The mother of international pop megastar Rihanna today made an emotional appeal for an end to gun violence, as she addressed the funeral service of her nephew, Tavon Alleyne, who was shot and killed on Boxing Day.
Before a large crowd at St George Parish Church, Monica Fenty lamented the number of Barbadians who have died by the gun, and called for less adversarial ways to resolve disputes.
“Barbados is considered the Gem of the Caribbean, but we are losing too many of our precious gems through gun violence,” Fenty said, as she recalled that the country recorded 23 gun-related killings last year.
“It takes more energy to pick up a gun and shoot someone than to simply shake their hand. I urge everyone here, think of someone you have bad feelings towards, and go and make peace with them.”
Tavon, 21, became the 30th murder victim for 2017 after he was shot multiple times by a then unknown assailant while walking in the vicinity of his home in Lakes Close, Eden Lodge, St Michael..
Police have since arrested and charged 23-year-old Shawayne Dashawn Williams of White Hall #1, St Michael with his murder.
The church was packed to capacity for his funeral today, with the crowd spilling into the churchyard.
During his homily, Rector of St George Parish Church Reverend John Rogers described Tavon’s killing as “a senseless act”, and warned that the continued gun violence was retarding the country’s development “because, through these violent acts, we are losing the future pillars of our nation”.
As many have done before him, Rogers questioned the source of the illegal weapons, adding that “whoever is responsible for bringing in the guns and distributing them is contributing to the demise of this society”.
He also pointed an accusing finger at the authorities, whom he said were not doing enough to stem the tide of firearms entering the island.
While admitting he did not know Tavon, the Anglican priest said he was pleased to have heard that one of the young man’s final acts was to bring his family together in prayer just after they had put up their Christmas tree.
Meanwhile, in paying tribute to her younger brother, Tanella Alleyne remembered Tavon as one who was dedicated to keeping the siblings together – there is also a younger brother, Tyreese Alleyne – following the death of their sister in 2002.
“He repaired anything around the house that needed fixing, charged us for his work, and kept track of our payments as well. He knew when to be serious and when to joke around, and he was like our guardian angel,” said Tanella, who was a year and 12 days older than Tavon, with whom she shared a strong bond.
“In our last conversation, he talked about being thankful, and now I want to thank everyone who in some way shaped Tavon’s life – his family, friends and everyone else he interacted with. I vow to continue what he started and finish it on his behalf.”
Tavon was gunned down mere hours after spending some time with Rihanna on Christmas Day.
The megastar attended the funeral service under the watchful eyes of her security detail and Special Service Unit officers from the Royal Barbados Police Force, all of whom made a particularly determined effort to keep photographers outside of the church compound.
She did not address the funeral service, but her tribute to Tavon on Instagram soon after his killing had brought international attention to the shooting, with media from around the world covering it.
“Can’t believe it was just last night that I held you in my arms. Never thought that would be the last time I felt the warmth in your body!!! Love you always man . . . #endgunviolence,” she had written.
She had also posted on Instagram Stories a black background with Tavon’s handle, @merka_95, along with: “rest up lil cuz”, and added emojis of praying hands, a crying face and a broken heart, and an angel.