MEXICO—Ta’Juan Williams was a friend to everyone in his tight-knit community.
That was the consensus Monday among the 100-150 people gathered at Garfield Park in a vigil honoring Williams’ memory.
Williams was the victim of a fatal shooting Friday evening. The three teenagers allegedly involved were arrested and charged Saturday.
Gathered in the crowd were family and friends who spoke about what Williams was like as a person and his legacy in the community. Members of the group said he was a very welcoming man — that he would take you if you had nowhere else to go.
“He was goofy, always smiling. He was happy. He loved sports. He loved children,” said Cocoa Jeffries, Williams’ cousin, adding she was happy so many turned out to honor her cousin.
Williams, who went by the nickname Thunder, reportedly played basketball everyday at the park with a group of friends. He also wanted people to have as much fun as possible, said people who took turns offering stories and memories of Williams.
“He always encouraged all of us to stay in school,” said another of Williams’ cousins, Shaneisha Belcher.
He was always someone who would listen, who you could talk to, said Williams’ sister Egene Evans.
“He always encouraged me to do better myself,” she said. “He played well with his niece and his nephew. He was a great man, I was very proud of him.”
Williams touched everyone in his community in some way, a vigil participant said.
“You could never hate him because he kept it solid. He kept it real with all of you. … He told me not to throw away your life. We all hurting right now, but if we could hear his voice what do you think he would say. He’d say, ‘Live on, man. Live on,” he said.
Another attendee encouraged those gathered to pick up the mantle of Williams — to be the light for the community, and to support the young people and be their encouragement. “Let us spread the goodness. … It’s about the younger youth, the babies, his cousins,” he said.
Williams would provide food, clothes and other necessities out of the kindness of his heart, another person at the vigil said.
Those present encouraged more open communication between each other and to celebrate one another, not just in the sad times, but also in the joyous times.
“When everyone gave up on my son, Thunder didn’t give up on my son,” said one woman, adding Williams is a motivator and he constantly is encouraging others to be better. “I know what Thunder is doing. He’s got his ball in his hand, and he’s bouncing on the streets of gold. He’s gone, we love him, we’ll never forget him, but Thunder will always live on.”
A basketball tournament in Williams’ honor is planned for 4 p.m. Feb. 16 at Mexico High School. Rules for the tournament are Garfield Park Rules — five-person teams play to 11 points. Losing teams rotate out.