Fanta Bility spent the final months of her life, one last, glorious summer, playing in the park and going on walks with her cousins for vanilla ice cream. The 8-year-old’s infectious smile greeted everyone she met along the way.
The child’s family clung to those memories Tuesday as they gathered at Friend’s Burial Ground in Upper Darby, four days after she was killed in a shooting in nearby Sharon Hill. They called for justice, healing, and, above all, for change, so that no other families have to experience the pain that has torn them apart.
“We are hurt, and we need justice,” Fanta’s Aunt Fatima said after a funeral for the girl at Masjid Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jammah in Southwest Philadelphia. “She didn’t deserve this. She was an innocent girl. She did nothing wrong, and she never hurt anyone.”
Fanta, who would have started third grade Monday at the Sharon Hill School, was caught in a spray of bullets fired into a crowded high school football stadium after a game. She had gone to the game to support her older sister, Mamasa, a cheerleader, and her cousin,who was playing in the game between Academy Park and Pennsbury High School, according to family members. Mamasa was also wounded in the shooting, and is now home, recovering.
A spokesperson for District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said the investigation into the shooting was ongoing but could not provide any additional information. In a statement Monday, Stollsteimer asked the public to help identify the shooter, and come forward with any information about the incident.
Fanta’s family expressed the same sentiment Tuesday, supported by staff from the girl’s school, local officials from Delaware County, family, and friends.
She was one of six children, a close-knit group part of a larger community of immigrants from Guinea. One of her cousins, Saddiq Muhammad, said he heard news of the shooting at the football game from television reports and thought it was senseless.
Then the next morning, he learned that his cousin was killed.
“Waking up in the morning, learning that it was a family member, it took me off guard,” he said. “My family is still devastated, my family is still hurting. She was a beautiful little girl.”
Another cousin, Mayandia Bility, described Fanta as “sweet, loving, funny” and said she is dearly missed.
“We want to make the community a better place, so this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “We just feel devastated, but we’re thankful that this wasn’t even more of a tragedy.”