By Jeff Mays
HARLEM—The death of 16-year-old Tysha Jones won't be in vain if her friends and family take steps to stop the senseless violence that caused her death, speakers at her funeral said Wednesday.
"This tragedy creates an opportunity to send a message. A life is not yours to take," said Rev. Vernon Williams during the service at an East Harlem church that was attended by more than 600 people.
Jones, who was a sophomore at Landmark High School in Chelsea, was killed Thursday last week when gunmen opened fire on the Brighton Beach boardwalk where she had gone with friends.
Police say the shooting was sparked by a fight where one youth was hit with a bottle and another with an umbrella.
Iloune Driver, 19, of Coney Island, was charged this week with second-degree murder and assault with intent to cause serious physical injury.
At her funeral, Jones was laid out in all white. A storyboard filled with pictures from her life was next to the casket. Family members wore matching white outfits while friends had t-shirts or placards with Jones' picture.
Tearful mourners at the Greater Highway Deliverance Temple on East 111th Street recalled a girl who loved to sing and dance, who had a part-time job and was looking forward to the future.
"I never thought when we came out of the water I would never see my aunt again," said Jones' niece during the service.
Jones' friend Tyshay recalled how the teen was upset after her friend Cheyenne Baez was killed and began asking more questions about faith and life and sang in church.
"Tysha, I want you to know I love you," she said.
Cheyenne's mother Lisa also attended the service.
Besides expression of love and support, the dominant message of the night was the toll that violence takes on the community. Similar to the civil rights movement, nothing is going to change until young people get tired of burying their friends, mourners said.
"Here we are again. Another senseless killing," said Jackie Rowe-Adams, one of the founders of Harlem Mothers SAVE, who has lost two sons to gun violence.
'We know your pain and we don't want anyone to share that pain," Rowe-Adams told Jones' mother Cynthia and her father Kevin Wilson.
Tony Herbert, a community advocate with the Urban Community Council in Bedford Stuyvesant, said he was tired of going to funerals, vigils and memorials. He challenged the young men caught up in gang violence to change their lives.
"Somebody in here walks around with a gun. Someobody in here claims to be in a gang," Herbert said.
Williams urged the crowd to take action now.
"Use this to make change in Tysha's name," he said.