With children on the steps, family and friends in a circle and a community around them, dozens of Columbia residents came out to remember Nadria Wright on Thursday night at Ridgeway Elementary School.
Wright, who was 18 years old, was shot and killed Friday night.
“This about family; all of us are family,” the Rev. James Gray told the crowd of people gathered in front of the school while candles were passed out among those in attendance.
“A lot of us here have heavy hearts, tears in our eyes,” Gray said.
Pointing at Nadria Wright’s father, Adrian Wright, Gray said, “That could be your father, in tears because he lost his baby.”
“All of Columbia should be here,” he said. He then went on to announce the visitation and funeral Saturday.
“If you feel the need to bring something, don’t come,” Gray said.
Wright’s father said she was going to be a nurse, then an anesthesiologist, and that she had “a great heart and was incredibly goal-oriented.”
Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia chapter of the NAACP, spoke in a call to action against gun violence.
She told the crowd that “we gonna get y’all out of the community,” in reference to the individuals that have been behind the recent shooting.
“We can’t wait for this to happen again,” Ratliff said. “Don’t think this can’t happen to your child because they’re not involved."
Ratliff told those at the vigil that had the police shot Wright, more community members would be in attendance.
"This young lady is just as dead as if a police officer had shot her," she said.
Ratliff addressed the six Columbia Police Department officers in the crowd.
“We can’t be afraid. If we want them to protect us, we need to speak up.”
Discussing the spur of violence in Columbia this year, Ratliff said, “We can talk about everything we have been denied, and we will still be fighting for it, but we need to address this violence. Dead is dead.”
Ratliff said she is working with First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin to take action.
“They are killing our babies,” Ratliff said.
The Rev. Thomas Carter prayed for community members to share any information they might have about Wright’s death.
“God, loose the tongues (of those who know),” he said. “We may not know, but you do.”
Shaunda Hamilton, Wright’s mother, also attended the vigil.
“I attended the Stop the Violence Movement a few years back,” she said.
“We know we are tired of young black men being killed. I was out there for the ones I didn’t even birth. It wasn’t my two boys out there doing this stuff. If you don’t want to talk to the police, talk to me, talk to my boys.”
Hamilton, addressing a young man in the crowd, said, “You just had a child, right? Don’t wait for it to be your child.”
“I remember when I just had kids,” she said. “I was here before all of this happened to me. We need to say something.”
Cheryl Wright, Nadria Wright’s grandmother, said about the officers in the crowd, “They are out here, not to find out information, they are here because they have kids, too.”
Columbia Police Officer Matt Gremore said, “In my 11 years, I’ve never seen anything like this weekend. We need to come together.”
Daniel Edwards, who gave a short speech, is the first mentor of the newly established organization Save Our Sons. It was started Sept. 10 in Columbia. The goal of the organization, he said, is “life-coaching” young adults about how to reduce violence.
“Violence sparks anger,” Edwards said. “Being angry is human nature ... but not the solution.”
The visitation and celebration of life for Wright will be held Saturday at the Second Missionary Baptist Church. The visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon, and the celebration of life will follow. Memorial gifts can be made in Wright’s memory toward a scholarship in her honor.
Editor's Note: This story was altered to add context to a quote from Mary Ratliff.