Pride (In the Name of Love)

Jose Vilson

jamajames.jpgToday marks 2 years after I last saw Jamal James, former president of Syracuse University’s student government in 2001 and active member of the SU community. I had walked around the Pride parade in NYC that day and as I turned on West 4th, I saw him and a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in ages. Little did any of us know that that would be the last parade he’d ever attend. Sadly, he was found dead in his apartment building three weeks after that moment. I was never tight with him, but to know that I was one of the last people to see him on this Earth really hit me hard.

I attended the wake, hoping to at least show support as a fellow Black SU alum. What I found was a huge following of people who loved him for just him. Exes, roommates, classmates, family, and friends just wanted to pay the greatest tribute to him. They did this regardless of his color or sexual orientation. Just then it hit me: how does one disregard those elements of the person if that’s what made him who he was?

For that matter, how does anyone disregard or say “in spite of” about anyone’s sexual orientation or color? And how do we tell ourselves that we’re against any sort of prejudice yet neglect our friends and family of the LGBT community? How can we act as if a certain person’s relationship with another adult is not love just because it’s with someone of the same sex? One of the more memorable characteristics about Jamal was his flamboyance and energy as he ran around the student government office in Syracuse. His personality, hence, wasn’t a “despite” but a “because.”

Today, I walked around the Pride parade, in memory of this acquaintance, knowing that, as far as I see, we’re not any closer to taking hate crimes like the one against this man more seriously than we did two years ago. R.I.P. Jamal James

jose, in the name of love …