COLLEGE HILL – On Aug. 18, 2015, a 9-year-old girl was shot and killed in Ferguson as she lay in bed next to her mother while finishing a homework assignment.
This little girl’s untimely death would send Ferguson into an uproar yet again, creating a ripple effect of protests and a call for justice that would echo loudly across the country just one year after Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed.
Her name was Jamyla Bolden.
Now, four years after her death, Jamyla’s father, James Bolden, has found a way to honor his daughter’s memory and to keep her name alive, through his youth mentoring program, Unsung Angels.
Established in 2016, the 501(c)3 youth organization works to mentor children who have been exposed to gun violence or any other type of violence in their lives.
“The main [goal] is trying to help these kids cope with their trauma,” Bolden said.
Through a six-week program, Bolden uses different tactics to build trust with the children and to create a safe space for them to open up and thrive in. The goal of the program is to build character, improve life skills and facilitate better relationships between a child and their peers, parents and loved ones. Bolden also teaches about violence awareness.
“When you’re a person that went through it, you can relate to these kids,” he said.
“A lot of people that reach out to us are mothers. It’s like there’s no fathers in the home, [or] some fathers in the home but they don’t know how to cope with what’s going on. So that’s where I kind of come in at, because I’ve been through it,” he went on to say.
“I know where God has [taken] me, and I can’t explain why He put this on me to do, but I’ve been doing it since the day my daughter closed her eyes,” Bolden said.
Bolden, 44, a father of seven, revealed that Jamyla had dreamed of becoming either a teacher or a lawyer – both career choices with, ultimately, a foundation of serving others.
Although his daughter never got the chance to live out her dreams, he said that Unsung Angels represented Jamyla in every way and that her love of helping others was what kept him going today.
“We’re just a grassroots, family-oriented organization trying to help make a change, help make a difference,” Bolden said.
Bolden acknowledges that after his daughter’s death, his world was turned upside down.
“I had to get myself together, and when I started getting myself together then I was able to start dealing with other people, mentoring people and things like that,” he said.
Victoria Bolden, James’ wife, serves as vice president of Unsung Angels. She said that helping the children and elderly in her community was something she loved to do.
“I’m feeling real good about it,” she said. “I can’t wait until we’re able to do a little more. For the most part, what we have done, it has made a change, and we noticed that people have recognized it, so that’s a good thing.”
James Bolden’s niece Dontriece Adams, 17, has worked alongside her uncle as a volunteer with Unsung Angels for the past two years now.
“It’s fun, and then you feel good about yourself after helping other people,” said Dontriece, a 12th-grader.
Bolden, a native of St. Louis Place, said that his goal was to build a community center in the city but that until then, he was working out of a suite in his church home situated at 4319 N. 20th St.
Enrollment for children to join the Unsung Angels Youth Organization opens in January.
For more information on how to sign up, volunteer or make a donation, see Unsung Angels on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @unsungangels9 or visit their website, which is currently under construction at http://www.unsungangels9.org