Inspiration: The Life of Jelani Jesse Javontae Day
Jelani was the fourth of five children. He was outgoing, energetic, athletic,
determined, and focused and he LOVED life! He had many aspirations and dreams,
and he was on his way to accomplishing all of them.
Jelani was a graduate of Alabama A&M University. He aspired to become a doctor
and was pursuing a master’s degree in speech pathology at Illinois State University.
He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc--The Nu Epsilon chapter at
Alabama A&M University. He was an active community member who loved God
and spent time with his family. More than any accomplishments, Jelani was a son,
a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend. His life had tremendous
The Nightmare: August 24, 2021
Jelani was last seen at Beyond Hello, a cannabis dispensary located in Bloomington, Illinois on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. He was reported missing after not attending class on Tuesday, August 24, by his Illinois State University Program Director, although students are known to skip classes from time to time. This was Jelani’s first week of in-person classes on campus and Tuesday, August 24 would have been his first clinicals. On the evening of August 25, the police came Jelani’s family home in Danville, Il with the news of him missing. Shocked from the news, Jelani’s family filed a missing person’s report because it was not common to not be able to get in touch with him.
On Thursday, August 26, Peru Police officers found Jelani’s car concealed in a wooded area in the center of town behind a YMCA in Peru, Illinois. Peru is a sun-downtown located 60 miles north of Bloomington, IL. After being told by a Bloomington detective on Friday, August 27 at 4:30 pm, that if he did not hear anything by 5 pm, Jelani’s mother, Ms. Carmen Bolden-Day, would not hear from him until the following Monday.
Mortified by the lack of urgency and no support from the police, Ms. Bolden-Day and family instantly went into action creating a novice search team and a multi-site search effort. Ms. Bolden Day organized and conducted the first of four search parties.
On September 4, after Ms. Bolden Day personally contacted the Illinois Search and Rescue, an outside agency that would organize and conduct a search with Peru, LaSalle, and Bloomington police departments, an unidentified decomposed body was found along the south bank of the Illinois River. This body would not be identified as Jelani until September 23...19 days after it was discovered.
The Disparity: “Missing White Woman Syndrome”
During the same time that the Bolden-Day family was experiencing their nightmare, Gabby Petito, a young white female, went missing. Every major news outlet was covering her disappearance. The media ran a non-stop news cycle, social media shares were commonplace and the FBI, had agents fervently searching for Gabby. Yet, without assistance and knowledge of the next steps, Ms. Bolden Day made a bold move to interview with Newsy to speak about the disparity.
The Case: Unsolved
To date, Jelani’s case is still open. His wallet was found a few blocks from where his car was found. His Illinois State University lanyard was found in a different area. And, his phone was found on Interstate 74. His key fob to his car has not been located.
The Jelani Day Joint Task Force is comprised of the Bloomington Police Department, Peru Police Department, LaSalle Police Department, FBI, Illinois State Police and the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Unfortunately, on September 24, 2021, exactly 30 days after Jelani went missing, this Task Force informed the family that they were going to restart the investigation and go back to day one- even though 30 days had passed. The family remains concerned and questions the involvement of law enforcement in solving what is believed to be the murder of Jelani Day.
On May 12, a monumental legislation was passed in honor of Jelani’s life:
Senate Bill 3932, The Jelani Day Bill, which “provides that a coroner or medical examiner with custody of human remains that are not identified within 72 hours of discovery shall promptly notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the location of those remains and the failure to identify the remains.”
August 2022 marks the official launch of The Jelani Day Foundation (JDF) - established in honor of the life and legacy of Jelani day. The JDF will be at the forefront of the fight for change and equity to ensure families of color have the help and momentum needed during the search for their missing loved ones. The focus will be to ensure families have the dignity and respect that should be afforded to every human, regardless of race. As an act of advocacy for others, the JDF will provide financial, emotional, and professional resources for families of color in their critical, time-sensitive plight to reunite with their missing loved ones.
Nothing can eliminate the pain of receiving the horrifying, life-changing news of a missing loved one; however, JDF plans to bridge the gap of disparity for those at-risk of systemic racial bias and discrimination during the process of their search. Jelani’s family continues to forge ahead to find answers regarding #WHATHAPPENEDTOJELANI DAY.
"Me and my kids, me and everybody that never knew Jelani -- my family, friends, strangers -- did all the leg work.
My son didn't get any type of help...He didn't deserve this."
Carmen Bolden-Day | Jelani Day's Mother
Our mission is to provide resources toward eliminating disparity when people of color go missing in the United States. The JDF is bridging the gap experienced by people of color who often do not receive national attention, local support, and media coverage when their loved ones are missing.
JDF will provide:
Vital financial resources to help conduct searches
Professional consultation to help families engage with law enforcement
Accurate and timely information for media outlets for coverage and assistance
Resources for therapeutic services