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Honor the memory of freedom fighter Tyrone Rashad Williams

By Jess Sundin |
April 13, 2018
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Tyrone Williams at conclusion of battle to stop foreclosure of their house
Tyrone Williams at the conclusion of the battle to stop the foreclosure of their house in South Minneapolis. (Photo by Kim DeFranco)

Minneapolis, MN - Across the Twin Cities, community members are reeling from the sudden death of Tyrone Rashad Williams, who was shot outside his family home on the early evening of Tuesday, April 3. As his sister, Raeisha said, “Honor my bro as an individual, not another slain African American male on the North Side, because that’s not who he is. His name was Tyrone Rashad Williams and he was a freedom fighter. He was a community activist. He was a lover, he was a father, he was a son, he was an uncle. He was a friend to many people.”

The Williams family homes have always been a hub of struggle. In 2009, Tyrone was part of the fight to stop the foreclosure of their house in South Minneapolis. Hundreds rallied around them, even as police arrived to evict the family during preparations for a birthday party for Tyrone’s oldest son.

Rosemary Nevils-Williams, Tyrone’s mother, said, “We are just increasing the struggle for social justice for all people of the world, for people of color politically, and for my community, the African American community, where our men are being killed, and our children are being killed and our women are being killed needlessly by law enforcement. We are not stopping we are going forward stronger.”

His friend Chauntyll Allen recalls standing with Tyrone in the struggle for justice for Jamar Clark, who was killed by Minneapolis police in 2105. “After white supremacist shooters came down to the 4th Precinct, he stood at attention, on guard for every person there. He was the guy who would come along and make everyone laugh when we were all hurting. He pointed out the most important part of the occupation was the love that we shared amongst each other, and the laughter and the bonding that happened, because it helped us heal. Through that healing we were able to continue to fight. And through this healing we need to be able to continue to fight.”

Since then, Tyrone stood on the front lines to demand justice for others killed by police, including Philando Castile, Chad Robertson and Cordale Handy. Tyrone is also remembered as a water protector for his part in the actions at Standing Rock. He worked to build unity and fight oppression, including through the Black Coalition, which started as a clothing line, but expanded to be a community organization, the Black Coalition for Social Justice and Community Defense.

One week after Tyrone’s death, community activists disrupted a city-sponsored community forum on public safety. They used a bullhorn to replay the last public speech Tyrone had given, at a similar forum that had happened two weeks ago. Both meetings seemed designed to avoid real talk about police violence the fight for accountability. Tyrone stood to demand getting rid of violent cops and for investing in the predominantly African American community of North Minneapolis. He said, “We need more action... I don’t wanna waste no more time.”

Tyrone is not someone who wasted time. He was always a comrade who led from among the people. Speaking out for justice last week, spending his last hours with his children, he was an example for all to follow.

He will be honored on Saturday, April 14, with a memorial procession and service. The procession will begin at 10 a.m. at 4th Street and West Broadway Avenue. An 11 a.m. visitation/wake and 12 p.m. funeral service will take place at Shiloh Church at 1201 W Broadway. The repast will be at 4 p.m. in the gym at Harvest Prep Academy, 1300 Olson Memorial Highway.

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