding Takeya Bryant, 8.

[photo] Takeya Bryant's casket is carried from Olivet Baptist Church in Silverton Wednesday. The girl was buried in Vine Street Hill Cemetery in Clifton.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        She died Aug. 15 while in the care of their 11- and 13-year-old sons in a Northside apartment. Prosecutors say the 11-year-old, who is Takeya's brother, and 13-year-old, her cousin, beat her to death. The cousin also has been charged with raping her.

        More than 200 people paid their respects at Wednesday's funeral service and burial at Vine Street Hill Cemetery in Clifton.

        The boys were not there. A juvenile judge denied their request to attend.

        Mourners struggled Wednesday with the family's predicament. Some cried and sobbed, others sat stoically as they remembered the young girl who was ticklish and prone to giggles. They missed her soft voice, which normally would have blended with the rest of the church's youth choir.

        Others cast blame at Hamilton County social workers, a mother's record of neglect and school officials' negligible involvement. Takeya would have entered the third grade this fall at Stewart Elementary School in Sharonville.

Takeya
Takeya
        “My baby shouldn't be lying in there,” said Takeya's father, Rodney Bryant, 39. “She's lying in there because of neglect. Why did this happen to her? This shouldn't have escalated.”

        Takeya and her three siblings were taken from their mother in December. She had been convicted of child endangerment for leaving them unsupervised. She was working at one of her two jobs when she learned that Takeya died in their Northside home.

        Ms. Evans and Mr. Bryant had been separated for some time. He hadn't seen Takeya since last summer. He blames Takeya's mother for the child's death.

        Others cast blame upon themselves.

        “I'm sorry! I'm sorry! It hurts so bad!” sobbed Barbett Clark, Mr. Bryant's sister. She agreed that the child rarely saw her father's side of the family.

        “I didn't spend as much time with her as I could have,” she said. “I could've called her and seen her. She was my baby niece. (But) every time I saw her ... she looked really well, clean and neat. I don't know who to be angry at. You want to be angry at somebody, but you don't know who to be angry at.”

        The Rev. Aaron Greenlea, pastor of Olivet Baptist, also struggled for understanding. Yet he called for compassion toward the Evans family.

        “You know their hurt. You know their pain. You know their suffering,” he said. “God, we don't understand. Lord, what are you saying to us as families? What are you saying to us as churches? What are you saying to us as a city and a nation?

        “I say to you ... when God entrusts a precious child to you, you must love him or her. Because God will show up and hold us accountable. This is a mean world and it cares nothing about little children.”

        Takeya was eulogized and buried with the help of Johnson-Brown Funeral Home in Bond Hill, which donated its services and solicited money for her casket and grave site. The owner, Libby Brown, said she empathized with African Evans and had lost a child herself.

        When she fainted Wednesday, African Evans was carried out of the church. Afterward, friends noticed that she was trying to be strong.

        Takeya's 9-year-old sister, Takyara, rarely left her side. Ms. Evans held the child in the church pews. She gently touched the child when they stepped toward Takeya's coffin.

        At the cemetery, Ms. Evans still seemed dazed. She held onto someone as she walked to the burial site.

        “She's trying” to be strong, said John Peoples of Kennedy Heights, who sat near her at the funeral. But “this day has been the hardest.”

       



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