A CHAIN OF GREATNESS

Jasmine’s Story

 

by Nyemadi Dunbar

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of greatness often start before their time — a film, family member, or public figure that spoke to the essence of the story’s main character. For Jasmine Parker, that passed-down example of inspiration and greatness came from her mother.

 

 

 

Though Jasmine would not enter the medical field like her mother, she was determined to find her own way to ensure people had the nourishing ingredients that we all need in order to thrive, and to discover the greatness in ourselves. In that way, she’d carry on the example of giving that shaped her growing up. Jasmine Parker is now a mother herself, raising four sweet kids on St. Paul’s east side, each with their own take on life, and their own unique needs. 

 

In 2013, information arrived at her doorstep about 30,000 Feet (30k) — a program that provides arts education and technology apprenticeships as a first step to many levels of change. Jasmine seized the opportunity.

 

“There were no barriers”

 

says Jasmine, highlighting the warm accessibility of 30k’s initial outreach. Nine years later, Jasmine’s continued presence in the program is a nod to her way of “speaking up and out” for herself and in service to others.

Jasmine’s kids are a presence at 30k as well. Her daughter is the eldest; a high-schooler who excels in her studies and makes use of 30k’s internship program. Her two sons, middle-schoolers, are learning how to use their love of music to connect with their classroom studies. For them, 30k’s after-school academic support and art residencies have been positively impactful. The youngest of Jasmine’s children is a 7-month old who will no doubt be nurtured and supported down his own wonderful path.

 

Jasmine, a savvy risk-taker who likes seeing ideas through, feels at home on 30k’s concerned parents committee, mental illness board, and homelessness board. Through 30k, Jasmine feels better equipped to understand current events that affect her life and how mental health and homelessness impact one another.

 

Jasmine knows that people of color in Minnesota struggle with homelessness and lack of mental health support at disproportionate rates. But she didn’t need statistics to understand the importance of battling homelessness and working to bring mental health resources to St. Paul schools.

 

She’s lived the data points; enduring both issues and journeying to find the best way to understand and overcome barriers.

 

“I had instabilities that I was afraid to deal with or even let people know about because I wanted to make it appear that everything was okay,”

 

she says.

 

“But mental illness doesn’t look a certain type of way. It affects all of us.”

 

Jasmine’s goal is not only about seeing numbers of those affected by social ills or lack of resources decline. She wants to usher in a world where it “won’t be so uncommon or unheard of to see a group of young, Black women and men that are all for the community.” The pivotal presence of Jasmine’s mom that began a chain of greatness now flows through Jasmine to her children and greater community — both primed to thrive. Through Jasmine’s influence and 30k’s programming, new stories have begun:

 

 

Jasmine’s daughter is a positive presence and voice for her friends and classmates, channeling the greatness that has been passed down to her into her peers. If there’s something amiss, whether it’s bullying or other harmful happenings, Jasmine’s daughter is there to step in — pulling her strength from watching her mom buff down injustices daily.

 

 

Jasmine’s sons have become more vocal in standing up for themselves; rooted in a stronger sense of self through learning better social and emotional development at 30k’s after-school program. They’ve also turned into published artists in their own right. The two produced a song (from lyric to beat) on what they experienced following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in 2020. 30k was there to give them the support and space they needed to be creative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as Jasmine continues her efforts, parents are learning from her that “it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from” in order to push for (and achieve) wins like rent stabilization or learning how to best fight for issues close to one’s heart. Understanding and unpacking social issues is a give and take.

 

You can listen, but Jasmine also encourages people to not “take anyone else’s word and find out for yourself.”

 

Jasmine is crafting her own chapter of a story that connects people across time and generations, giving a community a place to beautifully be. She glows as she speaks on the bubbling potential of youth in Saint Paul. Looking for the next wave of great thinkers and doers? “We have them here,” she says. This idea fuels her tireless energy, and gives deep personal value to her efforts. “Children only know what they see and what we teach them,” Jasmine says. That’s why she shines her guiding light so brightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story was originally produced and published for 30,000 Feet by Pollen Studio.

 

 

 

 

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contributors

Nyemadi Dunbar
Nyemadi Louise Dunbar is a creative strategist and storyteller currently pursuing her MBA part-time at St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business. She has spent her career amplifying communications and strengthening operations for nonprofit organizations, small businesses and a tech company. Raised in Minneapolis, the daughter of Liberian immigrants, she is dedicated to eradicating oppression and destructive -isms toward seeing society fully realize itself as an inclusive, safe and welcoming place full of empowered people who have the access and opportunity to thrive. Consistently curious about the world – and galaxy – around her, she explores through travel, tunes, the collection of books, engaging in conversation and putting pen to paper. Nyemadi holds a special place in her life for physics, fashion and film photography.
Michael Kleber-Diggs
Michael Kleber-Diggs is a poet and essayist. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Poetry City, North Dakota Quarterly, Pollen Midwest, Paper Darts, Water~Stone Review and a few anthologies. He enjoys collaboration with visual artists. Michael is a past Fellow with the Givens Foundation for African-America Literature, a past-winner of the Loft Mentor Series in Poetry, and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Anoka County libraries. His work has been supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Michael is husband to Karen. Karen and Michael have a daughter who is an accomplished dancer.
David Williams
David Williams focuses on the ethical impacts of truthful, kind, and empowering narratives of personhood. He’s writing his PhD thesis and writing grant proposals and reports for a highly impact nonprofit that supports communities across Minnesota. David is delighted to play a role in telling stories that bring power to people, and he hopes to continue learning the forms of writing for empowerment.
Miku
Miku is a visual artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their distinctive illustrations are wondrous reflections of life's struggles, triumphs and everything in between. Art has played an integral role in Miku's quest to embrace their own identity and they create in hopes it may do the same for others. Their work ranges from printmaking, brand collaboration, exhibitions, pop-ups, personal projects and more.
Brandon Werth
Vagrancy of mind. Forever wandering paws, that leave impressions in moss carpeted floors as soft as a babies skull. I've been dreaming for many years and these images I get to create and cultivate mean more to me than I could ever put into words. You have to find something you love to do and do it for the rest of your life, for me it is these photographs. My ideas may be wild at times but my heart follows close.
Jerome Rankine
As Editorial Director, Jerome is the keeper of Pollen’s editorial voice and vision. He works with Pollen’s talented stable of writers to produce stories that entertain, enlighten, and invite readers to take action. Jerome spends a lot of time hunched over keyboards--either editing the latest Pollen feature, or composing music in his home studio. He’s active in local politics, less active on social media, and more active in his kitchen.
Idil Hashi
Idil holds a marketing degree from the University of St. Thomas and is the founder of Root Collective Consulting, a purpose-driven business strategy consulting firm. As a freelancer and solopreneur, Idil is dedicated to working with mission-driven brands, socially conscious businesses, and soulful entrepreneurs who want to create opportunities for aligned profitability. Idil splits her time between working in the healthcare sector as a program director, helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, and managing various creative projects as a freelancer. Over the years, she had the privilege to dip her toes in various industries; from non-profits to purpose-driven start-ups, to healthcare, to the sports industry, allowing her to work directly with the youth as a marketer and mentor: All for the betterment of love and community. During her spare time, you can find her riding her bike around the trails of South Mpls and stopping at every cafe she sees to get a taste of their iced coffee.
Melanie Walby
Melanie Walby is the Design Director of Pollen Midwest who joined our team after working at various ad agencies in Minneapolis. Her illustration, typography and design bring stories to life in collaboration with our freelance network of illustrators and photographers. Melanie’s work is driven by a deep understanding of how art and design moves people towards social change.