In a cathedral packed with mourners, Philando Castile was laid to rest just two days shy of his 33rd birthday.
Along with the family of Castile were close friends and many who never knew the man who was gunned down in his car by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez following a traffic stop on July 6. Many dignitaries were in attendance at the Cathedral of St. Paul, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who the day before was at the White House meeting with President Obama and others to discuss ways to better police in the wake of the killings of Castile and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La. just a day before Castile.
Pall bearers were dressed in all white and led the family into the cathedral following a processional where Castile’s body made its way to the church in a horse-drawn carriage.
The overflow crowd rose to their feet and erupted into a deafening applause when the Rev. Dr. Steve Daniels, Jr. announced “This is a celebration for Philando.” Many remained standing as Sounds of Blackness sang “Optimistic.”
The casket of Castile was led to the alter to the sounds of “Amazing Grace” sung by mourners. Many in the cathedral wore shirts printed with photos of Castile and some wore shirts that read: Black Lives Matter.
Castile’s aunt, Beverly Taylor, offered a heartfelt personal poem to her nephew.
Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, told the crowd his nephew was a shining light for many. “Philando was a loving, giving, caring individual,” said Clarence Castile. “He was loved by so many.”
The uncle announced a repast at J.J. Hill Montessori School, the school where Philando Castile worked as a food service supervisor. He dubbed the gathering “A Meal for Phil.”
Gary Hines of Sounds of Blackness addressed the reason for Philando Castile’s traffic stop.
“There’s a lot of talk about why Philando got pulled over and who he resembled. Well to us he resembled royalty,” said Hines. “We got a message from above, you ain’t no thug, you’re royalty.”
The standing room only crowd of nearly 1,000 again broke into thunderous applause.
In a gesture of unity the entire group of mourners who were multiethnic and multigenerational stood and held hands during the singing of a hymn.
“Why are we still here,” questioned Daniels, who pastors Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, the Castile family church. “Once again we have a Black man whose life was taken at the hands of police due to his ‘wide set nose.'”
Daniels said an additional tragedy was what the other occupants of the car had to endure–the experience of seeing a loved one shot.
“Philando was racially profiled and shot multiple times. Thank God Diamond (Reynolds) and her four-year-old daughter were not struck by some of those bullets,” said Daniels. “A four-year-old child had to witness this horrific senseless act. We pray this child is not scared for life.”
Daniels said with Philando Castile’s killing he has become the new face of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“And what Black Lives Matter is saying is we want the level of respect that is the same as other ethnicities,” said Daniels. “Black Lives Matter does not suggest that other lives don’t matter.”
Daniels, whose eulogy brought the audience to its feet multiple times, said Philando Castile was a hardworking, law abiding citizen.
“He was respected by so many, but most of all he respected the law,” said the pastor.
Daniels closed by calling for unity.
“You know Black people can give blood to white people and white people can give blood to Black people, so if we can exchange blood, why can’t we exchange love,” challenged Daniels.”