Project lets black people write their own obits before they’re killed by police

After writing his obituary, Harlem-based writer Ja’han Jones created the Black Obituary Project, which allows other black people to do the same.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Harlem-based writer Ja’han Jones saw the 197 black people who have been killed by police thus far this year and knew that he could likely be one of them at any time. So, he wrote his own obituary.

“Ja’han Elliot Jones, 24, was unarmed when shot and killed in conflict with local police officers,” the obituary reads. “His familiarity with the Black canon steered him into a potent state of unapologetic Blackness ― one in which the James Baldwins and Young Jeezy’s; the bell hookses and the Queen Bey’s; the Frantz Fanons and the Futures all occupied hollowed, cherished beautiful space in Jones’ identity.”

While Jones was going to submit the obituary as a freelance piece, he realized quickly that he was not the only one who had the same thought about his own mortality and the possibility that after his death, he would be vilified as so many other victims of police brutality have been. So, he created the Black Obituary Project.

“So often, we are killed and our photos are posted about but our stories are not,” Jones told The Huffington Post. “This grants black folks agency we’re often denied in death. We are telling our stories ― speaking of our triumphs and tragedies ― before anyone else attempts to do so for us.”

While it’s definitely a depressing and emotionally-draining project, Jones said that he hoped it would be therapeutic for those who participated.

“I pursued this project because I hoped to publicize that we, black people, have reconciled the darkness of our circumstances with the brightness of our aspiration. The darkness isn’t our doing. We live in it, but we didn’t create it. So highlighting that darkness, in my opinion, indicts our nation in a way I feel is necessary.”