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Jelani Day Foundation hosts annual memorial dinner

Written by on February 9, 2024

NORMAL, Ill. – Last weekend, the Jelani Day Foundation held their second annual memorial dinner for the late Illinois State University graduate student.

In 2021, Day was studying speech pathology and he went missing before eventually being found dead weeks later. Now, the Jelani Day Foundation aims to keep his memory alive and help people in similar situations. Day’s mother Carmen Bolden Day spoke about the purpose of the organization.

“This foundation will be one of the biggest resources for missing brown and Black people, that’s my goal,” she said. “You can get assistance readily, for anybody, it’s not just people of color. We just couldn’t get it for Jelani and I need that not to happen to another family.”

Recently, the Jelani Day law went into effect, an amendment to the Illinois Missing Persons Identification Act that requires medical examiners and coroners of the state to contact the FBI if they can’t identify a body in 72 hours. The law was passed in May 2022 and went into effect at the start of this year.

“That’s one of the things I’m proud of. We didn’t get that type of assistance when Jelani was missing,” Day said. “That body that was found, that was later identified as him, that body was found on September 4 and I wasn’t notified that it was him until September 23. That’s 19 days of complete torture.”

During the dinner, the foundation also announced three scholarships in Jelani’s name. One for Danville High School, where he attended, another for his undergraduate university, Alabama A&M University and a third for Black Speech Pathology students at ISU.

This, along with the rest of the foundation’s activities, represent what Day sees as the ultimate purpose of the foundation.

“It is to ensure that other families don’t have to go through what we’ve had to endure, and to provide assistance and resources, therapeutic services, things like that,” she said. “I just want to see a change.”