Just a few weeks ago, Baltimore residents celebrated the passage of an unprecedented $1.1 billion financing plan to rebuild and renovate city schools. Leading the charge to make this happen was the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC), a partnership of more than 25 schools, organizations, and religious institutions comprised of 3,000 parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders.
It was a feat of organizing tenacity worthy of a veteran education advocate. So you might be surprised to learn that a primary player behind this coup was a 26-year-old educator and law student, Yasmene Mumby. I say “might be surprised” because if you already know Yasmene, then you know that she gets the job done!
Yasmene, along with her BEC co-Chair, Jimmy Stuart, were able to galvanize the collective passion and commitment of this community and affect meaningful change. That ain’t easy to do.
My challenge with this intro is that I need to keep it succinct, yet I could go on and on about Yasmene and all of her accomplishments. So in the interest of brevity, I now present Yasmene’s prolific résumé in the length of a single tweet: Cochair @becforourkids, Dir. Cmty-Engagement @KIPPBaltimore, founder Team ORGANIZE, co-founder @theintersection, student @UMDLaw #driven
Who said tweeting can’t be an expressive form of prose?
Yasmene is a Baltimore girl through and through. A graduate of The McDonogh School, The Johns Hopkins University, and now a student at The University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law, she is using her excellent education to ensure that “all children in Baltimore City receive an excellent education.”
Keep up the amazing work Yasmene, and thanks a ton for answering our Talking GOOD questions.
1. IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? My purpose in life is to live presently and to travel the world honoring the light in every human being.
2. WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING? I get a sense of calm and existence. I feel as if I am contributing to the world, and valuing the time I have living.
3. HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU? This work has led me to my truer self. A giving self. I grew up in Baltimore and tied much of my identity to school work. What else was there to focus on from age 6 to 21? As soon as I graduated from college, I headed straight to West Baltimore to teach. Being a teacher, creating Team ORGANIZE, and now co-chairing the Baltimore Education Coalition have allowed me to focus my day around giving to others. I get that from my grandfather, Dr. Shirley (Rex) Clinton, my first best friend. He was a pediatrician in West Baltimore during the late 1960s to 1990s. My grandfather loved honoring West Baltimore’s growing families by bringing their new light into the world. He became a pediatrician because he’d rather bring new life into the world than risk losing one. I wanted to be like my grandfather, but I knew my weaknesses. So I decided to help bring new life into the world as a history teacher.
4. WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE? I absolutely look up to California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris, her classic grace and intellect. Attorney General Harris inspires me as I continue to develop as a law student and young woman in leadership. All the while, Harris seems grounded and modest. Quiet power. I’d like to ask her, from where did she learn her strength and resolve? And can we meet for coffee?
5. WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS? The Baltimore Education Coalition works because everyone voluntarily pitches in. We have no paid staff. This is a labor of passion and commitment for all involved. [SEE BELOW FOR A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF BEC AND WHO IS INVOLVED.] It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. We worked with 120+ parents, teachers, administrators, and community members to execute this 3,000 person rally for better school buildings in Baltimore City. We can use volunteer talent in many areas: oral historians, a website designer, bus transportation to and from events, printed materials, audio/visual stagers. You name it. Just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY? What was the moment when you realized your purpose in life? Are you fulfilling your purpose or running from it?
7. WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE? Don’t fight the universe! Life eventually falls into place. I am a person that NEEDS answers; I don’t really do well with uncertainty. So often I have to remind myself to stop searching and finding more to do. The path I am to walk is already laid out in front of me. I have to remind myself that I am where I am supposed to be. Remember, I have a problem with standing still!
8. TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC? If I’m not moving, involved in something worthwhile and uncharted, I feel wasteful … as if I am not maximizing life and its given experiences during the seconds, minutes, hours allotted. So I practice yoga to help me stand still and reflect. Yoga is the only thing that surrenders me.
9. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS? Be honest. Value other people. Share your appreciation for them. Recognize their collective work.
10. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER? QUESTION: Why are you still in Baltimore? ANSWER: I am one of the very few kids that stuck around Baltimore. Many of my friends from high school and undergrad could not wait to leave this town. And they did. I can’t. Every time in my life I have tried to leave and build my life somewhere else, Baltimore never lets me go. There have been moments and experiences that ground my commitment to Baltimore. It makes it hard to leave. I have never lived anywhere else. Yet.
More on the Baltimore Education Coalition (as written by Yasmene): The Baltimore Education Coalition is the broadest citywide linkage of 25 organizations working for Baltimore’s children. We have stopped over $100 million dollars in proposed cuts to city schools. We supported and won the bottle tax that will leverage $155 million for school construction. Most recently, we successfully advocated and won the passage of an unprecedented $1 billion financing plan to improve school facilities with 3,000 parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders for Baltimore City’s 85,000 students.
We are public schools, traditional, and charter. We are after-school programs and neighborhood associations. We are education policy organizations and religious institutions. We are: ACLU of Maryland, Advocates for Children and Youth, Afya Public Charter School, Baltimore Curriculum Project, BUILD, The Cathedral of the Incarnation, Child First Authority, City Neighbors Foundation Council, The Coalition of Baltimore Charter Schools, Community Law in Action, Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI), Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, Elev8 Baltimore, Greater Homewood Community Corporation, KIPP Baltimore, League of Women Voters of Baltimore City, Maryland Education Coalition, Mt. Washington Elementary/Middle, PTA Council of Baltimore, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Roland Park Elementary/Middle School Parents, School Social Workers in Maryland, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, and Supporting Public Schools of Choice.
• This article was originally posted at Talking GOOD, a series of interviews with “citizen philanthropists” who champion causes and lead by example. Talking GOOD was launched in 2012 by Rich Polt, principal of the Baltimore-based PR consultancy Communicate Good, LLC. To nominate someone for a Talking GOOD interview, please fill out this form, or email email@example.com.