SMYRNA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — A Smyrna couple is behind some memorial benches that pay tribute to three Black people people whose violent deaths have sparked national outrage.
In Smyrna’s Taylor-Brawner Park there are memorial plaques honoring many who have made a positive impact in the world. People living nearby say they’re glad to also see the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd memorialized on benches.
“It is a great idea, great thing that they are doing, contributing, especially being in a park setting to be able to walk by, sit down or share a memory or a moment honoring those individuals,” said Britney Moore, a Smyrna resident.
Some say they’re reminders of repeated crimes of racial injustice by police and citizens.
“It’s just unjustice (sic) for these people and what they went through, and people dying and people injured,” said Penny Ebron, another resident. “It should not be this way.”
Damon and Yashira Willis discuss what inspired them to sponsor the memorial benches in a Zoom interview. pic.twitter.com/UFiG3KF5y6
— Valencia E. Jones (@vjreports3) September 9, 2020
It’s what inspired social activists Damon and Yashira Willis to sponsor the three memorial benches through the Keep Smyrna Beautiful organization. An anonymous donor paid half of the cost.
“There are many different ways of peacefully protesting, being socially active, this is just one of them,” he said. “We wanted to do something different, something local, and we felt like this was a creative way of doing that.”
They remember hearing how Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia, how Breonna Taylor was shot inside her home in Kentucky as police executed a no-knock search warrant, and how George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
”To hear over and over the same horrific story played out, the loss is unimaginable,” said Yashira Willis.
The Willises say they hope people will say the names on the benches as they walk by and never forget them and those who came before and after them. “We feel like these conversations need continue to happen so that change will continue to happen,” Yashira said.
“That’s what it’s really about is just taking our little small corner of the Atlanta metro here in Smyrna and displaying and really memorializing these lives,” said Damon.
To learn more about Keep Smyrna Beautiful, click here.