By Olivia Bowman
A man was being led from Hughes Funeral Home in Trenton and out across the street into the parking lot. There was a drag in his step as the tears flowed freely from his eyes as he looked down at the ground. His companion held him up, accompanying him on the difficult journey back to his car — back to his life that had woman, mother and beloved Sodexo employee at the College, Shamira “Mira” Williams, violently ripped from it.
Others who came to the funeral had to wait over a half hour.
The line of mourners on Bellevue Avenue stretched along the sidewalk past the funeral home and in front of a few of the residential homes down the block. People were standing in the street, embracing and holding each other for minutes on end. A woman was carried from the funeral home by three men. She was kicking and screaming while wailing, overcome by her grief.
On Aug. 25, Williams was found murdered in her home in Trenton’s West Ward. Originally reported as a suicide, her killing has now been ruled an act of domestic violence.
Shamira “Mira” Williams was the 27th murder victim this year in Trenton, according to the Trentonian as of Aug. 25. This brings Trenton’s yearly murder rate to a record high since 1970.
Williams was a mother, a daughter, a sister. She was described as a woman who took pride in her work and who was looking for a better way of life for her family. Her two surviving sons, I’mir and Michael Jr., are only eight and four years old, respectively.
The younger children of the family were congregated on the stairs of the church just nearby. Some of the older ones had their eyes fixed on the door of the funeral home. Holding hands, they watched as the adults of the family were led toward them with their heads in their hands and tissues to their faces. When some of the children saw their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, they too began to cry. Even if they seemed like they would be too young to understand, the pain was palpable.
Each person who joined the long line into the home was greeted with a hug, a kiss on the cheek and an “I’m so sorry” or an “I know, I know.” The grief was accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of community. Some visitors were just happy to see one another and to have another day with their loved ones.
For the funeral, Williams’ immediate family members were dressed in white t-shirts with sparkling purple, black and shiny silver cursive lettering complete with a photo of Williams on the front. Her oldest sister, Latasha Williams, put together her funeral proceedings as well as the family’s GoFundMe page, which honors Williams and is set up to donate funds to her sons. Individuals in the community have already raised $3,000.
“To know Shamira Williams is to know that there is nothing more she loved in this world than being the mother to her two boys, I’mir and Michael Jr.,” Latasha wrote on the page. “She dreamt of giving them the world. Unfortunately, on Aug. 25, 2020, in Trenton, NJ, her life was cut short in a senseless murder.”
As of Sept. 2, Irvin Hayes was arrested and charged with her murder, weapons offenses as well as resisting and obstruction, according to the Trentonian. The two were dating.
Williams was a Sodexo employee who worked at the College since 2008. It was said that she could often be seen on campus in the Library Cafe during the busiest times in between classes or in T-Dubs helping students long after Eickhoff had closed for the night.
“Mira was a great person. I first met her during the late night in T-Dubs when I first transferred to the school,” said Marcus Allen, a senior African American studies major. “She was always friendly and from the interactions I had (with her), she always made sure the students were OK.”
Many of Williams’ co-workers were present at her funeral. They hugged and kissed one another as they caught up after being absent from their everyday on-campus routines due to Covid-19. They were exchanging phone numbers and peering at one another’s screens to make sure that they had their previous numbers saved correctly. The togetherness in the community of employees was felt even in their grief.
“We were beyond co-workers,” said alumnus Aydan Burgess (‘20) and former student employee at the College. “This has hit TCNJ student workers a lot more than people think.”
The College sent out an email about Williams’ passing on Sept. 11 in which they stated that her death was “tragic” and that she was “beloved by her students and colleagues.”
“She was one of the best people to work with. It can be difficult being a TCNJ student worker, but she always gave me respect,” said alumnus Richmond Oppong (‘19). “Everyone (working with her) was always careful, and if she was going through something and we knew, we of course would have helped out.”
In the most recent available New Jersey domestic violence statistical summary from 2016 reports that there were 63,420 reports of domestic violence in the state and 74 percent of victims were women. There were 894 cases in Trenton alone.
“It broke my heart to find out about Mira and her murder,” Allen said. “As a society, we need to do better in protecting Black women. We have a habit of protecting Black women when it’s too late. Her life mattered.”
Two houses down the street from Hughes Funeral Home in Trenton, there was a front porch which boasted birthday balloons hanging from the porch railing. Two silver, shiny, giant number eights were swaying proudly in the breeze. Someone in that house had turned 88 — a celebration of life.
How odd it seemed to many that there could be such a celebration next to a place that was holding so much grief. But then again, the survived children of Williams’ family were wearing silver on their shirts, too, just like the balloons waving in the wind from two houses down.
If you or someone you know someone has experienced domestic violence and wish to speak about it please call the NJ Statewide Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233).