J. DillaJames Yancey was taken away from us in February 2006. Taken by a disease that neither his mind nor body was able to defeat. Now we can’t fight the tears that run down our faces whenever we think, talk or read about the man known to his fans as J.Dilla, a musician out of the ordinary, a genius with a passion larger than life. The disease that took him from us is called Lupus and although his fans are now familiar with the name, most still don’t know what it really is.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain. Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies, to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials. These foreign materials are called antigens.
In an autoimmune disorder like lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against itself. These antibodies — called “auto-antibodies” (auto means ‘self’) — cause inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body.”

We cannot bring James Yancey back. But what we can and should do is keep his memory alive and most importantly help the victims who now deal with the pain that Lupus brings. Whether it’s the ones who were diagnosed to have it, or their families and friends who hurt just as much. It is our responsibility to help, to bring awareness.
And that is what James Yanceys family is doing now. They formed a project to raise money for the research of the disease Lupus and to help the victims. I believe this is of a very high significance, so I had a talk with J.Dillas uncle Herm and his cousin Shon, for them to tell us about their project, their personal memories of a lost family member and what we can do to help.

James Yancey was taken away from us in February 2006. Taken by a disease that neither his mind nor body was able to defeat. Now we can’t fight the tears that run down our faces whenever we think, talk or read about the man known to his fans as J.Dilla, a musician out of the ordinary, a genius with a passion larger than life. The disease that took him from us is called Lupus and although his fans are now familiar with the name, most still don’t know what it really is.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain. Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies, to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials. These foreign materials are called antigens.

In an autoimmune disorder like lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against itself. These antibodies — called “auto-antibodies” (auto means ‘self’) — cause inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body.”

We cannot bring James Yancey back. But what we can and should do is keep his memory alive and most importantly help the victims who now deal with the pain that Lupus brings. Whether it’s the ones who were diagnosed to have it, or their families and friends who hurt just as much. It is our responsibility to help, to bring awareness.
And that is what James Yanceys family is doing now. They formed a project to raise money for the research of the disease Lupus and to help the victims. I believe this is of a very high significance, so I had a talk with J.Dillas uncle Herm and his cousin Shon, for them to tell us about their project, their personal memories of a lost family member and what we can do to help.

Please tell me about your Lupus project?

UNCLE HERM: At this moment we are a Project designed to raise funds and awareness and walk to find a cure for lupus.

SHON: The “J.Dilla Project” began as a team of family, friends, and fans of J.Dilla to come together to participate in a Walk-aThon to help in the fight and research of the disease Lupus. We anticipated that many others would join the team or join us in the cause because of the many, many lives that this disease has affected and even taken away.
While this was especially important to our family we also want others who have lost family and friends to know that they are not alone and that there are some people out there who have decided to stand up and not appear as though one day Lupus will just go away if we continue to act as if it doesn’t exist.

When did you start it and what are your expectations towards it?

UNCLE HERM: I first started it last summer, so it’s been almost a year. At first I was just offering help to Alliance by volunteering my services. I did not know that I would be organizing a team in his honour. Right now we can only expect that we raise awareness of this disease as well as supporting the efforts to keep Jay’s legacy alive! It’s hard to expect much more because we are not funded; we have paid for t-shirts, travel, hotel, etc….with our own money…I have ideas and hopes but until we have financial support….we can only be a walk and fundraising team……..

