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  • Tori Graves. Courtesy photo

Large Chosen Family Left To Mourn Popular Detroit Performer Courtney Tori Graves

By |2023-02-21T17:42:24-05:00February 21st, 2023|Michigan, News|

While many queer folks build and create chosen families for themselves, Courtney Tori Graves, also known as Courtney Cokks and Tori Escada, leaves behind an especially large contingent who claimed her as their own. The popular model and showgirl and longtime Woodward Bar & Grill bartender died Feb. 16 at the age of 45. 

Top of the list was nightclub personality Ms. Honey, who called Graves her daughter.

“My world has crumbled, and I will never be the same,” Ms. Honey posted to Facebook. “My heart, my daughter, my Tori – Daddy loves you always. I am not OK, and I will never be ok again.”

And in another post, Ms. Honey also shared her devastation.

“I’m in shock and so much pain I can’t talk nor breathe,” she said. “My heart has been ripped out of my chest. … Please keep praying for her family. This is too much for me to bare. God, please take care of my daughter in heaven as I tried to take care of her here on earth.”

Jey’nce Poindexter Mizrahi, by comparison, called Graves her mother.

“Honored to be your daughter as we both navigated life from survival mode to actually living life and thriving,” Mizrahi said in a post on Instagram. “I must now grapple with the fact that my love circle and those I trust is one trooper down.”

Mizrahi added that Graves filled a void after her biological mother died.

“She knew you, and respected the love and time you served me in support in a way that … allowed me to be used by God.”

DeAngela “Show” Shannon called Graves a sister.

“Tori, I watched you grow from a teen, always full of smiles, bright eyed, and bushy tailed, so eager to become what you later in life mastered as the beautiful woman, loving mother, caring niece, supportive sister, and respectful daughter to so many of us,” Shannon posted on Facebook. “You will truly be missed, but never forgotten.”

Nina Ross Detroit posted a video clip of Graves, adding, “I found this beautiful video of Courtney Cokks and wanted to share it with all of those hurting from her sudden passing. My thoughts, love, and continued prayers are with you all. She looks so beautiful, happy and loved in this video… 💕 Rest peacefully Tori ✨️ and thank you for always being so kind, loving and caring to us all.”

Timothy Clark called himself Graves’ brother.

“It’s just simply amazing how many times she would randomly text me ‘I’m just checking on you’ and ‘I love you,’” he said in a Facebook post. “I don’t think it ever got more real in friendship than having that woman by your side. A true realest, I’m gonna miss her so much.”

The list of those who claimed Graves is long. She was big on the Detroit Ballroom scene and was mother of the House of Escada. In 2015, Graves won the annual Miss Motor City Continental pageant. 

Graves grew up in Detroit and graduated from Redford High School in 1995 before studying information technology at Wayne State University and business administration at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta. She also received direct care worker and first aid certifications and worked in the healthcare industry. 

In a Facebook post from April of last year, Graves revealed that she had been having mini strokes. Still, her spirits were up, and she thanked her chosen family. 

“This amazingly beautiful group of people I know, in my heart, make my life even more amazing than I could have ever dreamed of,” she said. “I am blessed, adored, forgiven, respected, appreciated, loved, needed, wanted, free to love, free to be loved, everything that I am entitled to and so much more that I never would have guessed.”

There will be a memorial show for Graves on Sunday, Feb. 26 at White Star, located at 9819 Conant St. in Hamtramck, from 6-10 p.m. All proceeds will go to Graves’ family. Performers scheduled include Raven Cassadine,, DeAngela “Show” Shannon, Jay Amir, KB, Made in Detroit, Reggie Dior, Paco, Cierra Dior, Robert Jeffries, Kayja LeFairye, Jasmine Dior, Jey’nce Poindexter Mizrahi and EJ Dior. Music by DJ Tone.

The following day, Monday, Feb. 27, there will be a funeral for Graves at James H. Cole Home for Funerals, located at 16100 Schaefer Hwy. in Detroit. Service will start at 3:30 p.m.  

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael has been with Pride Source since 1999 and is currently senior staff writer. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.
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