People: Qamil Wright's quest for justice and community reform

Erica Thompson

Stefani "Qamil" Wright last spoke to her longtime friend Jamaal L. Taylor on April 30. Taylor called her just to find out how she was doing, which she thought was somewhat strange.

"It's usually me who's [checking in]," Wright said. They agreed to hang out in the near future, but they never got the chance. About a month later, on June 1, Taylor was found shot dead behind the wheel of his car on the East Side, just after midnight. He was 36 years old.

"I fell on the floor," Wright said of hearing the news from her sister later that morning. "I was beside myself."

Wright, 34, met Taylor twenty years ago at his uncle's North Side church, the Abundant Love Tabernacle, where Taylor played drums. The teenagers lost touch but reunited at a Downtown club several years later.

What followed was nearly a decade-long on-again, off-again romantic relationship. "You know we're going to end up together," Taylor would say to Wright. "I'll walk up in your wedding. You ain't marrying anybody else."

When Taylor wasn't hanging out with family and friends, playing Xbox or watching SportsCenter, he was cultivating his career as a barber. "He was obsessed with cutting hair. That was his thing. He was really, really good at it," Wright said.

Taylor - also obsessed with "OSU everything," according to Wright - worked at the Campus-area barbershop A Head of Time, where he cut the hair of many OSU football players.

"He was a people person, so that's a perfect way for him to be able to talk stuff and be around people all day long," Wright said. "If you had a barbecue or birthday party, he was there. He didn't miss a good time."

"He was lovable, a gentle giant, funny as hell and everyone's friend," Taylor's cousin, Akilah Wallace, said in a Facebook post. "Our hearts are broken."

Taylor didn't "run the streets" or hang with a tough crowd, Wright insisted. "He was very anti-gun violence," she said. Currently circulating on Facebook is a picture of Taylor wearing a T-Shirt that reads, "Killing is wack!"

The police have not identified any suspects in Taylor's murder. Wright believes that a robbery was likely involved. "He was such a prideful person, and he wasn't a fearful person, so I think if somebody ran up on him … he's not going to make it easy for you," she said.

Wright is currently raising reward money for anyone who comes forward with information regarding Taylor's death. Just days after the incident, Wright, a local R&B singer, began to collect donations in exchange for her latest album,No Filter.

"I went to Eastland Mall with my box and little sign," said Wright, who also spread the word at open mic shows. Additionally, people have contributed via PayPal. As of June 16, Wright had raised $200 of her $1,000 goal. She hopes that Central Ohio Crime Stoppers will take on the case and match her collection.

Wright views Taylor's death as part of the city's growing gun-violence problem, especially on the East Side where residents casually tell her about hearing gunshots on their streets every day. To bring awareness, she will host a "March on Livingston," which will begin at noon on July 2 at the corner of Livingston Avenue and James Road and will take marchers east on Livingston to Hamilton Road.

"Visually, I think it'll be very moving and historical because I don't think that it's been done before," Wright said.

Currently running her Soul Dope Entertainment company and recording her fifth studio project, Wright wants to use her talents to make a difference in the community. "If you can partner artistry with activism, I don't think that there's [anything] more powerful," she said.

And if she never finds out who killed Taylor, she hopes to prevent others from facing a similar situation. "Just the thought of being able to help somebody not get the phone call I got is enough," she said. "If I can stop as many of those phone calls for the rest of my life, then I think Jamaal would be proud of that."

To make a donation toward the Jamaal Taylor reward fund, contact "Qamil Soul Dope" on Facebook.

Age: 34

Day Job: Singer/Owner of Soul Dope Entertainment

Hometown: South Side

Current Neighborhood: East Side

Currently listening to:

BJ the Chicago Kid

Favorite Restaurant in Columbus: Roosters

Favorite Movie: "Love Jones" and "Uncle Buck"

Favorite TV show: "The Young and the Restless"

What film from your childhood do you want to see rebooted?

"Curly Sue"