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Ramarley Graham laid to rest

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 4/25/2012, 5:07 p.m.

"If he's not safe in his own bathroom, none of us are," the Rev. Al Sharpton exclaimed Saturday morning at the funeral services for Ramarley Graham. Because Sharpton had to leave early in order to attend Whitney Houston's funeral, the program was altered to fit his schedule.

Graham, 18, was killed after being pursued by the NYPD on Feb. 2 into his home in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. Hundreds crowded the Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church on White Plains Road in the Bronx.

"Ramarley was killed in an unnatural and inexcusable way," Sharpton continued, insisting that the NYPD take some accountability for the death. Neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly were present.

The mayor and the commissioner should be here, Councilman Larry Seabrook charged, adding that Graham's life was taken "by an illegal act."

During his moment in the pulpit, Imam Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam was even more forceful in his condemnation of theNYPD.

Graham, he said, "was killed in cold blood...and I'm sick and tired of white officers killing us." He said kelly should be run out of town and "the mayor should be sued personally."

One of the longest, most emotional encomiums came from Graham Witherspoon, a former NYPD officer and longtime community activist. "We have a mayor," he began, "who is totally insensitive to our community."

He told the audience, "You have to stand up for your children and grandchildren," which brought all of them to their feet.

Attorney Royce Russell, one of the lawyers representing the family, was unable to hold back his tears and it took him several minutes to regain his composure.

It's easy to come to a funeral, he said, but the hard part "is what will you

be doing three weeks from now?" If things are going to change, he added, "You've got to be involved."

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. voiced his concern about Graham's death, comparing it to two previous tragedies in the Bronx: Anthony Baez was killed in the street near his home in 1994, "Amadou Diallo was killed at his front door [in 1999] and now Ramarley was killed in his home," he said.

"Something is wrong and the district attorney [Robert Johnson], the mayor and the police commissioner have to answer."

Pastor Fernando Cabrera, addressing his remarks to the Graham family, particularly to Graham's mother, said, "It's not easy losing a son to injustice. We must find a way to turn this pain into pearls."

Referring to Graham by his nickname, "Charley," his cousin Selena Brown read the obituary, noting that he had wanted to be a fireman. "He was quiet and reserved, very polite and respectful," she read. "You are gone but not forgotten."

Graham's sister Leona Virgo recited a poem. "I cannot speak of his name in the past tense," she said.

Graham's cousin Tasha Bernard said she first met Graham when he was 3. "He was a world changer and a history maker," she said, "and I love him madly with all my heart."