Several hundred friends and family members, including scores of young people, gathered for the funeral of a 15-year-old Greenville boy on Saturday and were asked to take his life and death as an example and a reason to change.
Daceion Montreal Sanders, known to many as Nuskii, had a smile that not only lit up a room but an entire block, Pastor Daemarkis Faison-Love said during the afternoon service at Philippi Church of Christ.
“He did not do everything right,” Faison-Love said. “This young man did not cross every T or dot every I. This young man made some mistakes; he fell short. But one day he came to his mother and said to his mother, ‘No. 1 Mama, I love you.’”
He told her, “Mom, I made some bad decisions but I want to make you proud,” Faison-Love said. “I’m getting back in school. Not just that, I’m going to graduate, and I’m going to the NFL. And when I go make it big, I’m going to make sure you’re taken care of. When I get done with this, I’m going to be an entrepreneur to make sure you and my brother are taken care of.’”
But Sanders’ life was cut short Feb. 22 when he and 18-year-old Blaise Joshua Okale-Weeks of Raleigh were shot and killed about 4:30 p.m. at an apartment in Kearney Park, a housing project near J.H. Rose High School, where Sanders was a sophomore.
Why Sanders was killed remains unclear. Two other teens, both former Rose students, have been arrested and charged with murder. Greenville Police have offered little information on the incident.
Sanders’ family said the boy, who was big for his age, looked older and acted older than his 15 years. He had friends who were older. His mother, Crystal Sanders-Johnson, said she did not know what he was doing at Kearny Park that day.
Faison-Love, pastor of Holy Trinity United Holy Church and Sanders’ cousin, said what happened to him was a call for young people to change their lives for the better and to look to God for love instead of the streets.
“We look for the streets to define us,” he said. “We look for people that’s sitting in front of us to define us. We make decisions based off our values of what we see, based off what the streets tell us, based off what TV is telling us, and as a result, we lack our purpose and our God-given assignment.”
He admonished those in attendance to change their mindset and to stop living the way they’re living.
“You’re one decision away and all you have to do is transform the way you think. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. If I change the way I think, God will change me. Nuskii is our example that if we transform our mind, God can transform our life. God has given us another chance to get our life together. But it’s up to you to make up in your mind that I can’t keep living like this,” Faison-Love said.
Sanders-Johnson joined her cousin, Neisha Nobles, in singing a song to her son called “Missing You,” and Sanders’ stepfather, Hakim Johnson, read Psalm 23 and spoke of how he enjoyed watching Sanders grow up into a bright young man.
“I met a young man at 3-years-old, and his name was Daceion Sanders,” Johnson said. “An amazing young man. I watched him grow, stumble and fall. I’ve seen an evolution of a young man, and I thank God that I was a part of that evolution. … For those that have been around Daceion, walked in shoes around him and called him your friend, stand by something that’s great. I know the time you actually experienced Daceion and I know he pointed to your spirit to be better than who you are. I know that for a fact because I was a part of that. And for those that said they loved him, like truly loved him, it’s time for us now man to figure out how to love each other in spite of this.”
Johnson looked at his wife, Sanders-Johnson, and told her, “You did an amazing job, sweetheart. An amazing job.”
Sanders’ biological father, Stephon Bandy, fought through tears as he tried to find the words to say goodbye to his son.
“We had a lot of good times, we had a lot of good memories together. We did,” said Bandy. “I just want to say I thank God that I could be your father. I really do thank God for letting me be your father, for letting me be your partner.”
The two fathers hugged each other after that as the audience erupted in applause and cheers.
The crowd included several school officials and family, but Faison-Love spoke to the young men and women who filled the pews.
“I don’t care who you are, how big and bad you think you are, what Nuskii has done we all have to do. Nuskii had to face death, even though it was premature. All of us in here have to deal with death. After death comes the judgment. You have to make a decision, do I keep living my life like this? … If we’re going to be successful in life, we have to change our attitude because our attitude reflects our altitude.”
He urged them to seek peace, not retribution. “There are many of us who are angry, we’re upset, we’re bitter and we’re mad and we’re ready to get revenge. But understand, you can’t get revenge like God can get revenge.”
Faison-Love said that many youth have run away from the protection of their homes. “I’m not talking about a physical home but you’ve run away from the covering and the protection and rule of mother and father,” he said. “There’s some of you who don’t know who to listen to, you don’t know who you want to trust and who to trust. And some of you want to make a decision based on how you feel. But you do know every decision has a consequence. … The things Nuskii had in mind to do, he can no longer do because of a decision.”
The sermon prompted many to answer the pastor’s call to come forth to make a decision to follow Christ and change their lives for the better.
Sanders-Johnson said that warmed her heart and served as a blessing.
After the funeral, Sanders was buried at Homestead Memorial Gardens next to his grandmother.
Sanders was the apple of his grandmother’s eye, his mother said. She gave him the name Nu Nu, which he changed to Nuskii to sound more grown up.
“I know that would bring her great joy to have him rest eternally next to her,” Sanders-Johnson said.
SOURCE: The Daily Reflector, by Tyler Stocks