BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Nicole Bell has come a long way since she tragically lost her fiancé the night before their wedding.
Though it has been nearly seven years since an unarmed Sean Bell was shot and killed by undercover police officers in the Jamaica section of Queens, Nicole is determined to keep his legacy alive and ensure his death was not in vain.
In 2007, just one year after the shooting incident, Nicole began the nonprofit, “When it’s Real it’s Forever.” Its initial goal, she said, was to support the community that she and Sean grew up in.
“I felt that I needed to support the community that supported me at a time when we really felt that we had lost all hope,” she said.
The nonprofit began as a baseball league, the Sean Bell Little League, and has since expanded to include the Sean Bell basketball team and a number of after school programs.
“We are trying to give back to the kids of the underserved community,” she said. “I grew up in that community and I know programs are being cut, after school programs are being cut and at the end of the day, the children need an outlet.”
In addition to helping the children in Southeast Queens, Nicole and her nonprofit continue to devote their energy into seeking justice for Sean and all fallen victims of at the hands of police officers.
Every year since 2007, “When it’s Real, it’s Forever” holds a Sean Bell Family Fun Day and “Ride 4 Justice” – a motorcycle, car and SUV motorcade for auto clubs, giving the community and Sean’s family a moment to reflect.
“When Sean passed away, we wanted to let people know that we haven’t forgotten and that this is in recognition of all victims of senseless violence,” Nicole said.
The “Ride 4 Justice” will tour a number of landmark sites in Sean’s life. The riders will begin at Baisley Park, the park Sean frequented in his youth, then make their way to Sean Bell Way, where he was killed, and finish at Nassau Knolls Cemetery, where he was laid to rest.
The Sean Bell Family Fun Day, which will be held that same day, was an event in Jamaica that had been going on for years and renamed in his honor.
“He would often go to these small community events in the neighborhood,” Nicole said. “It was an event where Sean and his friends would get together in Baisley Park. We wanted to continue to do exactly what he had been doing when he was alive. It’s day of family, it’s a day of community, it’s a day of fun and there will be a lot of free activities for the kids.”
As Nicole prepares for yet another year without Sean, the father of her two children, she said the event serves as a gentle, yet bittersweet reminder of how far she has come.
“It’s truly a blessing because six-and-a-half years ago I really didn’t know how I was going to be able to pull myself together but being active was my therapy. Raising my daughters helped me realize that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “My daughters are a mirror reflection of their father and when I hold these events and when the community comes together, it truly brings joy to me.”
Registration for the “Ride 4 Justice” will be held this Saturday, Aug. 24, at 10 a.m. at the Baisley Park Extension, located at the intersection of 150th Street and North Conduit Avenue. Tickets are $5.
The Sean Bell Family Fun Day is scheduled to begin at noon at Baisley Park and is free.
For more information about “When it’s Real, it’s Forever” or to learn how you can donate, visit www.wirif.org.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com or @nkozikowska