Florida A&M University honored MaKayla “MK” Bryant on Saturday in the Lee Hall Auditorium, which was filled with students, faculty and staff who gathered to remember the life of Bryant.
The silence echoed in the auditorium as attendees settled in. Her family sat in the front row and her mother listened intently to the kind words being spoken about her daughter.
Jermaine Robertson, department of psychology chair, described the grief the entire university is feeling over the loss of a “bright light.”
“Your daughter committed herself to join us. While we can’t feel the grief, we feel something was taken from us. We feel our family ripped apart,” Robertson said. “She was young, gifted and Black … we will never ever forget her.”
A total of 14 people spoke at the vigil, each offering stories about Bryant’s personality, spirit and wisdom. Everyone spoke about her humor, caring nature and did not forget to mention her fashion sense, as community psychology cohort member Kirabo Nalule said. Each time a speaker told the audience a story, Bryant’s mother would nod or laugh as everyone reminisced.
Andrea Wilson, the adviser to the FAMU chapter of Sistuhs, Inc., fought tears as she said Bryant was like her own child.
“As a parent this is tough for me. When you become an adviser, you gain kids,” Wilson said. “I thank you for allowing us to have her with us.”
Candles were lit as Darien Bolden, Jr., FAMU gospel choir director, sang “The Center of my Joy” by Richard Smallwood in tribute to Bryant, 22. Her family swayed to the music as the lyrics flowed through the room.
As more and more people shared their stories about Bryant, sniffles were heard through the crowd as emotions took over. Kayla Braggs, a FAMU student and member of the 51st Student Senate, was brought to tears as she read about the life and accomplishments of Bryant, who was a member of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, along with Braggs.
“She most importantly was a good person, friend, daughter and Rattler,” Braggs said. “We appreciate her love and service.”
Bryant, a Chicago native, attended FAMU as both an undergraduate and graduate student. She graduated magna cum laude in spring 2020 and was in her first year of graduate school studying community psychology. While at FAMU, Bryant was on the cheerleading team, a member of Sistuhs, Inc., and captained the cheer team during the 2019-2020 school year.
Bryant died Wednesday after she was shot outside an apartment complex near Lake Bradford Road. No arrest has been made as of Sunday morning.
Final words at the candlelight vigil came from FAMU President Larry Robinson, who offered an uplifting message to Bryant’s family and friends.
“I consider her to be an angel. She was sent here to be an example of how great we can be,” Robinson said. “She was a model for all of us to emulate.”
Robinson led the audience in doing three silent Rattler strikes and everyone’s hands moved in unison as they committed Bryant’s legacy to their memory.