RACINE — Family, friends and community members gathered in Lincoln Park Wednesday to light candles and remember the life of 16-year-old Amari Griffin-Brewer, who drowned while swimming with friends Sunday in Lake Michigan near Zoo Beach.
As many of his classmates at Park High School surrounded a tree decorated with candles and decorative crepe paper, Amari’s mother had a cautionary message for the young people in the crowd.
“You all need to be careful out here,” Erica Griffin said. “Amari, he was six feet, 200 pounds in the water playing, thinking he was indestructible, and look where he’s at. You all need to really be careful. Mind your parents and what they tell you to do. They’re telling you for a reason. Nobody wants to do this.”
When a woman in the crowd thanked her for raising such a good person, Griffin wept.
The somber mood quickly turned to smiles and laughter as they recalled the boy who touched many lives with his friendly, easy going attitude.
Amear Campbell, 16, Amari’s girlfriend at the time of his death and who was with him on the fateful day, joked about lighter moments when Amari made her brownies and then ate all of them.
“He was just a wonderful boy. He was just so sweet,” Campbell said. “He kept asking me out. The first time was in seventh grade when he broke up with my friend.”
In another light moment, Amari’s mother asked the girls in the crowd for a show of hands to find out who “hadn’t dated him.”
Amari was remembered for a school dance in eighth grade which made many classmates laugh in remembrance.
“Amari had some moves, rat moves,” Amari’s aunt, Shaquita Griffin, said in jest.
A former Park High School student, Amari moved to Ohio with his father after his freshman year. In May, he moved back to Racine to finish at Park.
Amari worked at McDonald’s on State Street, where his friend Destiny Smith said he taught her how to have a great attitude about learning something new.
“He taught me not to take life so seriously,” Smith said. “We’re all here to show him that we love him. He was my best friend.”
Shaquita Griffin, who traveled from New Orleans, remembered the little baby she helped watch when she didn’t have any kids of her own at the time.
“He was the first person who made me love babies. He was the first baby. He taught me so much patience and how to go with the flow,” Shaquita Griffin said. “I just thought I would have more time.”
With a big smile on his face, Amari’s father, London Brewer, told the crowd that Amari was full of life on the last video he put together.
“The last thing he said on video, ‘We lived!’ He was so happy,” he said.
His family led the crowd of nearly 150 people out to a ball field to release red balloons, Amari’s favorite color, and to say goodbye. As some of the balloons lingered in the trees on the way to the sky, his mother laughed.
“That’s Amari! He’s taking his time,” Erica Griffin said.
She added she was not expecting such a big crowd.
“I was not expecting this many people. I am happy,” Griffin said.
She invited the community to his memorial service Aug. 9 at Reid’s New Golden Gate Funeral Home, 1910 Taylor Ave. Visitation is at 11 a.m. with the service immediately following at noon.
"The last thing he said on video, 'We lived!' He was so happy." — London Brewer, Amari Griffin-Brewer's father