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Tyre Nichols' life and legacy of skateboarding honored by Memphians

Organizers want to bring people together to honor Nichols' memory and help the community heal.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After the weight felt across the city in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death, several groups are coming together to share in the activities that Nichols loved. The hope is to unite Memphis and help the community heal. 

The 29-year-old especially loved skateboarding.

“You'll look at something that's broken and destroyed and we look at something beautiful that we can use and make use of," long-time Memphis skater Luke Sexton said. "You all see a barrier or a wall and we see an obstacle to do a trick over. That's the spirit of skateboarding.”

That’s the bond that Sexton shared with Nichols after the two met at Tobey Skate Park.

“[We were] just randomly at the skate park, and I just got to meet him one day,” Sexton said. “Just saw a new face that I hadn't seen before.” 

Sexton recalls Nichols talent as a skater and that he seemed like "a really good-hearted guy." Sexton said that sadly, he did not get the chance to know Nichols better before his death following the Jan. 7 encounter with the former Memphis Police officers now charged with murder.

Still, Sexton said Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells wants people to remember something else when they hear her son’s name. 

"His mom really [wants] his legacy to be known as a skater," Sexton said. "Because to be a skater, especially an adult skater, is very different. You know you're not about to go pro. It's a dedication to a spirit that you love.”

Even so, word of that dedication has reached the likes of professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, who announced he is raising money for Tyre Nichols' memorial fund. 

To stand in solidarity with Wells, a group of Memphis mothers has also organized a candlelight vigil, which they want to be a safe space where families and children can come together and honor Nichols’ life. 

"No mother should have to bury their child," said Bluu Davis, a community activist and mother of two. "That is kind of what we're bringing awareness to Sunday — so we never have to see a mother go through this again due to police brutality.”

Davis, founder of “Love Your Neighbor 901” says she saw a post from the original group of mothers about the event and decided to join them. Her organization is donating toy skateboards that will be given away at the vigil as mementos to Nichols and his family. 

“Make a small message, write your name [on the skateboard], honor it by writing Tyre Nichols’ name,” said Davis, who plans to have some of the boards placed at the memorial in the area where he was stopped by the police.   

Saturday, Sexton is bringing together skaters from multiple cities at the National Civil Rights Museum, who will then make their way to Court Street Park, united in one cause.  

“Amongst all the chaos of this, of all the brutality and all the darkness, if the skate community could just shed a little bit of light … [by] reaching out to one another in the community,” he said. 

Sexton hopes those who come can “make a new friend or two in memory of Tyre Nichols.”

“If you don't know somebody at your skatepark, but you see them there all the time, get to know them,” he said.

The “Keep Pushing For Tyre” skateboarding event is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m.

“Memphis Mamas Sunset Candlelight Vigil” is Sunday at 5 p.m. at Shelby Farms’ Hyde Lake.

There will be a service Monday at 7 p.m. at St. Michael Church, where leaders of different faiths will pray for peace throughout Memphis.

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