My Life Mattered: Jayland Walker Speaks

By: Rev. Dr. Velda Love, Lead for Join the Movement Toward Racial Justice Campaign and Minister for Racial Justice

We wrestle with the news that a grand jury declined to indict eight police officers who fired 94 shots at Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man killed after what started as a traffic stop. We rage at the news that Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old African American teenager, was shot and wounded after ringing the doorbell to the wrong house in Kansas City, MO. We despair at how familiar these stories are, even as we affirm #BlackLivesMatter. In this response, Rev. Dr. Velda Love imagines what Jayland Walker might say to us in this moment.

Content Notice: Police violence, racialized and gun violence, lynching, depictions of murder and physical violence

As I was leaving my physical body from the violent invasion of manmade bullets meant to do internal and external damage to every major organ in the human body, my spirit lingered over what was me in human flesh. I looked over every gaping hole where 60 bullets tore through my skin, ripped my organs apart, and shattered my muscles, blood vessels, and bones. I heard my flesh violently burst open and felt the blood rush out and saturate the ground.

I then peered down the street and saw eight police officers, all white men with guns drawn and now empty because all 90 bullets were meant to kill another black body presumed guilty before a word was exchanged or an explanation was possible to explain my plan to escape being violated or worse—my life over, no breath, dreams shattered, and my future hopes and aspirations destroyed because I was perceived as a threat to white people and their racist and stereotypical views of people like me—black, male, dangerous, and expendable.

I am the late Jayland Walker, 25 years young, from Akron, Ohio. I was an aspiring wrestler, loved my family, treated everyone I met with kindness, and desired a peaceful existence in a hostile environment when it comes to being Black in America.

As I hover over my body, I know what they’ll say about me and the stories the racist media will tell. You’ll see video footage and hear versions of what happened on the evening of June 27, 2022, as I fled the police, driving in fear, trying to escape what I believed would be the end of my life if caught driving while black. It’s a familiar story but my murdered body does not allow me to speak about my actions because in the eyes of those men with automatic weapons, I was already a dead man.

I cannot tell you my side of the evening’s events. I cannot offer an explanation for my actions because my body was mutilated, I’ve stopped breathing, and my voice has been silenced.

I didn’t get the benefit of the doubt. The color of my skin prevented me from leaving my vehicle so that I could walk toward the police, be escorted, and gingerly put into a squad car, driven to McDonald’s for a snack in route to the precinct, and treated kindly while being processed and placed in a jail cell.

Listen to these truths. My short time on the earth was filled with contradictions about black lives mattering. But they matter to those who believe they matter. They matter to families trying to protect and educate their children about black history, culture, and moving from survival mode to thriving. They matter to people who love themselves, their community, and value black life.  They matter to activists who put their lives on the line, protest, and demand accountability when we are assaulted, invalidated, and seen as less than human. They matter to those who are working to restore broken communities, create equity and inclusion in such a fractured and divisive nation. A nation longing for a renewal of racial violence by instituting Jim Crow Laws again, segregation, and a return to lynching black bodies, a heinous and violent means to rid the country of people of African descent—children, women, and men.

Black people, African Americans, and all people of African descent matter! If it weren’t for our unearned labor during the enslavement era America would not be the economic, capitalist power it is today.

I mattered! I mattered to my mother, grandmother, sister, cousins, and extended family.
I mattered to my friends, and neighbors.
I mattered to the people who believed in me.
I mattered because I was born.
I mattered because even though I was not perfect, I experienced love and my life had potential and purpose.

Now I gather with my sisters and brothers on the other side. Those innocent children, women, and men assassinated and murdered who knew their lives mattered, and the 229 women and men murdered since Amaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

As I am laid to rest and my name is written in stone, remember, My Life Mattered!


"I feel helpless. Utterly helpless. Black people for generations have been reminding the world that we as a people matter — through protests, sit-ins, boycotts and the like. We tried to be peaceful in our attempts. But as white supremacy reminds us, their importance — their relevance — comes with a healthy dose of violence and utter disrespect for people of color like me." - Jason Ellington, Union, N.J.

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