Mike Melton (center)and his basketball youth mentees. Image: Jajhira Photography

In a world that fails to validate our existence and seeks to make monoliths out of our varied lived experiences, our community has an obligation to speak truth to power and share our authentic stories in all of their complexities. It is through sharing our journeys that we hold ourselves accountable for each other, bringing us greater empathy for the human experience, and preventing the erasure of our collective struggles. 

In September 2009, Jonelle Melton, a 33-year-old middle school teacher, was found dead in her home in Neptune City, New Jersey. Although the three men responsible for her death were eventually identified and brought to justice, her husband Mike Melton, who not only found her but was falsely targeted as a primary suspect, has had to live with the residual damage of this loss for over a decade. Not allowing this tragedy to define him, Melton has found purpose in sharing his story of triumph over immense loss, and is inspiring the next generation through the joy of basketball.  

EBONY spoke with the community hero about his search for justice, the road to healing and the power of giving back.

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