Yasmine Tarr may only be 16 years old, but the issues she addresses as a leader of Youth 4 Black Lives have a widespread impact. A sophomore at Whitney M. Young High School, Tarr is the secretary of Youth 4 Black Lives, a nonprofit organization started by Eva Lewis. The organization was created after Lewis led a crowd of over 1,000 people to Millennium Park for a peaceful sit-in in 2016 to protest police shootings of people of color. Youth 4 Black Lives has a mixture of teenage and young adult members that come from all areas of Chicago.
What are some of your main responsibilities as a leader of Youth 4 Black Lives?
I’m the secretary, so I personally like to be accountable of myself and others. I have to send emails and reach out to people, but a lot of it is shared responsibility. So, when we’re all talking in a meeting, I’m writing our notes of what we’re getting done. I’m kind of the facilitator.
What problems does Youth 4 Black Lives address?
Right now, we’re focusing on harassment. We want to have an event where we can teach self-defense and also an event teaching black youth how to have safe sex. We try to have an influence on mayor candidates, so spreading information about that was important to us, too.
What kind of events or activities does Youth 4 Black Lives do?
We do an event called Block Party to help people in the area get ready for the school year where we give away school supplies. Before I joined, the older members spoke out at the Women’s March and did a lot of stuff with gun control. One of the main focuses of the organization was gun control, so they had a table talk with policemen. The last table talk we did was about mental health and combining that with photography.
What are your goals for this organization in the future?
Be able to have events without having to worry about money, and just being able to do stuff with ease. We’ll be wanting to host an event and then we’ll be like, “Wait, we can’t just have this event without getting an area to host it. Like, okay, that’s money, so let’s see who we know who can help us get this space,” and stuff like that.
What do you enjoy most about helping the community?
This summer, after we did Block Party, I felt really happy that I could help. That was a big part of something that actually helped others, and I never had experience doing that. I really enjoyed that feeling, being a part of a community and getting into activism. It helped me want to become more aware about things around me just to see how I can spread information to others.
Tell me about someone whose life was changed by your organization’s work?
Probably the kids we help. They have a good time at our events, and so do I. I know I’ve seen a lot of people have a good time. By being a part of this group, I feel like my life has been changed positively by this, too.
This story has been edited for clarity.