Life of slain YSU student honored in Youngstown with street sign dedication

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Jamail E. Johnson was shot and killed protecting others during a 2011 shooting

“Nine years ago, in that house, my son’s life was taken. But today, what the Satan meant for bad, God turned it around for good,” said Shirlene Hill, Jamail E. Johnson’s mother.

In 2011, a gunman opened fire into a crowd at a fraternity party. Jamail E. Johnson was shot and killed as he shielded others. Thursday, his memory and legacy lives on with a new street name in his honor.

“Jamail was just, God’s chosen. He was somebody different, but he made a difference in this world, and he was my J-Rock,” Hill said. 

Jamail’s close friend, Moe Jiles, decided he wanted to do something in honor of him as a gift to his mother. 

“I wanted to honor him, because his life was cut short. He wasn’t able to leave children or whatever, so I wanted to do something that would be in remembrance of him and have a legacy here and know that his life wasn’t in vain,” Jiles said.

So he reached out to the city.

“He said is there something we could do? Could we do a street name change or do an honorary sign change to honor his life and legacy? And I said, ‘You know, absolutely.’ You know, I talked to my council, colleges, you know talked to the mayor and we got the process going. Everybody saw it as something that was important and needed to be done,” said First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver.

The city of Youngstown not only approved the new street name after Jamail, but city officials also declared a new day in his honor. 

“Now, therefore, I Jamael Tito Brown, as mayor of the city of Youngstown, do hereby proclaim February 6, 2020, Jamail Earl Johnson Day,” one crowd member read.

Family and friends gathered and embraced each other Thursday as the street sign was hung. His brother said Jamail lives on in him every day.

“Seeing him become a young man, go away to school. I just wish he had an opportunity to be here still to see what life could be for him, but I understand that God didn’t choose that way for him,” Bruce Alexander said.

Hill wants Jamail’s memory to spread a message of love throughout the community.

“We gotta bring back the love in Youngstown and surrounding areas. The love of God,” Hill said.

Jiles said he hopes Jamail’s memory will help make a difference in the city as people drive down this street and see his name.

“Just the city and the gun violence and hope and inspire that we change, you know for a better city and less crimes like this will happen,” Jiles said.

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