Wayne’s family was already familiar with racism’s physical threat.
In Philadelphia, Miss., where a relative on his father’s side lived decades ago, Ku Klux Klan members were known to ride by his home in hoods, the family lore goes. The relative often kept a shotgun in his lap when he sat on his porch.
Generations later, Celestine fell victim to a similar hatred.
The massacre at Tops was excruciating enough. The persistence of racism made the days that followed all the more exhausting.
Wayne was dissatisfied by the answers the country offered. The stagnation of gun control efforts frustrated him, along with the idea that such killings are an inevitable facet of American life. The suggestion that the pandemic helped foment the violence seemed cruel, when his family had suffered so deeply these past two years.
Wayne’s grandmother was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus, and in September 2020, she died. When Celestine was busy, his grandmother had filled in to help raise him.
Neither was around anymore.
Amid the funeral preparations, Wayne’s eyes sometimes landed on no place in particular, and his mind wandered. His children worried. How would he fare when his house emptied? When he had more time to linger on the what-ifs, whether things would have been different had he just woken up earlier that Saturday and visited her.
All that hindsight was for later.
Wayne Jr., 27, stopped by a salon to get a strand of color in his twists. It looked red to his sisters; it was meant to be pink. The women took trips to get their nails done, all in rosy shades. And Wayne wrangled his three sons to get fitted for their funeral attire of black suit jackets, white shirts and pink ties.