GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tawanna Gordon and her relatives have one message for families this Thanksgiving: be kind to one another.
“Our thing is just making sure that you at Thanksgiving and anytime of the year remember to be kind to people," Gordon said during a recent Zoom interview with Fox 17. “Remember to be kind to people, not based on race or ethnicity, but just because of the fact that they’re human and that is who Breonna Taylor was.”
And, Breonna Taylor was Gordon’s cousin. Taylor was from Grand Rapids, where she went to Kelloggsville middle school and high school. Gordon said she has fond memories of her laughter, joy, silliness, love of pasta and love for Beyonce.
However, what she remembers most was her kindness.
“Her own personal saying wake, pray, slay, that was Breonna Taylor,” Gordon said. “She woke up and dedicated her life to doing good in the world.
Gordon said Taylor demonstrated that while working as an emergency room technician in Louisville, where the 26-year-old lived. Gordon remembers the family begging her not to work so hard during the early days of the pandemic. They feared she may contract the coronavirus. However, Taylor was focused on helping as many people as possible.
“We wanted people to see her as a humanitarian, someone who believed in hope, believed in the world,” Gordon said. “She loved the United States as well. She loved Louisville. We don’t want to cast a gray cloud over the city because she loved it so much. But we do want to awaken a few people to see what is going on in that police department and the need for social reform and for police reform.”
Back on the dark early morning hours of March 13, Taylor was shot and killed in her and her boyfriend’s home by Louisville police during a botched raid. Her death sparked nationwide protests, including several in Grand Rapids. Since then, one officer was charged in the shooting. None were charged in her death.
“I think that’s our biggest frustration is that she was a young life that was taken far too soon over some definite, big police mistakes and negligence,” Gordon said. “At the end of the day regardless of personal views, it’s appalling to see so many people who are absent of humanity.”
Gordon said she’s been overwhelmed by the love and support the family has received since Taylor’s death. Hundreds of thousands of people, of all ethnicities and backgrounds, have packed the streets across the country shouting Taylor’s name. However, she’s also received negative comments about Taylor, some so bad that it ‘seems like so many people don’t care about humanity,’ Gordon recalled.
“She was a diamond in the rough and everyone at school loved her. She was one of those great kids. Never in trouble, she was just real helpful,” said Taylor’s former math teacher Leah Dix-White during a Zoom interview on Tuesday. “She would go out of her way if she saw somebody crying or upset, like ‘come on boo boo.’ She was just mature beyond her years.”
Dix-White, who went by Ms. Dix back then, taught math at Western High School in Louisville. Dix-White said that Taylor was a joy to have in class. She excelled in math and helped others do well in the subject too.
“She was the person that always wrote on the board. I’d be like ‘does anybody want to write on the board other than Breonna,” Dix-White said while laughing. “She’d be like ‘I'll do it.’ I mean that's how it was. So, I remember that. Even though it was 10 years or so ago, I remember her always wanting to volunteer and always being eager to learn.”
Like Dix-White, Gordon is now left with memories of Taylor.
An FBI investigation is still going on regarding Taylor's death. Gordon said the family will continue to fight for justice. In the meantime, they’ll be at the street-dedication ceremony on Friday December 4 at Rosa Parks Circle. Monroe Center will be named Breonna Taylor Way, in honor of her life and legacy.
“I just want people to know that in the world that we’re dealing with, in the climate, in the cultural climate, just to be kind to one another, just to be thankful that you still have your life, that you can still share it with your family members,” Gordon said. “We all make mistakes. We all don’t always choose the right things to do but at the end of the day, I think if we had enough support around us, even our mistakes would turn out better if we’re un-judged for them. So, just be kind. That's what Breonna would want people to do.”