Breonna Taylor would have turned 28 Saturday.
And to mark her birthday, family and community organizers hosted an evening of music and entertainment at Waterfront Park that included acts such as Louisville gospel singer and Grammy Award nominee Jason Clayborn & The Atmosphere Changers.
“We’re gathered here to celebrate Breonna, not because she died,” Simmons College of Kentucky president Kevin Cosby said, addressing a small crowd gathered around the Big Four Lawn stage. “We’re here to celebrate Breonna because she lived.”
Louisville Metro Police officers killed Taylor in her home nearly 15 months ago. And for a little more than a year, demonstrators have been marching and saying her name. Former LMPD detective Brett Hankison was charged with endangering Taylor’s neighbor, and the department fired officers Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove, who have both appealed the terminations.
But none of the officers involved in the raid on Taylor’s apartment on March 13, 2020 have faced charges for her death.
Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s family and a board member for the Breonna Taylor Foundation, which presented the event, said holding a gathering like this doesn’t mean they are done seeking justice.
“So arrest the cops, indict the cops, convict the cops, and we’re always going to bring that message whether we’re celebrating or not,” Baker said.
Rather, she continued, the hope for holding the “Praise in the Park” birthday celebration is to help people find that “higher power,” or whatever it is that they need to keep pushing forward.
Sitting in a lawn chair in a patch of shade, Florence Williams, who came out to celebrate Taylor, felt some of that “higher power” during a performance of the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror.”
“I want the world to be a better place,” Williams said, quoting some of the song’s lyrics. “I really just want everything to be equal. That’s what I want.”
Louisville Urban League president and CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said, “Breonna is Tamika Palmer’s daughter, but she has come to belong to all of us.”
A reporter had asked her earlier in the day about why it was important to continue to hold events like this one.
“Because we love this mother, who today is celebrating her child’s birthday without her,” Reynolds said, looking toward Palmer, who sat under a pop-up canopy.
And while she likes to see so many people having a good time, she said it’s important to not forget what happened in March of last year and to not let city officials forget it either.
“We are not healed, we are not healing,” Reynolds said. “We are here in an attempt to somehow figure out how to continue on. But there cannot be healing in a city that has not yet spoken its truth. There cannot be healing in a place that has not yet delivered justice.”
Reynolds also had a plea for other Black Louisvillians.
“We are suffering so much that we are hurting each other,” she said, then referencing the city’s high homicide rate. “If it wasn’t urgent, I would not stand on this stage and talk to you about it.”
“I understand root cause, I understand that there is suffering, I understand what white supremacy is doing to us. But I’m telling you, we got to find some other way to deal with this pain […] I don’t want to lose another sister, another brother to police violence. And I don’t want to lose them to you.”