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Posted on Tue. Aug. 26, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Fort Wayne NAACP leader says Michael Brown funeral inspiring, a renewal for action

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The casket was black and gold. As they carried it from the church, pallbearers hoisted it to their shoulders, just as U.S. soldiers do for a fallen comrade.

Michael Brown was laid to rest Monday after being killed Aug. 9 by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., but his death sounded the trumpet for African Americans nationwide to become engaged in their communities, to know their civil rights and to seek fair treatment by police, said the Rev. Saharra Bledsoe, president of the Fort Wayne chapter of the NAACP.

"It was awe-inspiring," Bledsoe said when reached by phone Monday afternoon after attending the funeral. "It was wonderful to see our community come together."

Bledsoe said she made the seven-hour drive from Fort Wayne to Ferguson to attend the funeral not only to show support for the Brown family. She also carried to them the condolences of Rose Haney, whose son, Tavontae Haney, 19, was killed April 27, 2013, by Fort Wayne police after reportedly fleeing after a traffic stop. The Allen County prosecutor's office ruled in February the shooting was justifiable.

Haney wanted Brown's family to know their loss also can happen in other places in the country, Bledsoe said. She also wanted the Brown family to know she understands the pain they are going through following the loss of their 18-year-old son, who was unarmed when killed.

Bledsoe hopes to relay that information to the family before returning Wednesday to Fort Wayne.

Part of an overflow crowd at the funeral, Bledsoe said she left energized to work for reform in Fort Wayne.

At the local NAACP chapter's monthly meeting Thursday, Bledsoe plans to tell the board of directors and members, "It is time for us to turn the page and demand change."

The community needs to do whatever it can to protect children and improve life for them, she said. That includes getting more people to the polls to vote and pushing for better schools.

Bledsoe also thanked God that people now seem to realize there is a police brutality problem in America.

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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