Phaedra Parks on Directing Rayshard Brooks' Funeral (Exclusive)

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rayshard Brooks was laid to rest on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia, and Phaedra Parks is reflecting on what it meant to her to help direct the funeral service. The attorney and former Real Housewives of Atlanta star spoke with ET, and she opened up about the significance of the event.

"That was a very heavy moment, but I was happy to serve the family, happy to have moments with his beautiful wife, his beautiful children and, just to be present," Parks told ET's Brice Sander via video chat on Thursday. "It’s just very heartbreaking to know there are now four young children that are… without their dad."

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Brooks was laid to rest at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor. A number of Brooks' family and friends were in attendance, including his wife, Tomika Miller, and a few notable celebrities, T.I. and Tiny Harris and Tyler Perry.

"It was unbelievable how much support there was from the community. So just to see everyone come together, unify in our city, which is the Mecca of the civil rights movement, It was beautiful," Parks said. "So I was just happy I was able to serve the family and to be of service at the moment."

Rayshard Brooks Funeral
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Brooks died after he was shot and killed by police in a Wendy's parking lot in Atlanta on June 12, just weeks after the fatal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Brooks' death sparked even more outrage across the country amid the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing protests.

According to Parks, after the funeral, she accompanied his widow to the location where he was killed, and they spoke about his legacy.

"She requested that we take her to the Wendy’s where the incident occurred and I rode with her in the car. And we had such a very poignant conversation about this moment in time," Parks recalled. "She said to me, 'I never knew that I would be in this place.' And I turned to her and said that, 'This place is a place of purpose. A place of power. Because you’re now the face of an entirely new movement within the movement.'"

"She said, 'He had always talked about being well known and doing things that would change the world,' And I said, 'Sometimes we don’t reach true fruition unfortunately until we have left the world,'" she continued. "George Floyd started the movement. Rayshard added ember to the flame to make it even bigger."

"We took the casket and the flower cart and the entire family around the drive through -- the same place where fatal shots were fired," Parks recalled. "To be there with his beautiful [children]... to feel the power, the energy of them being able to release the hurt that they had from that tragic incident, it was very moving to me as a person of color. But as a mother, you know, it just gave me a whole new sense of purpose. Because we have to propel this movement. We have to have this conversation. We have to change policy, procedures, laws. We have to make sure that there is equality for everyone."

Phaedra Parks
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Parks is the mother of two sons -- 10-year-old Ayden and 7-year-old Dylan -- whom she shares with her ex-husband, Apollo Nida, and she explained how she sat down for a difficult conversation with her children about the recent marches and demonstrations and high-profile instances of police brutality.

"My children obviously saw the George Floyd incident on television and could not understand why that was happening," Parks said. "We had a really harsh discussion about it and I had to tell them the truth… you have to tell the very hard stories. You have to make your children very aware of what goes on in the culture as far as, you know, race relations, how you might be perceived as a young Black boy."

Parks explained that he sons know about their mother's activism and that they themselves have participated in civil rights demonstrations.

"They watch me do marches. They have participated. I took them to the anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and they sat amongst very powerful African-American leaders," Parks said. "So they are very much aware of politics."

Looking back at her own upbringing, Parks said she feels there is an inclination for past generations to try and protect their kids from some of the more painful realities that they faced themselves.

"I think because it was such a harsh experience for our grandparents and our parents, for my generation, I think they tried to shield us with it," she said, "because they didn’t want us to know the pain that came with telling the true story of what it felt like to be discriminated against."

Parks reflected on her own first experience with racism that she can remember, and she admitted that there was a time when she was young that she wasn't aware of what real discrimination could be like.

"As a little girl I really didn’t know if I thought racism really existed, until I was hired to do some tutoring for a white family," Parks recalled. "The young boy said to his friends, he said, 'I don’t want anyone to see my tutor because she’s Black.' And oh, I cried and I cried because I had never heard anyone -- and you know, he was whispering it -- but I had never heard anything that sounds so ridiculous, you know? I don’t want someone to see my tutor because she’s Black?"

"So, that was my first moment where I was like, 'Oh my gosh. People really have feelings about people because they are Black," Parks shared.

Now, with the widespread protests and demonstrations against systemic racism and the growing fight for equality, Parks said she's "hopeful that positive things will come" from the efforts, especially considering the scope of the people taking part.

"It’s very exciting to see the whole world participating in this whole movement, because it’s not just the United States. I see the protesting in Paris, London, the Middle East," she shared. "It's refreshing that people have time, because they’re quarantined, to take time for a moment to realize that there’s some things that need to be discussed."

Parks -- who stars on the upcoming season of Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition, which premieres July 2 on WeTV -- said that she hopes that, with the coronavirus outbreak leading to shutdowns and self-isolating, many more people than ever before will "have time to look and have time to really be present in the conversation."


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