Mourners gathered Monday afternoon at the 2100 block of Crittenden Drive to remember a young and enthusiastic leader of Louisville’s movement for racial justice.
They gathered, first, in silence. All you could hear was the sound of car doors and camera shutters as mourners arrived, hugged each other, cried softly and watched as people dropped to their knees and bowed their heads before a patch of darkened asphalt where 21-year-old Hamza “Travis” Nagdy laid only hours earlier with a gunshot wound.
It didn’t take long for more than a hundred people to gather and sing the words that Nagdy himself had so often encouraged over these last six months of protest in Louisville.
In call and response:
“Momma, Momma can’t you see / What your system’s done to me? / They locked us up they let us down / There ain’t no justice in this town / Papa, Papa don’t you cry / Today is not my day to die”
Just after midnight on Monday, police responded to a call to find Nagdy lying in the street. Emergency responders transported Nagdy to University of Louisville Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Few details have been released about what happened. Police are investigating it as a homicide.
Nagdy was a rising leader in Louisville’s movement for racial justice, known for his energy, dedication and passion. And like many others, this summer was a political awakening for him. In October, Nagdy told WFPL News he aspired to run for a local office like Metro Council, or maybe even mayor.
“It’s because, for one, that I can see the support behind me, but also because I feel like I could make some legitimate changes, because I know what the other side of Louisville wants,” he said.
Milly Martin said she met Nagdy on the 10th day of protests over the death of Breonna Taylor. In the intervening time, they grew close and she watched Nagdy rise from protester to organizer.
Another organizer, Chris Will, remembered the first time Nagdy grabbed the megaphone. He was hesitant and asked for advice, but in a short time, learned to wield the megaphone with authority and charisma.
Livestreamer Tara Bassett recalled a time when Nagdy leapt out of the car after a five-mile march. Everyone was exhausted, but not him.
“…and nobody could chant anymore and he had 4 megaphones around his shoulders and he jumped out of the car and started screaming ‘momma momma can’t you see’,” she said.
On Sunday night, there was another police shooting in Louisville. Nagdy’s last Facebook post called for “all hands on deck” at the crime scene.
Even though it was late on a Sunday, Bassett said Nagdy responded to protesters’ calls for megaphones, which, of course, he had.
Later that night, he was killed.
There have been more than 140 homicides in Louisville this year, a record.
Nagdy’s mentor, Antonio Taylor, had recently spoken with the young leader about the gun violence in the city.
“It’s Ironic, because one of the last conversations that we had together was, I was asking Travis. I said, ‘Travis, we have to form a movement around this growing violence in Louisville, and I need you at the front of it. I need you to be at the front of it.’ And he was willing to do that,” Taylor said.
He trusted Nagdy because he was dependable, he showed up, he put in the work and he helped others to pursue a more equitable future for everyone.
On Monday afternoon, Travis’ mother Christina Muimneach joined mourners for a memorial march.
“He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve this,” she said, kneeling over the spot where her son had bled onto the asphalt.
The protesters standing around her helped when Muimneach felt weak in the knees. They knelt and held a moment of silence for her son, then thanked her for raising him.
“You did a wonderful job with that young man,” one person said.
“You raised a hero,” another shouted.
“Thank you for sharing him with us,” a third said.
“Be proud of your son,” said a fourth.
Chris Will, the organizer who first helped Nagdy onto the megaphone, made a new chant, just for Nagdy:
“All hands on deck / All hands on deck / I will not rest / Will you keep going? Yes.”