City Paper is not for tourists
At the funeral service earlier today for Tavon Antonio Nelson, one of four youths killed in a recent Washington Highlands drive-by shooting in which five were also injured, the victim’s uncle, Kenneth Nelson, gave the eulogy: “Tavon Nelson was born August 7, 1992 at 7:31 p.m. to Michelle Veronica Nelson and Morris Collins. Tavon departed this life on March 30, 2010 at 9:22 p.m. He was affectionately known as Tadam. He was very intelligent, bright, respectful and helpful. He loved music…”
That’s something people who spoke at the funeral, held at Tenth Street Baptist Church at 1000 R Street NW, seemed to say a lot: that Nelson was respectful and loved music. Leaving, Nelson’s mother mentioned music again, saying her son was a fan of Lil Wayne.
A group of his childhood friends, gathered outside the church, talked about it too. They say Nelson liked music so much he was easily prompted to dance. He’d do the “beat-your-feet dance”—a dance popular in the District—at the drop of a hat.
When Tyeisha Harrell, 23, who says she and Nelson grew up together and were best friends, recalls Nelson doing the beat-your-feet-dance, she can’t help bursting into laughter. Tattooed and wearing a baseball cap askew atop a healthy growth of dreadlocks, she looks every bit the wise older sister she says she played to him. Nelson, who spent time with her watching movies and, of course, listening to music, would even be given hand-me-downs by the pseudo sibling: “I remember giving him a pair of sneakers,” Harrell recalls. But there were some bad times too. She says Nelson got into some trouble and was locked up for four years.
But at the time he was shot and killed, say Harrell and others, Nelson was doing well. He was working at the District’s Young Adult Internship Program. The program “allows five hundred underserved District youth, ages 18-24, to gain practical work experience at a designated worksite, while earning the District minimum wage,” according to the D.C. government Web site.
Other things about Nelson? Friends say he loved Eggo waffles and cheese pizza. They say he smiled a lot. Jericka Harrell, Tyeisha Harrell’s sister, says, “He had a sway about him.”
The funeral service was attended by family and friends as well as politicians, including Vincent Gray, Eleanor Holmes Norton,Marion Barry and (at least for a while) Mayor Adrian Fenty. Pastor Michael A.C. Durant hovered at a podium set beneath a neon cross, sounding fed up with District homicides. Durant said that while the city’s murder rate is down, the only acceptable murder rate was zero. “The Lord didn’t take Tavon,” he said, explaining that, though perhaps well-meaning, people who offered that perspective were wrong. “Senselessness, foolishness, heartlessness took Tavon…”