Family and friends remembered 7-year-old Kamari Hughes as a “kid with a huge heart, stern beliefs and a lot of energy” at his funeral service in Clinton Hill on Thursday, two weeks after he was killed by the driver of an NYPD tow truck while crossing the street.
A pillar of Spider-man balloons guarded Hughes’ casket at the foot of the altar in Brown Memorial Baptist Church as some of his second grade classmates sat amongst the mourners.
“I love my baby with everything I have. I would give anything to get him back,” Kamari’s mother, Taqunda Hughes, told those gathered Thursday evening. “No matter what happened in this world, my baby knew his mommy loved him.”
The 7-year-old was riding his scooter across the intersection of North Portland Avenue and Myrtle Avenue shortly early that morning when a police tow truck made a right hand turn onto North Portland Avenue, striking and killing him in front of Taqunda.
“I watched my baby be born into this world ever so quietly. He made not one sound. I watched him be taken. I did. And I’ve been standing ten toes down ever since,” Taqunda said, recalling Kamri’s death on the morning of Oct. 26.
The driver, Stephanie Sharp, was arrested in connection with the incident; witnesses said she did not initially stop after striking Hughes, only coming to a halt when bystanders flagged her down.
Hughes’ death has reinforced calls for more crossing guards in Brooklyn’s school zones after Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD cut almost 500 of the city’s school crossing guard positions earlier this year.
Speaking at Kamari’s funeral, New York Attorney General Letitia James threw her support behind the need for more crossing guards.
“May the crossing guards along Myrtle Avenue stay there permanently, now and forever, so that we can keep the babies safe, keep the children safe, so that this type of tragedy will never happen again,” James said. “I know that words alone cannot console any of you and cannot console this family. But please know that God hears your cries and that I have been taught that love never dies. And that Kamari is right there. Right beside you right now. In your heart and that he will never go away.”
Likewise, local Council Member Crystal Hudson told Brooklyn Paper before the service that the NYPD needs to be investing in school crossing guard positions.
“I think an excuse of lack of funding is not really legitimate with a $6 billion budget. I think it’s a matter of priority, and safety for our children should be a priority for every city agency, most definitely the NYPD,” said Hudson. “We need to make sure that everybody, the NYPD, the Department of Transportation, is working hand in hand with ensuring that we have safer street crossings for children and everyone.”
Hansel, Kamari’s next door neighbor, told Brooklyn Paper she used to hear Kamari’s voice through the walls but now it’s not the same not hearing him.
The service held in celebration of the 7-year-old’s life heard how he was a self taught gymnast, parkour, skateboarder and BMX rider who was inspired by his love of the Marvel superhero, Spider-man.
“Kamari took his first steps at nine months. He was a real life Spider-man,” Kamari’s mother wrote in her son’s obituary, recalling their bond and motto of “Mommy and Kamari forever.”
Speaking at the service, Hudson said Hughes’ love for Spider-man showed that the superhero was “defined less by his superhuman physical ability and more so by his uncompromising ability to be empathetic, to be kind and to be caring to those around him in ways big and small.”
Hughes’ second grade teachers from Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, Kendra Thomas and Molina Garcia, paid tribute to the little boy with a twinkle in his eye who had “so much love and energy to share with this world.”
“Ever since we met Kamari, he always made those around him laugh, made sure that those around him felt loved and cared for. This year we had the honor of being Kamari’s teachers and from this day forward we will consider ourselves the luckiest teachers on this planet.”
They said Hughes had hopes of being teacher one day, and was the kind of person who wanted to help everyone and make others feel included at all times.
“We can still see and hear you in the classroom, Kamari. Asking for a hug, or to hold your little hand when you’re going to recess,” they said. “How lucky are we to have experienced someone who makes saying goodbye so hard. As we look around and see everyone comes together to celebrate Kamari, it reminds us that our lives are not measured in years, they are measured by how many lives we touched around us, and Kamari did just that. Farewell to a beautiful person who left this world too soon.”
Julissa Vasquez, a social worker at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, told Brooklyn Paper following the service that the staff and students are “incredibly devastated” by Hughes’ death.
“I think it’s hard when you lose anyone who has not gotten to fully live out their lives. He was the kind of person that you look at and their smile was infectious, how loving and sweet he was.”