Family, friends and civil rights activists gathered at the West St. Mary Civic Center Saturday afternoon to lay to rest Quawan “Bobby” Charles, whose death galvanized protests and cast a national spotlight on the Teche Area.
The emotional service featured a closed casket on the stage in the civic center auditorium as those attending sat in socially distanced chairs across the space.
The ceremony, which included songs, prayers and fiery speeches, was clearly one of mourning for Charles’ friends and family. Those who knew the 15-year-old paid tribute to his life and the impact he had in the personal lives of many.
“To have lost Quawan is heartbreaking, it’s come as a shock to us all. His life was far too brief. I know in my heart he wouldn’t want us to grieve. Rather, he would want us to remember the good times,” Charles’ father Kenneth Wayne Jacko wrote at the service.
Charles’ body was found outside Loreauville on the evening of Nov. 3. According to family members, he had been reported missing days earlier, on Oct. 30, from his home in Baldwin. Although his family reported him missing to both the Baldwin Police and St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 30, they reported no action was taken until the family spoke to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 3.
While the circumstances around Charles’ death are still under investigation, the incident has caused many to question the nature and circumstances of his death. Protests surrounding his death have compared the 15-year-old to Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, making a comparison between the injuries to the two bodies.
The position of many at the funeral was that Charles’ death was a product of white supremacy, including the lawyers representing the family and activists attending the funeral.
Family attorney Chase Trichell said at the funeral that Charles’ death will be a historic one when academics talk about the “massive chasm in race relations” that occurred in 2020.
“You’re going to hear the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Quawan Charles,” Trichell said. “The cost this family has paid to have their son’s name in that conversation is insurmountable.”
Jamal Anthony Taylor, a co-founder of Stand Black, said the courage of Charles’ family has been amazing during this time, and he took the time to encourage more people to stand for Charles’ death.
“We’re going to change the world because of your son,” Taylor said to Charles’ parents. “They’re done killing us, they’re done covering this stuff up.”