If It Were Any Other Sneaker Store In America...

I went to the mall yesterday to get a break from editing projects back to back to back. Each project I share is like giving birth to a different part of me. I’m able to be in a creative space that will hopefully inspire and impact those who come in contact with it. Creating, editing, and sharing a project takes more energy than people realize. When someone trusts me with a vision, I have to make sure I deliver- so no matter how many times I have to come back to the drawing board, or what time I get to stop editing to maybe take a nap & get rest for the rest of my life & obligations, I will. The latest project I worked on means a lot to me because it’s for my friend Mally.

I had to put up a wall to keep my emotions from overflowing into this project. I wanted the love to be felt, not the sadness I still feel about Mally being gone. This specific blog post has been sitting in my drafts for almost a year. Sometimes I don’t feel the right words to say, sometimes I don’t know what to feel.

I'll never forget the moment I got the phone call on February 26, 2016.

I was so happy to finish my internship that day and celebrate with my coworkers at the time, I got a call from a friend saying Jamal was killed. I didn't want to believe it- who would want to kill Mally? Shortly after, I was flooded with more calls, and texts; as numb as I was feeling, it became real for me when I went on social media.

R.I.P. Jamal Gaines

it’s been 3 years since Jamal was killed in his sneaker store, East Coast Boutique in Rahway, NJ. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. I’m grateful for the impact and influence his life has had over my life. I used to smile & entertain the thought of catching up with Mally at our 10 year high school reunion, now I focus on the influence I have on others & how I can improve lives each day.

The key is to always be yourself. Find what you’re most passionate about and pursue that. Never Give Up!

When I got to the mall, my friend asked if I wanted to visit Mally’s store. East Coast Boutique in Rahway, NJ has grown in to Clientelle in Edison, NJ. I kind of hesitated to go because everyday for the past week, I’ve been editing for Mally’s event and revisiting his life. Only that morning, I was done editing, and my emotional wall was coming down. I went in and started to look at the sneakers, a few seconds later I felt my eyes get watery but I wanted to keep it together & enjoy that moment. I looked around at what Mally’s dream had become and couldn’t hold it in any longer. i asked my friend if we could go because I’m getting emotional. I hadn’t taken a step out of the store before the tears just started flowing.

And I didn’t stop them, the old me definately wouldn’t have been caught crying in public, but I didn’t care about what other people saw. I’m still grieving, and I’m in a place where I’m no longer holding back my emotions.

If it were any other sneaker store in America, I wouldn’t have gotten emotional. When I moved to Rahway in the sixth grade, I had no option but to make new friends. I met Mally when he was a boy, to see his dreams come into fruition as a man, knowing the amount of passion, determination and hustle that went into it as an outsider looking in, I couldn’t hold back anymore.

I’m grateful that his story is being retold on a bigger platform each year. From his killer being the Donkey of the Day on The Breakfast Club, to news outlets coverage like Complex, NJ.com & Fox 5.

Mally's story has been shared thousands of times over the past 3 years. His life impacts all of those who knew him. He never gave up, and literally fought for his business until the end. His legacy is motivation for anyone who has goals- you can do anything you put your mind to, if you're willing to work for it.

His memory has brought awareness to sneaker and gun violence, and organ donation. His life has inspired people he hasn’t met, and provides a mentorship program in his name. The Jamal Gaines Foundation held an Awareness Expo on 2/23/19 to provide a platform for entrepreneurs & artists within the community.