SHON: This “much needed mission” I like to call it, began just months after my cousins passing when we formed the team and our family participated in the first Walk with the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) that took place in the Atlanta, GA metropolitan area on September 30th of last year‚Ķ2006.
…Our expectations are simply to just be successful in getting people to understand the affect Lupus has had on us as a people…just how long it has been accepted or has appeared to be accepted as a part of the world…or JUST A PART of that persons life who has or is being victimized by it and almost without saying in plain words to them…but nevertheless relaying a message that THIS IS NOW A PART OF YOUR LIFE …deal with it…and since we have no answers to date then we just HAVE TO WORK AROUND IT AND YOU HAVE TO LIVE LIFE AS BEST YOU CAN AROUND IT!
~~~~Totally Unacceptable to me!
This is why oftentimes when I hear myself or others say we’d like to bring about the Awareness of Lupus‚ĶI am instantly and sadly reminded that many of us have not been completely in the dark and “Unaware” of it’s existence. Myself included. Many of us, have at least heard rumours‚Ķif not directly been affected‚Ķby the aftermath of what it COULD DO‚Ķ Surely our number one tool after we have come together is “Research”, but right now it is most important that we ALL stand up and say aloud that Lupus is in fact HERE‚Ķand stop pretending that it isn’t because we do not have the answers or even the information we need to know about it to get closer to finding those answers.
At some point we have to KNOW that coming together standing tall together IS the first step in getting the information we need to get the end result that I know we will one day have…BUT not until we say enough and bring Lupus to light, so to speak, and get people to at least talk about it more…
I want people to make mention of it to their doctors…I want schools to educate on what we do know as of date to be fact about the disease…and I want our Government to stand with us and assure us that they too care…and come aboard as well.
If we don’t appear to care‚Ķthen we have just accepted Lupus as a part of the world‚Ķor a part of life itself‚Ķbecause it’s not as though anyone is exempt!!! And that alone is enough‚Ķthat says this IS EVERYBODY”S FIGHT!!!

Whom are you trying to reach?

UNCLE HERM: Of course we are trying to reach his fans but anyone that will support us in our quest to find a cure.

SHON: Everyone…no particular race…no particular gender…and no specific financial status of individuals! Doctors, Lawyers, Policeman, Janitors, the deaf, the blind, the handicap…absolutely everyone!
Leaders‚Ķwhomever you are‚ĶI challenge you to “Lead by example”‚Ķ

J. DillaLets talk about James or J.Dilla, as his fans know him. Please share your thoughts about your nephew and why it is so important to keep his memory alive.

UNCLE HERM: For me it’s all about respect…he was always very respectful to me and looked up to me…. so I got to give him the same respect back……to the rest of the world and his fans it is now more than ever important to put a positive spin on what Hip hop can do while recognizing true legend in the music industry.

Very true. Do you believe he set an example for Hip Hop artists how to make it real music instead of just posing?

UNCLE HERM: Of course he did….he raised the bar of creativity……you’ve got all these electronic devises replacing instruments ….so he took them back to being instruments.

Shon, what are your thoughts on your cousin James and why should people be reminded of whom he was?

SHON: Again, who he was as a person and all he’d become and more importantly‚ĶNOT BECOME! ~ In spite of the world and all it’s demons‚Ķis reason enough!!!‚ĶBut because of all who wanted to do things differently‚Ķ. who have a dream‚Ķwho lived or live in a place, raised in a family that believed, or even just plainly told‚Ķ”it’ll never happen to you!” or it doesn’t ever happen to people like you” is why‚Ķ
they are why‚Ķwe must keep his memory alive! Lupus took my cousins life‚Ķbut the inspiration he gave and the hearts he touched is what we’ll use to fight it! To be rid of it!
~~~If he had the opportunity to be with us now…or if he had lived the longest life possible…it must be known…it must be clear…that he made a difference in many…
He made a difference in me.
I know what James meant to us as a family…but to know, to see, to hear, to touch and talk with others and know the impact he made on them……..
I KNOW I would still be standing proud to keep his memory alive because I know he changed the world already… I know he was setting the stage for us to continue the change in his name…in his honor.
I really cannot tell you how proud I am to be here…
Strangely just saying that aloud I realize that as many a conversations I have held to myself and the many times I have spoke aloud to him…I never said that,… and it now brings tears to my eyes to know he heard me say and truly mean… I AM GLAD TO BE HERE doing just this.

How did James deal with Lupus and how did it affect your family?

UNCLE HERM: I wasn’t physically around him much over the last few years but knowing him and talking to him he dealt with it like he dealt with the streets of Detroit, the negative deals throughout his career, as well as the success and the finer things in life…. money, travels…. most of all fans…. everything was on an even pace…He was a very shy and humble person…never got too excited and always felt grateful for anything …I think that had a lot to do with my sister raising them firmly and in the church. Yet letting him explore his surrounding and the culture that he was about to help explode…And I can truly say that it affected our hearts mostly because we were all so proud of him and his accomplishments…
There was a lot of us in and out of the entertainment field, we were just happy that one of us made it…We never stayed focused you know…kids, jobs, drugs, and just not our time…. but James stayed focused and became consumed in being a student of his craft. So it was a let down in one sense but has inspired some things in others including myself

