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Honestie Hodges, a girl who spurred change in Grand Rapids, taken too young by COVID-19

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Dustin Dwyer
/
Michigan Radio
Lighting candles for Honestie Hodges, a Grand Rapids teenager who died this weekend from complications of COVID-19.

A line of candles on a concrete porch. A white teddy bear. Her face, shining through in photographs. Balloons, purple and silver, let loose into the night sky.

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Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Friends and family release balloons in memory of Honestie Hodges.

Her name filling the air.

“Honestie!”

“Long live Honestie, my baby!”

“I love you monster!”

“We love you!”

Fourteen year old Honestie Hodges passed away Sunday, from complications of COVID-19. Friends and family held a vigil Monday night.

And Hodges, now departed, carried her city’s grief one more time.

Many Grand Rapids leaders learned her name three years ago, when she was just 11. Grand Rapids police officers handcuffed Hodges at gunpoint, though she’d done nothing wrong. Police had been looking for her aunt, who was suspected in a stabbing. Hodges, a Black girl, looked nothing like her aunt, who was white. Hodges cried out, as police put her in the back of a cruiser. When the video came out, the city was outraged.

The police chief at the time, David Rahinsky, said the video was difficult to watch, and he promised reform: “The screams of the 11-year-old, they go to your heart. You hear the mother yelling from the steps 'that's my child' and that's our community's child,” he said.

The officers who cuffed Hodges weren’t reprimanded because nothing they did went against GRPD policy. So the department wrote a new policy for how to interact with children at a crime scene. They called the new policy, the “Honestie Policy.”

In the years since then, there have been many other incidents of children having weapons pointed at them by GRPD officers. And though the department continues with efforts to make changes and regain the trust of people in the community – especially Black children and parents – many still say the department hasn’t done enough.

Those concerns, in part, helped fuel unrest and chaos in the city’s downtown on May 30, and led to calls to cut GRPD’s funding.

This summer, WOOD-TV reported Hodges and her family were in negotiations with the city to settle a legal claim over her treatment.

Hodges told WOOD-TV the incident changed her, took away some of her happiness.

“Now, all I want to do is sit in the house, be in my room, not communicate with people,” she said.

November 9 was her birthday and her stomach didn't feel well. Her mother took her to the hospital. She tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent home, according to an update posted by her grandmother on GoFundMe. Later that same night, she was rushed back to the hospital by ambulance.

She got a little better, then she got a lot worse.

She had endured difficult times before, but this time she didn’t make it through.

Her grandmother, Alisa, posted the update Sunday:

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all of you that my beautiful, sassy, smart loving Granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus.”

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