Hundreds attend memorial service for Darryl Hunt

Hundreds attend memorial service for Darryl Hunt
March 24
00:00 2016
Photo by Tevin Stinson
Rev. Dr. John Mendez speaks during the memorial service for Darryl Hunt at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Saturday, March 19.



There were few empty seats left last Saturday afternoon at Emmanuel Baptist Church as more than 500 people gathered at the church located on Shalimar Drive to celebrate the life of Darryl Hunt, a man who was released from prison in 2004 after serving 19 years for a murder he did not commit.

In 1984, Hunt was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes, a white copy editor at the Sentinel, a newspaper in the city.

After being released, Hunt dedicated his life to educating the public about the flaws in the criminal justice system and providing resources and support for those to rebuild their lives

During the service, pastor of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr. Carlton Eversley said although Hunt converted to Islam while in prison, “he never gave up on Jesus and Jesus never gave up on him.”

“He was determined to fight for justice, freedom and education,” said Eversley.”Darryl taught us how to deal with racist injustice without hatred, bitteness and anger.”

Eversley mentioned the best memorial we can make to Hunt is to pursue the things that he thought was important: to oppose the death penalty, support people coming out of incarceration, and to fight against false allegations.

Although Hunt’s death has not been officially been declared a suicide, Winston-Salem police said that a gun was found near his body and he appears to have killed himself with a gunshot to his mid-section. A police report  noted that a gun was found near Hunt’s body and that the vehicle was locked.

Attorney and Winston-Salem State University professor Dr. Larry Little, one of Hunt’s closest friends and supporters, told those in attendance that he had found a goodbye note. Hunt felt bad about the split from his wife and had been recently diagnosed with stomach and prostate cancer and was told he only had a few months to live.

“It was clear he was frustrated and in a lot of pain,” said Little. He wanted us to know that he loved this community.”

Little mentioned Hunt asked the community to support his ex-wife and not to forget about Kalvin Michael Smith, who is currently serving a 29-year sentence for a crime many believe he did not commit.

Other speakers during the service included, N.C. NAACP president Rev. William J. Barber, and Rev. Dr. John Mendez who was also one of Hunt’s closest friends.

Barber said that after he got the news of Hunt’s death, he sat for a moment very still and tried to find the words to describe the life of someone who had become a friend, brother comrade, and a hero to people across the nation.

“Those who are resurrected from injustice die again and again from the pain born of hurt endured that never should have been,” continued Barber. “When our heroes fall we can’t die, not now. We who are still alive must try one more time to honor them, to honor justice, to honor Darryl.”

Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church and community activist Rev. Dr. Mendez said we must not blame Darryl for his death because the system of oppression is what truly is responsible.

Following the service, a number of residents said they decided to attend the memorial service because they were moved by the work Hunt did following his release from prison.

“After all he went through so much, he never showed any anger or ill will towards anyone,” said Tiffany Robinson from Winston-Salem.

“He helped so many people turn their lives and touched many more. He will truly be missed.”

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