Community

The downtown Breonna Taylor memorial has a new home. 

It’s being rebuilt at Louisville’s Roots 101 African American History Museum after community members marched and carried pieces of it from Jefferson Square Park Saturday.

Melonie Powell said she came to pay her respects to Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officers in her own apartment last March, “and to stand our ground and say it’s a new time and it’s a new day in Louisville.” 

“It’s time for change and it’s gonna start here today,” she said, holding a handful of long-stemmed flowers. 

Powell has spent a lot of her summer and fall here, demanding justice for Taylor and protesting police violence against Black people. Seeing people smiling and celebrating Taylor’s life late Saturday afternoon gave her hope, she said. 

It also gave her hope to know that the memorial will live on, at its new and permanent residence in Roots 101, safe from the elements as winter approaches. 

During a Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression press conference last Sunday, organizers said with the days getting colder and shorter, it became clear that they had to move the memorial, and they got permission from Taylor’s family to do so.  

The memorial to Taylor has grown in scope and size over the last several months, a curated collection of signs, artwork, keepsakes and photographs. 

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

A crowd marches parts of the Breonna Taylor memorial to Roots 101 in downtown Louisville on Nov. 7, 2020.

But not just of Taylor. 

Within the square, memorials dedicated to the memories of David McAtee and Tyler Gerth have also taken shape.

National Guard shot and killed McAtee, who ran a local BBQ joint, in the early morning hours on June 1. Gerth was shot and killed at the square, a hub for racial justice protests, in late June.

Gerth’s mother, Gena Gerth, said it’s “amazing” to see what others have done with the memorials, and she’s thankful they’ll have a place where they can be preserved. 

“We’ve all come together to help to make a change, trying to eliminate racial and social injustice,” Gerth said, wearing a face mask with her son’s name on it. “And I think it’s great that people are honoring Breonna, Tyler and David McAtee.”

As the crowd chanted the names of Taylor, Gerth and McAtee, a number of people lined up to get a sign or painting, while a handful of people began to deinstall a large portrait of Taylor, which has been sort of the centerpiece of the memorial. 

The portrait of Taylor was held up above the crowd for a New Orleans-style procession toward the museum. Music played and people chanted as they walked. 

When they reached the museum, those carrying bits of the memorial lay the pieces out on the sidewalk, like a mosaic. 

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Marchers lay pieces of the Breonna Taylor memorial outside Roots 101 on Nov. 7, 2020.

Participants offered libations, and a man poured water from a bowl into the dirt in a nearby planter to give thanks to the ancestors. 

“We give thanks to my ancestors, that paved the way for us to be here,” he said. 

Then the crowd sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem.”

Shameka Parrish-Wright, co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and who had a name in securing the new home for the memorial, told the crowd there’s a lot to celebrate today. 

“We’re celebrating unity,” she said. “We’re celebrating changing that White House today. Black votets matter.”

She thanked everyone for voting and getting others to vote. She said this is proof that they can make a difference, and this is just the beginning. 

“We’ve all said that this is about Breonna, and it’s bigger than Breonna.”

Parrish-Wright, like many who spoke, said the fight is not over just because of an election or because the memorial has found a place to exist indefinitely. 

New legislation will be before the state legislature during its next legislative session, which begins in January. Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, pre-filed by Democratic State Rep. Attica Scott in August, would ban no-knock warrants statewide, require drug and alcohol testing for police officers after a fatal police shooting, and penalize officers who don’t use their body cameras while executing a search warrant.

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, thanked the crowd for showing up, not just today, but the past 164 days.

“The fight is just starting for us,” she said. “It’s a long way, so we’re not going anywhere. I’ll fight to the death of me if I have to.” 

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Tamika Palmer outside Roots 101 following a march that brought parts of her daughter’s memorial to the museum.

She said once the memorial is rebuilt inside Roots 101, “y’all still gotta come out here and see Breonna though.” 

Tiffany Hensley, Tyler Gerth’s sister, shared the final text message she received from her brother before his death: 

“For too long we have been silent and not standing up,” she read. “No more. Every night I think how I want things to change, so your kids don’t have to experience the injustices that have gone on. We have to make a change for the next generation.”

Roots 101 founder and CEO Lamont Collins told the crowd he’s incredibly moved to have the memorial at his museum.  

“Roots 101 is the healing space where we can come together and talk about the scars of America, pull the scabs back and heal together,” he said. 

He and Palmer will work together to curate and rebuild the memorial. 

Collins said the memorial won’t look the same as it did in Jefferson Square Park, but it will have the same spirit.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.