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Your light will continue to shine

After the shocking news of his passing, we wanted to say thank you in memory of Jamal Edwards.

Jamal Edwards has always been such a local hero. From the massive investment he put into Acton’s youth, his charity work, to the art we see around the Borough – Jamal Edwards had a massive part to play in making Acton what it is today.

Above: Andrew Mcleay and Jamal at Ealing Soup Kitchen

Andrew Mcleay, our Community Impact manager, knew Jamal personally and they would often talk about City Harvest and the great work we are doing there.

Jamal at Ealing Soup Kitchen

“I first met Jamal at the Ealing Soup Kitchen at the start of the pandemic. Jamal came and chatted with many homeless and disadvantaged people – he showed no boundaries for love.

He was so open and so kind to everyone and was so real – this was one of the reasons he was so cherished. We became firm friends that day. He would check up on me and send me messages during the start of the lockdown when I was really low, and it actually brought me out of a real episode of sadness. I feel sad now, thinking I’ll never get to thank him for that.

But I also know I had encouraged him too during hard times, particularly when the arts had stopped completely and Jamal was struggling. At least, I hope I did.

One of the things that will stay with me was how much time he gave me. I was just a lone charity manager and he made me feel special – he never wanted special treatment – only to make others feel special. When the pandemic was so rife he’d be checking in to see how I was. He’d be telling me he’s got clothes for me to give to the homeless. He’d be telling me how inspired he was by the visit and how wonderful they all are.

I told him I’d met Stormzy in a youth club in Battersea and how I hadn’t realised who it was and got a bit funny with him as he came over and wanted to shake my hand during a time when we weren’t supposed to be touching – he laughingly told me how much Stormzy had complained the first time he visited Jamal, saying Ealing was the other end of the earth from him. But it didn’t stop them becoming friends – from staying friends. He was this magnet to people. And he just wanted to light people up all the time.

Above: Portrait of Jamal, painted by Andrew McLeay.

Also an art lover, I spoke to him about my artistic journey and gave him a portrait to say thanks for coming down to the Soup Kitchen. He was so complimentary and so nice about it – despite Matt Small’s incredible piece now adoring prize Acton real estate. I don’t know how many knew that many of the large beautiful murals around Churchfield Avenue were thanks to the connections, passion and lobbying of Jamal and James Brittain-McVey (of The Vamps fame). He had such a heart for this community.

Jamal was excited about coming to visit us. Our charity has been able to build on the great work of so many of the charities he knew and loved and he respected that. One of his great charitable loves, the Bollo Brooks youth centre, City Harvest were able to deliver to. We deliver to many other youth centres and projects around the area that Jamal visited and cared about. His whole life was about people – he was so keen to have an impact on the world.

He will be missed so deeply. I will forever miss that huge smile, that warmth and love, in a sea of such negativity and complexities that life throws at us constantly – that could swallow you, if you let it.

Jamal was one of those people who never let his light diminish, and never apologised for it. He was truly a bright light, who wanted nothing better than for Acton to show its true potential. He was the same with people – he pledged his life to it and it is one of the things he will be known for – his amazing, unending, defiant potential. A potential he saw in us too. And that he saw in the world. He had such high standards for us. Let’s not disappoint.

About Jamal

Jamal Edwards MBE (24 August 1990 – 20 February 2022) was a British entrepreneur, author, director, DJ and founder of the online urban music platform SB.TV. He was born in Luton, England, and spent his early years there before moving to Acton, West London, where he lived with his family.

Edwards was an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, a youth charity which helps young people set up their own businesses. In 2021, Edwards set up Jamal Edwards Delve, a project aimed at refurbishing and reopening youth centres.