In Loving Memory: Ta’Aliyah Ayanna “Endego “Jones

by Jahaira M. DeAlto

Words are the most powerful tools we have. Until there are none. Until they wither at the back of your teeth.

Words failed me this morning. Epically.

I met Ta’Aliyah Ayanna Jones in 1996, and she was dressed head-to-toe in blue. I mean that literally. Her fingerwaves were blue, her Reeboks were blue. Head. To. Toe. Blue. Incidentally, her showgirl name was Endego Blue. I was fascinated with her from the moment I met her. I would’ve followed her to the ends of the earth. As our friendship grew, I at least followed her to the ends of the Orange Line.

Our adventures shaped my youth in so many ways. I ended up watching Tracy Chapman perform in the Pit at Harvard Square because Endego announced that since she’d never really been to Cambridge, we were going to go. We stole catsuits from a secondhand shop on Newbury Street for a performance at Club Café. We ate pad thai because she wanted to try something she’d never had before.

We live in a world now where self-promotion is currency. If it doesn’t find its way onto social media, it might as well never have happened. Endego was the polar opposite of that school of thought. It didn’t matter to her that at 16 years old, she spoke of the trans youth experience to a group of grad students at Harvard University. Or that at 17 years old, she got on a plane (for the first time) to Chicago to facilitate a group at the Ryan White National Youth Conference on HIV/AIDS. Or that when Boston’s burgeoning Ballroom scene was waning, she took it upon herself to find sponsorship and throw a Ball with no previous experience. She saw an injustice somewhere, a need somewhere else, and she filled it. No fanfare required. We’re talking about a woman who decided in her 30’s that a few college courses might be good, and ended up with a Master’s Degree. That’s just who she was.

If life exists beyond this plane of existence, I choose to believe that two people were waiting to greet Ta’Aliyah when she completed her journey. Her cherished and beloved grandmother, Ella Louise, and Boston’s own Rita Hester – Ta’Aliyah’s personal hero and possibility model.

So take your rest, Ta’Aliyah Ayanna “Endego” Jones. The world may not know your legacy, but we do. And because we do, your memory will live forever.

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