Sunday, August 28, 2022, marked the 67th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder, which shocked the world and sparked the Civil Rights Movement. A small group, including family members, gathered at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL, to commemorate and remember the life of Emmett Till.
Dr. Leonard Porter, the curator of the Alkebulan Safe House, opened the ceremony with a prayer and remarks from Rev. Jamie Canty, who casually knew Till. Raised by civil rights activists Rosa and Raymond Parks, Rev. Canty stated that the fight needs to continue to end nationwide racial violence and injustice. “It’s not going to be over until we do something about the tragedies happening in America to our people and us. I’m still in the fight,” says Canty.
Dr. Porter poured libations in remembrance of the first document Africans that arrived in Virginia and said the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner, who were murdered at the hands of the police. “We promise to keep your spirits and legacy ever-present. Black lives matter,” says Annie Wright.
Rev. Wheeler Parker, the last living witness to Emmett Till’s abduction, recounts being awakened at 2:30 a.m. with a flashlight beaming in his face and seeing two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, with one of them holding a pistol. “I was 16 years old, pleading for my life. I said, God, these people are going to kill us. I’m getting ready to die,” says Parker.
Parker spoke about the Mississippi grand jury’s decision not to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham for the kidnapping of Till. In June 2022, a 1955 unserved warrant for Donham was discovered in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Mississippi. Parker said he knew that Donham was not going to be indicted. “We believe she is guilty, but you can’t prosecute without evidence. Unless she confesses, there will be no justice,” says Parker.
Parker acknowledged how thankful the Chicago Defender played a vital role in documenting the death of Till and the murder trial. “The Defender was one of the few newspapers that would attack and print the story,” says Parker, who still has in his possession Chicago Defender newspapers, including articles about Till.
Rev. Thomas Ervin of Morning Star Baptist Church in Kankakee, IL, gave the commemoration message. Sherry Williams, the founder of The Bronzeville Historical Society, spoke about how Emmett Till’s name is a testament of the strength and courage of Mamie Till Mobley.
The commemoration service concluded with Ollie Gordon, the cousin of Emmett Till, placing a wreath at the resting place of Gene and Mamie Till Mobley. Gordon also put flowers at the gravesite of her daughter, Airickca Gordon-Taylor, the founder of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation.
For more information about the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, go to https://www.facebook.com/MamieTillMobleyFoundation