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Women carry casket of fallen sister to cemetery

Women carry  casket of fallen  sister to cemetery

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by Adrian Codogan

The women in attendance at the funeral service of domestic violence victim Shardine Monicia Johnson carried the dead woman’s casket to the cemetery on their shoulders, sending a loud message to onlookers.

“I would have carried it all the way to {{more}}Soufriere and back, I would ask God for the strength, we have to show them that women have strength and not just strength to make babies and do house work so that is why we carry the casket,” Bovorn Robertson a farmer and relative of the Johnson family told SEARCHLIGHT.

“There is too much abuse going on and it must stop,” Robertson said.

Shardine, a 35-year-old mother of one was brutally slain on June 7 by her ex-boyfriend Keno Franklyn, one month after she broke off their relationship. After he chopped her about her neck, Franklyn lit the house they were in afire and ingested the poisonous weedicide gramoxone. He died later that day.

Hundreds turned up in Chateaubelair last Sunday for the funeral service at the St Bethel Spiritual Baptist Church at Sharpes Village and the procession to the Fitzhughes cemetery.

Pastor David Isaacs, who grew up in Chateaubelair and was a schoolmate of Shardine’s, delivered the homily.

He charged the standing room only congregation to respect one another’s wishes.

“If you are in a relationship and you cannot get along, leave. You are always free to leave,” Isaacs intoned.

During bouts of lively Baptist spirituals, Isaacs encouraged the community to live together and look out for one another.

“Another election is coming up and the churches are already empty. Don’t let politics get between you and God, Monicia didn’t have anything; she didn’t have silver or gold, all she had was that smile and love and she wants us to share this love today.”

Also speaking at the service was head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Superintendent Ruth Jacobs.

She admonished the audience to report cases of abuse and violence.

“There are laws, but if you don’t make the reports we are powerless to protect you.”

Jacobs also stated that if cases of domestic violence and other cases of abuse are reported, persons can obtain an occupation order to get the abusers out of the dwelling place and if the order is breached, this can result in imprisonment.

“If you are in an abusive relation whether man or woman, get out of it, leave and let them leave as nobody owns anyone,” the CID head warned.

Jacobs later told SEARCHLIGHT that the large turnout is a statement of strong condemnation of the act that led to Johnson’s demise.

Outside the church, hundreds lined the grounds, overflowing into the streets all the way to Mission Corner, where many waited to accompany the procession to the cemetery.

The casket was taken from the church and placed on the shoulders of the many men and women who jostled to help carry the casket to the cemetery.

While the Rose Bank Classic Drummers played upbeat funeral favourites for which they have become well known, followers danced and paraded in the streets, with the ranks swelling as they journeyed along.

Halfway to the cemetery, the women, including farmer Bovorn Robertson, took over the casket and began taking turns until they reached the graveside.

Robertson told SEARCHLIGHT that she was one of the first women to carry the casket and that she took over halfway, then carried all the way to the graveside.

“…If we follow what [Superintendent Ruth] Jacobs said and the authorities back it up, it will stop, but some women need to learn to defend themselves, cause if you raise your hand one time or even two times, well with me, you mightn’t have a hand to raise three times,” Robertson stated.

The procession to the Fitz-Hughes cemetery stretched as far as the eye could see, with the Rose Bank Classic Drummers in the middle, churning out upbeat spirituals while the young people danced, sang and paraded, as is the new custom in the North Leeward area.

The older attendees walked in front and behind the long line to the cemetery.

When the women lowered Shardine to her final resting place, many broke into tears and wailing while the band played.

The robust graveside ceremony came to an end after wreaths and flowers were placed on the grave to the singing of ‘Crown her with roses’ and ‘Sleep my beloved’.

Although the funeral for Shardine Johnson was not the largest held in North Leeward to date, observers say it ranks in the top 10.

“Although Shardine Johnson lived a quiet life, she was loved and respected by the entire community whose support was overwhelming and encouraging to our family,” said Robert Ollivierre, relative and spokesperson for the Johnson family.

Compounding the grief of the Johnson family, after the funeral, three members of the family were killed at Coulls Hill when a vehicle in which they were travelling plunged 70 feet down a cliff.

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