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<br />Tina Stewart memorial billed a family affair

Father and daughter Ajanaku
At a memorial service Tuesday night for Tina Stewart, the moderator spoke of those associated with Central High School as a “family”. Once a “Warrior” – the school’s nickname – always a “Warrior,” he said. At a memorial service Tuesday night for Tina Stewart, the moderator spoke of those associated with Central High School as a “family”. Once a “Warrior” – the school’s nickname – always a “Warrior,” he said.

 
 A memorial service Tuesday night for slain MTSU player and former Central High School star Tina Stewart was bittersweet. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

It was a bittersweet gathering. Stewart was killed a week ago Wednesday night by her then-roommate Shanterrica Madden, a Middle Tennessee State University freshman and herself, a Central High School graduate.

There were no public utterances about Madden at the service, designed as a celebration of Stewart’s life, a decorated Lady Warriors basketball player, who graduated in the class of 2008. Services for Stewart, who died at 21, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Soul Winners Church, 221 Crump Rd., with visitation on Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at N.J. Ford & Sons Funeral Home.

Considered a rising star at MTSU, Stewart’s death has prompted national headlines on radio and television. In a brief exchange with the Tri-State Defender, her father, Adrian Jackson, said he is focused on staying strong for his family, and has no plans to follow or get involved with the legal proceedings involving Madden.

For the record, Madden’s attorney, Joe Brandon, on Wednesday filed a motion to have Twitter postings preserved. Stewart, say the court filings, had posted derogatory statements about Madden. Brandon says it’s a case of self-defense and that Stewart was killed with her own knife. Meanwhile, Madden is jailed in Rutherford County.

At the memorial service, Stewart was remembered as a good person, who made people laugh. She did, said her high school coach, Niki Bray, have to be pushed from time to time to get the best out of herself. A 3.2 grade point average at MTSU reflects that Stewart was on a solid track, said Bray.

Stewart gave all she had on the court, said Bray.

On Thursday, this year’s highly-regarded Lady Warriors’ team plays in the TSSAA state basketball in Murfreesboro on what had become home court for Stewart at MTSU.

“We are telling our players to play with focus and to keep Tina’s fight in their heart,” Bray said Thursday.

“Remember, these kids have come home (from the state tournament) empty-handed two straight years, so they have a little extra motivation as it is.”

 
Jamila A. Ajanaku and her father, Karanja A. Ajanaku

‘Tina by my side’


by Jamila A. Ajanaku
Special to the Tri-State Defender

(Jamila A. “Mimi” Ajanaku is a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University, where she is a Lady Raiders basketball player. She also played alongside Tina Stewart at Central High School and shared her reflections after Tuesday’s memorial service at Sacred Heart Gym in Midtown.)

“While sitting at the memorial with my old teammates, whom I consider sisters for life, I laughed to myself as I remembered when I first met Tina. I was new to Central High school and didn’t know where my class was. Tina spotted me in the hallway and asked if I was the new girl that everyone said could play ball.

“I replied, shyly, “yes,” and she asked why wasn’t I in class. I told her I didn’t know where it was, and she said, “Girl, you are too old to be getting lost in high school!”

“She then took my schedule, grabbed me by my wrist and walked me to my class. Not just that one, but she made sure I got to all my classes that day, and at the end of the day she told me she would take care of me cause I was like a “lost child”.

“Throughout high school, if I ever wanted to go out or hang with any friends, my mom’s first question was always, ‘Is Tina going? If so, you can go.’

“Once I heard ‘Ti’ was going to Middle Tennessee, I thought gosh I still won’t be able to let loose (lol), but it made me feel more at home knowing my big little sister would have my back. Everyone says their freshman year in college is the hardest and I found this to be true. I would cry to Tina and complain about how tough things were and she would punch me, smiling, and say, ‘If I can do it, so can you Mi.’

“I don’t think I would’ve been able to smile and make it through these first two years like I did without Tina by my side.”

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