The cast and crew of the Netflix series Dear White People are honoring the life and legacy of Jordan Edwards with a scholarship fund created in partnership with Jordan’s family and the Black Alumni Association.
The Jordan J. Edwards Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund was conceptualized “to promote the education of deserving undergraduate students who enroll full time at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.”
As The Root previously reported, 15-year-old Jordan, two of his brothers and their friends were leaving a house party on April 29, 2017, when Balch Springs, Texas, Police Officer Roy Oliver pointed his rifle at the car full of teens and opened fire, fatally shooting Jordan in the head.
Oliver was eventually fired and indicted on murder charges, but not before Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber attempted to justify Jordan’s extrajudicial killing. Haber initially claimed that the car in which Jordan was traveling was “backing down the street toward officers in an aggressive manner,” which prompted Oliver to open fire.
Haber later admitted during a press conference that he
lied “misspoke.” “After reviewing the video, I don’t believe that [the fatal shooting] met our core values,” Haber said.
Jordan, a freshman honor student and athlete at Mesquite High School, dreamed of attending the University of Alabama and playing football for the Crimson Tide. Oliver ended those dreams with a single bullet, but Jordan’s legacy will not die.
“The circumstances of his death could have easily made his mark one of tragedy,” the scholarship’s website reads. “We will not allow that to be how Jordan is remembered. He was an excellent student, an athlete, a brother, and a son. His mark will be one of opportunity, for a student to become what time and events did not allow to Jordan. ... It will be the duty of the scholarship recipients to carry on a legacy of hope in Jordan’s name, hope for a better, diverse tomorrow.”
When Brandon P. Bell, who plays the character Troy in Dear White People, heard Jordan’s story, he connected with the teen on a visceral level and knew that he had to do something.
“Honestly, I was motivated by frustration. I’m from Dallas, so I have that connection, but it’s more than that,” Bell said in an interview with The Root.
“I read about Jordan’s story and was on the verge of tears. I knew that I wanted to do something, and I wanted to do it specifically for the family,” Bell said. “So I reached out to them to see how they wanted to honor Jordan’s legacy, and they wanted to do that through education. Everything started from there.”
Marque Richardson, who plays Reggie on Dear White People, has been with Bell every step of the way in seeing this scholarship fund come to fruition. He also traveled with Bell to Texas to meet Jordan’s family.
“UA was Jordan’s dream school, but his life—and the opportunity to realize his dreams—was stolen from him and his family,” Richardson told The Root.
Both Bell and Richardson said that the scholarship fund was created to give students the opportunity to live out their dreams because Jordan no longer can.
Although the scholarship specifies that funds will be awarded to “deserving students,” Bell made it clear that “deserving” is about much more than grades and extracurricular activities.
“The concept of being deserving is so vast,” Bell said. “This isn’t just about how someone looks on paper, not just their GPA. But do they represent who Jordan was as a person? Do they understand—or are they trying to learn—about the systemic oppression that creates the environment where Jordan’s death can take place?
“The family created an essay question for the scholarship, and it really reflects the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he continued.
Richardson agreed, adding that supporting students and helping them navigate a racist society is critical.
“We wanted to help pave the way so that our leaders of tomorrow have the tools they need to create the change we need,” Richardson said. “It’s good to take it to the streets, but we also have to have people in positions to influence policy and legislation, to change the world on an institutional level. That’s what this scholarship is about.”
“We have to create space for our children to be supported in the fullness of their humanity,” Richardson continued. “We have to do what we can do to help them reach their goals. They deserve that. This scholarship fund is an entity that will last forever, and it’s one more tool that, at its core, can be used to keep our people alive.”
In an interview with The Root, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents the Edwards family, said, “The murder of Jordan Edwards represented not only a tragic loss to his family, but his death robbed our community of a valuable resource of potential.
“This scholarship fund is an ingenious mechanism for beginning to make up for that great loss, but it can’t end here,” Merritt continued. “We are pushing to get police reform legislation passed in Jordan’s name, a football stadium dedicated to his memory and above all a historical conviction in the Texas Criminal Courts for his murderer, Roy Oliver.”
As college costs continue to rise, Bell said that it was also important to him to lift the economic burden from students’ shoulders.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the community, cast, and Jordan’s love of life guiding the way,” Bell said. “I have learned that we must rely on each other for support.”
Click here to donate to the Jordan J. Edwards Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include interviews with the cast of Dear White People.