Grandmother of slain Jonylah Watkins: ‘What have thou done?’
By Jon Seidel Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 19, 2013 9:44AM
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Updated: April 21, 2013 6:27AM
Her family called her “Smooch” — it means “many kisses.”
And after just six months of life, Jonylah Watkins’ startling murder inspired calls for peace, redemption, justice and unity Tuesday at her crowded funeral on the South Side.
Last week, Jonylah was killed by a bullet police believe was intended for her father, Jonathan Watkins.
“My neighbors of Chicago, what have thou done?” said Jonylah’s grandmother, Mary Young. “You brought in the darkness, removed the sun. It’s now obvious the time has come when killing one another will no longer be tolerated by anyone.”
Young made her remarks to a standing-room only crowd at New Beginnings Church while her granddaughter lay in a tiny white-and-gold casket nearby. It was surrounded by flowers and stuffed animals. Jonylah herself was dressed in pink with a small pink bunny rabbit resting beside her.
Photographs of the little girl flashed upon two screens throughout the sometimes raucous service as congregants celebrated her life. Ushers struggled to find seats for many mourners, some who carried carnations and wore tributary clothing, such as a red sweatshirt with the words “God Bless This Baby!”
Her parents sat at the front of the church throughout the service, dressed themselves in matching white sweatshirts marked with tributes to their daughter. Sobs could be heard coming from Jonylah’s family before the service began.
One woman was led out of the room during Jonylah’s visitation, overcome with emotion.
The baby’s grandmother wondered to the crowd Tuesday whether Chicago had lost its voice. She decried the city’s “false code of silence,” and she told the congregation to take back their home.
“Now the sacrifice has been made,” Young said, “in the slaying of an innocent baby lamb that points to an end of this destructive mayhem.”
Earlier, the Rev. Marshall Hatch said there is power in Jonylah’s innocent blood — power to reform the city where it was spilled.
“If the blood of this baby does not change our lives,” Hatch said, “we are beyond being changed.”
Ald. Willie Cochran said he wants Jonylah’s killer brought to justice.
“Somebody’s going to pay for this child being killed,” Cochran said. “Somebody’s going to pay.”
On Monday, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he’s confident that will happen. Jonylah and her father were sitting in a minivan in the 6500 block of South Maryland on March 11 when a nearby gunman opened fire, striking Jonathan Watkins three times and his daughter once, police said.
A bullet entered Jonylah’s shoulder and exited her lower body. She survived emergency surgery but died the next morning.
Jonathan Watkins, who police said is a known gang member, is thought to have been the intended target. McCarthy said “there’s a lot more he can help us with,” but the 29-year-old father is cooperating with the investigation.
The Rev. Corey Brooks, the pastor at New Beginnings Church, told the congregation God has a purpose and a plan. He said “tragedy is looking for you,” and he said it’s never too late for people to start new lives if they believe in themselves.
“I don’t care if a thousand demons in hell doubt you,” Brooks said. “If you believe, you can change.”
Finally, he ended his hour-long eulogy by calling on the people who visited his sanctuary Tuesday to find a church.
“You’re here today,” Brooks said. “You’re celebrating a life. You’re comforting a family. But what good will this experience do you if you walk back out the same way you came in?”
When it all ended, Jonylah’s parents followed her casket as it was wheeled out of the sanctuary.
And a short time later, they gathered with friends and family under a clear blue sky near two pine trees. They sat inside the walls of Oak Woods Cemetery, and they prepared for their baby girl’s burial, on a cold day in Chicago.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito and Mitch Dudek