How to Keep the Memory of Slain Friends Alive

How to Keep the Memory of Slain Friends Alive

Two years after their devastating murder, Michael Muchioki and Nia Haqq live on through the efforts of one of their closest friends

How to Keep the Memory of Slain Friends Alive

Michael Muchioki and Kenneth Simpson

doing it anymore. If you want to do it, let’s do it. 

EBONY: Do you think you would still be involved in the community at this level if you didn’t have to suffer through this loss?

KS: I think definitely the things I'm doing now in my community would've happened eventually, but because of their deaths, it just happened a lot sooner. It gave me the confidence to ask a Mayor for an appointment to a city commission.  It gave me the confidence to talk to anyone on any scale when before I always second guessed myself. Now, if I want to talk to someone, what's the worst you can say to me? “No?” 

Now, I’ve got two communities to look out for, his hometown of Jersey City and mine, Paterson. As long as I’ve got the energy to do it, I'm going to do it. 

EBONY: What would you say is the most significant thing that Mike taught you?

KS: He taught me how to be a people person. He taught me that the way you interact with a person is the way you’ll be judged. He never had an enemy and he greeted everybody the same way, from janitor to the CEO. He always had this infectious spirit about him that made you want to get to know him. I make an effort to always smile and be upbeat because that how he was. 

EBONY:  Do you have any words for the assailants? Is there anything that would bring you peace in the midst of this terrible tragedy?

KS:  Well, I've been at the pretrial hearings and I saw each one of them individually and looked them in their eyes. I would hope that justice will be served. To the guy [who has been accused of killing not only Mike and Nia, but three other young people as well, in less than three months] a lot of people ask, “Are you mad? Are you mad at him?” I can't be mad at any one of them because they didn't know Mike and Nia.  They wouldn’t have done this if they knew Mike and Nia. They didn't even know them and they are going to sit in jail for the rest of their lives. They're going to be mad at themselves for the rest of their lives. They're going to stay forever young, stuck in 2010. So I just focus on keeping Mike and Nia’s memory alive. 

EBONY: What do you hope the Foundation will be able to achieve?

KS: I want people to learn that it doesn't matter where you come from, you can achieve anything.  Mike was from Jersey City, I'm from Paterson and we both became successful Black men. Nia was a young, Black girl from Trenton and she ended up working at Nickelodeon. I want young Black people to see you can do whatever you want to do. 

In the future, I'd like the Foundation to work with Jersey City more and get more community service projects going in Jersey City.  Once we strengthen our scholarship funding, we’ll increase our community service portion. We have a three-pronged approach to keep their memory alive:  scholarship, community service, and mentoring. I envision our scholars coming back after they’ve received their awards and mentoring the next year’s recipients.  

But for now, Delta’s Restaurant in New Brunswick [where the couple had their engagement dinner] created the LoveMikeNia Martini, which we use to raise money for our Memorial Scholarship Fund at our annual scholarship fundraiser held at the restaurant.  The martini can also be requested by name throughout the year. And the foundation was able to get the street Mike grew up on in Jersey City renamed “Michael Muchioki Way.” So, for his mother to be able to write her son’s name down when she writes her address, that's just very powerful.  We also were successful in getting Nia’s name mentioned in the official resolution for the street renaming, which was unanimously approved by the Jersey City Council. Both Mike and Nia’s story will forever be recorded within the history of Jersey City.

EBONY: Since “just tell my story,” was an inside joke you and Mike often used to say to each other, what would you have wanted Mike to say about you if the tragedy had been reversed?

KS: If the situation was reversed, he'd say I was greedy for knowledge but not stingy with knowledge. I love sharing knowledge with people. And I want to be remembered for that and for being a positive person living my life in a positive way, just like Mike.  

Late last month, Latonia Bellamy, the first of the three assailants, was tried and found guilty of murdering Mike and Nia. She faces 30 years to life imprisonment when she is sentenced in September.  For the latest updates, follow LoveMikeNia on Facebook and to donate to the tax-deductible scholarship

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