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Rising Stars: Meet Jasmine Banks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jasmine Banks.

Hi Jasmine, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I was born in the Midwest and moved with my parents to the Inland Empire when I was one year old. As an only child, I was blessed to grow up on a cul-de-sac that wrapped its love around me until I left for college at 17. From a young age, I saw the beauty of having people that rally together and place an emphasis on looking after one another. Whether it was looking after each other’s kids, or supporting one another’s businesses, or stepping in moments of loss, or connecting over celebrated milestones, it was clear that together we were stronger. I was immersed in a culturally rich and diverse environment where families with different religious beliefs and racial and ethnic backgrounds all worked together to help our little village thrive. As a result, this little Black girl learned to value community, to pursue collective action, and wholeheartedly understand the power of diversity.

Unfortunately, I ignored my core value of community and service when I entered my business undergrad program. I thrived in classes and enjoyed the creatively focused courses but ended each day feeling empty. It was not until I joined different mentoring and volunteering opportunities with youth in South Central that I felt full and alive. I started to re-discover my love of community and began to explore my passion for equity work. I was privileged enough to work with students with a multitude of intersecting identities such as being a BIPOC, teenage mother, having a disability, and living in a low-socioeconomic area. Across the board, my students were energetic, intelligent, caring, and talented, yet because of their targeted identities, were dismissed and let down by the educational system. This caused me to open my eyes to my own lived experience in my K-12 experience while also building my critical consciousness of how this plays out for people from marginalized communities across the city, state and nation. From there, my passion for creating a just world for our youth emerged and I took the steps to make it my life’s work.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I actively work to create an affirming, inclusive, and liberatory experience for the students, families, and educators I partner with. However, pushing against the status quo is not easy. People have called me wild, mocked my beliefs, and have placed red tape on certain initiatives because they are not ready for change and I will even add are not willing to eliminate their own privileged state in service of the greater community. In order to combat the sound, I keep my circle tight with loved ones who uplift me when needed and hold me accountable when required. I also make the time to listen to my partners in equity of what they want and need so that decisions are community-centered. Finally, I practice self-care as a form of resistance. I make the time to do things outside of my purpose that bring me joy and elevate my spirit such as engaging in athletic challenges, spending time in nature, and writing poetry.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
On paper, my career would read as an educator. I have held roles such as a special education teacher, athletics coach, instructional coach, and principal. I am a self-proclaimed encourager and thought partner. At the core of my purpose and gift is inspiring youth and adults to unapologetically embrace their power from within and thus, explore and pursue their own journey of purpose.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
My favorite books include “Assata” by Assata Shakur, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” by Damon Young, and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. The app I currently enjoy is “Liberate” which is a meditation app facilitated by and made for BIPOC. My future favorite book will be the book of poetry that I am currently working on and will have published in a few months (stay tuned!).

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