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‘My child was loved and will always be loved’: Family members hold vigil for 11-year-old who took her own life

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:08 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 3:14 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Dozens of people gathered near St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday evening to honor the life of 11-year-old Zy’onna Phifer. Phifer, a sixth-grade student at Renaissance West STEAM Academy in Charlotte, took her own life earlier this month.

Phifer’s father, Juan Mason, spoke to WBTV before the vigil.

“Zy’onna was a bright, cheerful, always full of love. She was a helpful kind of girl who loved to spread her energy because that’s how we taught her,” explained Mason.

The grieving father said his daughter’s death has been unbearable for him. He said he and his family are still working to learn why Zy’onna chose to take her own life.

“A lot of pressure that was on her at school, a lot of stuff that was on her at school like with bullying and stuff, so we’re still trying to get down to the bottom of it. A lot of things are still under investigation,” explained Mason.

Wednesday’s vigil was not about Zy’onna’s death as much as it was her life. The little girl’s name was spelled out in big, illuminated block letters and a floral ‘Z’ served as the centerpiece for the gathering. Loved ones at the vigil took turns sharing stories about the 11-year-old who loved to dance and throw parties for her family.

“She was an outgoing person. She was very loving, very caring, the life of the party. She was very exciting to be around – positive energy,” said Shavel Waldon-Belk, one of Zy’onna’s cousins.

The next few days will be spent celebrating Zy’onna’s life. Her funeral will be held Friday. A motorcycle ride in her honor is being planned for Saturday. Mason said he does plan to continue speaking about his daughter and will share a message for other parents.

“Try your hardest to pay attention to any kind of signs, because we didn’t have a sign. We never knew that she was planning to do this,” said Mason. “I don’t want nobody to think that she was troubled at home or troubled by her parents or nothing. My child was loved and will always be loved and missed.”

Zy’onna Phifer’s funeral will be held Friday at 1 pm at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte.

A Bikers Against Violence ride for Zyonna is being planned for Saturday. It is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Roses on 4525 Plaza Road in Charlotte.

If you need help or want to speak with someone about any mental health support, you can call 800-273-TALK, text SHARE to 741741 and visit @CrisisTextLine on Twitter.

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