Channabel Latham-Morris two weeks ago received correspondence from the recipients of her son’s kidneys and pancreas. Three months ago she got a letter from the person who received his heart.
“Jamal also donated his left and right kidneys, liver and pancreas,” Morris said by phone Monday from her home in Warwick, N.Y. “He gave up his organs and tissues. He’s gone, but he’s still here.”
Today, April 18, marks exactly one year since Jamal C. Morris was killed while riding his red bicycle in West Philadelphia last spring.
Morris, a Drexel University graduate and mechanical engineer, was struck on April 16, 2016, while bicycling near 45th and Market Streets. He died two days later at age 27.
“This weekend and week is painful,” said Morris of the anniversary of the death of her only son. “This is the absolute worst pain of my life.”
The person who hit Jamal has never been caught, but his mom insists that the investigation is still ongoing and pointed to a $5,000 reward from Crime Stoppers for any information leading to the hit-and-run driver who killed him. No camera surveillance was available.
“I don’t want this to become a cold case,” Morris said. “They will not rest until something happens.”
Jamal was one of four bicyclists who lost their lives in Philadelphia last year, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Morris has accompanied the organization to Harrisburg to lobby for bike safety bills.
This year in honor of her son’s memory, Jamal’s mother created the Jamal C. Morris Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to educate African-American students who are interested in majoring in engineering at Drexel, to advocate for people to become organ donors and to explain to young people the importance of wearing helmets when they are riding a bike.
Jamal graduated in 2011 from Drexel’s College of Engineering. He was a mechanical engineer with AMEC Foster Wheeler in the city and a part-time staff member at Penn Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I want to make this happen in my son’s name,” said Morris of the Foundation. “The goal is to send African Americans to Drexel to become engineers.”
To honor Jamal’s memory, a memorial service will take place at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St., May 6, at 1 p.m., followed by a scholarship luncheon at 2 p.m. Tickets are $100 and $75 for children under age 10. Morris is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, with whom she credits alongside her husband Hector Charlton Morris and family with helping her to be strong.
“The Foundation has set goals for itself, hoping to send promising African- American students to Drexel University School of Engineering to take part in the educational program that helped shaped Jamal Morris’ life,” his mom said.
Morris hopes to be able to make scholarships available to students within the next couple of years. For those who can’t attend the ceremony next month, a donation in any amount can be made.
If monetary donations are not an option, the effort urges the creation of biker awareness, contacting legislators to increase biker protection and rights, creating a bike buddy system, or becoming an organ donor.
“A year ago none of this was even a thought in my head,” Morris said. “A lot of activity is happening. Jamal came here for a short time, but maybe God took him so that I could be an instrument for change. Jamal was a gift to me.”
For more information, visit jamalcmorrisfoundation.org