After her death at the hands of police on Tuesday, the world knows Ma’Khia Bryant as a knife-wielding Black girl. But it’s important to remember that one instance outside her foster home does not paint an accurate picture of Ma’Khia. The image seen in the bodycam footage from the vantage point of the officer responsible for her death, is not who Ma’Khia was.
Ma’Khia Bryant was a 16-year-old girl with dreams.
Ma’Khia’s death came on the same day as Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd and one week after 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed by police in Minneapolis, the same city where Floyd was murdered by Chauvin last summer. The obscene number of Black and brown people killed by police officers has only grown since last summer’s unrest in the wake of the Floyd murder.
Ma’Khia’s business education teacher Austin Owens said that though he’d known her only a few months, he knew she was something special. “She was going to run the world and she wasn’t going to be ostentatious about it,” Owens told Columbus news station WCMH. “She was going to do it.”
The day she was killed by officer Nicholas Reardon, Owens said he received an email from Ma’Khia outlining her five-year plan. “The language she used in her five-year plan was somebody who desperately wanted better for her life,” he said. “And she wanted to make her parent proud. She wanted to be a productive citizen. I’m not paraphrasing — these are her exact words.
“To get that information from a student who’s taking the time to reach out to you, to e-mail about something they want to do in the future and to have that removed, it’s hard,” Owens added.
Ma’Khia’s friends also remember her as a caring girl. Her now-deleted TikTok videos show, not a dangerous criminal, but a teenage girl who loved dancing, makeup, and music. Though her TikToks have been deleted from the platform, many were shared on Twitter and have since gone viral.
This is Makhia Bryant pic.twitter.com/5Nb6bHhWcH
— Ryan (@tvisgreat) April 21, 2021
At a vigil for Ma’Khia, a few of her friends spoke, reminding us all that Ma’Khia’s worst day should not define her. “Her actions that day do not define who she was as a person before that,” said Zion Davis. “I want them to know she was smart, she was beautiful, she was amazing. An amazing person and her having that knife that day did not define her in any way.”
“She was a very loving, peaceful little girl,” Ma’Khia’s mother, Paula Bryant, told news channel 10TV. “Ma’Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace, and that’s something that I want to always to be remembered.”
Nicholas Reardon has not been charged in Ma’Khia’s death. An investigation by Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is pending.