Mom of Jalen Randle, killed by HPD, sings at Juneteenth event

On Sunday, Tiffany Rachal took to the stage at the Pleasantville Juneteenth festival in a wide-brimmed cowboy hat and placed a picture of her eldest son, Jalen Randle, on the lectern. A drummer wearing a white t-shirt with the words “#JusticeForJalen” emblazoned on a red crest kicked up a beat and Rachal sang along.

It’s the same routine that Rachal, 50, repeats every time she performs with her band, the Elements of Soul, since she returned to the stage last week, nearly two months after Randle, 29, was shot and killed by a Houston police officer. He was her biggest fan, she said, and one of the main reasons she returned to music after taking a few years off.

“I wanted to see my boys do something on their own, but after they grew up I decided to get back into the entertainment business. Jalen kept telling me ‘Mom, you have a gift. and you have to start using it,” and I said, “You’re right,” Rachal said.

Houston Police Officer Shane Privette shot Randle in the neck after a brief car chase through Pleasantville on April 27. after pulling the trigger, before Randle appeared to have a chance to follow a command to raise his hands.

In the months following her son’s death, Rachal, her family and Randle’s friends in Pleasantville spent much of their time seeking justice. They demonstrated outside the National Rifle Association convention last month, the district attorney’s office and the Houston Police Department, demanding criminal charges against Privette.

Earlier this month, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Randle’s family, announced that the family would file a civil lawsuit against the police department. Per department policy, police declined to comment on the incident, citing an ongoing internal investigation, except to dispute Crump’s claim that Randle was shot in the back of the neck.

Through it all, the community of Pleasantville — one of the nation’s first black-acting restricted neighborhoods — has been there to support Randle’s parents as they try to raise their 5-year-old granddaughter, Jaylaa, after the death of her father. Having Rachal perform at the Juneteenth festival at the Judson Robinson Sr. Community Center in east Houston felt right to me, organizers said.

“One thing she always told me was that she felt better when she sang, so it was something for her, and Jalen would have loved to hear her sing. He had spoken to us all these years about her mother and how she could sing, so now we finally got to hear it for the whole community,” said Randle’s best friend Aaron Joseph, one of the Sunday festival organizers.

Rachal grew up singing in her father’s church in Beaumont, an upbringing that introduced her to gospel music during stints in New York and Houston. After making her return to show business, she decided to pursue something new and formed a neo-soul band with her band, the Elements of Soul.

The band began playing shows at bars, restaurants and private events in the Houston area after pandemic restrictions lifted and released their debut single, “Shoop Shoop,” on April 2. By the end of the month, however, a tragedy that seemed unimaginable had struck.

Rachal originally planned to push back her planned performances for May, but her grief was too much to bear and the band pulled out. Eventually, however, Rachal turned to her music for solace, and the band played their first show since Randle’s death on June 14.

“I had a conversation with me, and I thought that’s not what Jalen would have wanted me to do. He would want me to come out and sing and tell his story, and use the gift God gave me,” Rachal said.

On Sunday, dozens of Pleasantville residents gathered in the community center to enjoy soul food and catch up with old friends, many of whom wore the same #JusticeForJalen shirt that Rachal drummer Roy “Chap” Chappel wore on stage. The words “oh s – – -” were written on the back in red, a reference to the words Privette appeared to say after shooting Randle.

Before starting their performance, Chappel gathered the spectators in the middle of the basketball court where Rachal’s stage was set up and led the crowd in a prayer.

“We pray for justice,” Chappel said. “We pray for justice for Jalen’s sake.”

After making a few remarks of her own, including a mention that she texted her son to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, Rachal kicked off the set with a cover of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” from the Refugees. The rest of the set was a mix of covers and original songs, during which a few brave spectators took up position in the middle of the court to dance. Others entered the field to deposit a few dollars in a tip jar placed at the front of the stage.

There are more protests planned, more meetings and more press conferences in Rachal’s future, as Randle’s family and friends continue to demand answers. But on Juneteenth, Rachal’s spirit was on her music.

“It makes me prouder to know that he’s looking at me smiling and saying, ‘My mom is performing in my neighborhood.’ I can see him smiling at me right now, because I’m here,” Rachal said.

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