NEW YORK — On Thursday night in Queens, the family and friends of Jam Master Jay held a candlelight vigil in front of the 24/7 studio where he was murdered one year ago to the day. The memorial was not to mourn the loss of the hip-hop pioneer, but rather to celebrate his life, pray for others and introduce new initiatives to stop gun-related violence.
During a small ceremony before the vigil at the Queens Public Library, Russell Simmons, pioneering hip-hoppers Dana Dane, Whodini's Grandmaster Dee and others spoke about the legacy Jam Master Jay (whose real name was Jason Mizell) left and how he affected their personal lives.
Simmons characterized Jay as a "lifetime giver" and encouraged the people in attendance to look and see how they can serve God. "We can't imagine what you're going through," he later said to Jay's mother, Connie. "I'm honored to be here and have known Jason."
Mrs. Mizell later spoke and was, for the most part, very upbeat. She described herself as a "68-year-old senior citizen on the go" and told everyone she knew how to dance. She also described her late son as an inspiration throughout his life and said she had been looking to the Lord for comfort.
Later, Mrs. Mizell scolded the media for what she called "false reporting."
"If he was selling drugs, why ain't I rich?" she asked, questioning the scenario some newspapers have painted about her late son. "Reporters are passing the buck ... You can't destroy this man!" she said. Mrs. Mizell also mentioned that she was praying for her son's killer and appealed to everyone else to pray as well.
At the ceremony, Charles Fisher, who heads up the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council and has been working closely with the family, announced that his organization is spearheading an anti-gun campaign titled "Who Shot Ya."
"We want to get guns off our streets and we're going to be working with President Bush's Project Safe Neighborhoods [initiative] in order to make that happen," he said after the memorial. "We're going to be getting MTV, BET and hip-hop artists to do PSAs and prints ads. We want them to go to school with elected officials and talk to kids about guns. The hip-hop community wants to take a new stance on violence."
Fisher also said that he has been working with New York state senator Ada L. Smith on the Mizell/ Davis bill, which is named after Jam Master Jay and recently slain New York City councilman James Davis. The bill would make it a federal offense to use a gun against celebrities and elected officials.
After the candlelight vigil, JMJ's brother Marvin Thompson confirmed that the family had indeed hired a private investigator to find Jay's murderer ("Jam Master Jay's Family Offers Reward, Plans To Hire P.I. To Help Catch Killer").
"It's hard every day. We pray every day, but it's nothing but love," Thompson said about what it's like to deal with his brother's passing. "The [people] came out and they showed the love that Jay had. We're hoping that now people can get together and close the door to this case. If anybody has the real story I wish they'd tell me because I don't have the real story. I just hope the community can get behind the police department to put pressure on the five people that were in the studio ... let's get some convictions."
The candlelight vigil is not the only event that has been planned to memorialize Jam Master Jay. The Mizells have also been working to get a street in Jay's neighborhood of Hollis, Queens, named after him, and there might be a concert held in his honor around the time of his birthday in January.
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.