SHON: Our family was…and still is in somewhat a state of shock by this. What Lupus is and what it does…what it did…
And then… Who James was… this is still very new in my heart…and I am sure each and every family member would say the same. We have a very close family and our love for one another is always visible to each of us…and the rest of the world… and even to this very day when we talk about the unlimited amount of memories each of us have of and with James…or just who he was as a person…I can see and feel that we each are uncertain at that moment if the other can handle the conversation, or share the moment without it being too much…too soon. And nearly 2 years later I do not anticipate the change to come about soon. WE knew he was special…WE love God for allowing us to have him a part of our lives but we also know and understand that he in many ways have made a difference in our own personal lives, our life as a family, as well as the lives of friends, fans, and people who he or we do not even know that have been touched, influenced, and positively directed by him. Knowing this means everything to us…and pushes us more and more to continue his legacy and continue making that difference.

So you started the “Walk for Dilla” project to raise money for research on a possible cure for Lupus, right?

UNCLE HERM: Walking for Dilla as I said started out with me walking for Dilla by myself and it is much more than I expected, so not only raising money I am also planning volunteer trips to the lupus centre in Pittsburgh with different teams every trip…. I would like to do something for kids and M.P.C training…not just learning but also becoming Dillalogist.

That sounds like a lovely idea! What can people do to help? And how can they become a part of this?

UNCLE HERM: Some artist are putting some things together and will donate some proceeds to A.L.R.I will personally be at the Raleigh, N.C walk on Oct.6th…. join me at in Atlanta Oct.20th…http://walk.lupusresearch.org/goto/uncle.herm and L.A o Nov.17th at http://walk.lupusresearch.org/goto/herm.inLA.
We need walkers, donations, volunteers and sponsors…we also need virtual walkers, we need his overseas fans to sign up on our team and get together and walk one day or when we walk…. we need numbers to show what this man can continually give to this world. We need donations of course $1.00…maybe $5.00 and if you don’t have that…just sign up…If we could get help with t-shirts we would mail them to our European friends.

SHON: Stay with US! Join US! Walk beside us…be there on November 17th…
Go to: www.lupusresearch.org and join the J.Dilla Project team…be there and again stay with us through this mission…this will be something we all will be proud to say we were a part of !!!

How can somebody from another country join the team? And how does the virtual walk work?

UNCLE HERM: Just join through my team pages or through www.lupsresearch.org virtual walkers are someone who cant make it to the walk, are unable to walk, or who will just go for a walk on that day or any day for Dilla…you can make online donations…and we could mail you lupus footprints with the J. Dilla Project stamp on it…. for record stores, hip hop shops, etc. walk them on the walls and jus ask or $1.00 donations. You know…. just help…also the myspace pages need to be forwarded all over Europe…J.Dilla Project /Uncle Herm/Shon/Brantron/Tianna…. we need exposure

And have people spread the word.

UNCLE HERM: Exactly

What are any future events regarding your project?

SHON: We are working on many projects…we have some huge things in the making and have plans of keeping all informed.
We are however asking all to please join the “J.Dilla Project” team in our Walk for Lupus‚ĶWalk 4 Dilla‚Ķ to take place in California on November 17, 2007. We have teams being formed all over the world and we thank all of you who have taken part or even just nodded your head in appreciation of our efforts!!! We do thank you so very much.
This Walk will be huge!!! While our entire family wishes we all could present for each Walk‚Ķwe have planned to make this one of the many that all of our schedules must allow!!! We can’t wait to meet and greet you all and thank you personally for being a part of this much-needed mission and for caring!
…Again we expect the turnout and participation to overwhelming with all that have already taken a part thus far, to include sponsors, colleagues of J.Dilla, and people who have decided to EXPECT and MAKE CHANGE IN THIS LIFE will all be there in astounding numbers…and it WILL in fact be monumental!!!

Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

UNCLE HERM: Yes first of all Jay Dee has two daughters…they are going to have to be checked now and then to make sure they are safe…. we are asking for prayer…and we are asking the hip hop communities around the world to represent someone who represented hip hop until his very last breath…and instead of toasting with the bubbly, or a blunt…. have a donut for the Dawg…(next time…story of the donut)

Thank you very much for your time

UNCLE HERM: You’re very welcome…

Please visit Uncle Herm on http://www.myspace.com/disfadilla or Shon at http://www.myspace.com/shonsspot
YOU can help!