We first saw Yasmine Arrington at the BET Black Girls Rock taping in 2012. As the camera profiled the crowd, it would catch her bright eyes and charming smile several times. Her presence was as innocent as a child’s, unscathed by the brutal experiences of adulthood. Surely, all was well in her youthful world.
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But as the fun black girl power night continued, we would eventually hear Yasmine’s story—and it was far from the rosy picture we’d painted. Her father was (and remains) in and out of prison her entire childhood, and her mother passed away while she was just a freshman in high school. Life’s unpredictable deck of cards left Yasmine and her brothers to be raised by their grandmother, who she says is “my number one advocate.”
Through it all, however, she pressed through to tell her story and now helps children with similar journeys to tell theirs. Yasmine, at the time 19-years-old, was being honored at Black Girls Rock for ScholarCHIPS, a non-profit scholarship program she had started three years prior. ScholarCHIPS was designed to award Children of Incarcerated Parents (CHIPS), like Yasmine, financial assistance so that they could go to college.
Three years later, we still remember Yasmine’s story of resilience. BlackEnterprise.com tracked down the now 22-year-old college scholar to see how things were going, and we were inspired all over again.
“It was definitely difficult being the child of an incarcerated parent,” Yasmine says. “Of course that wasn’t anything that I talked about openly.” She remembers feeling sad and left out as her friends would brag on their fathers and parade them to daddy-daughter dances.
That emotional burden was coupled with a heavy financial weight as Yasmine saw her grandmother and mom try to make ends meet. “I watched my grandmother and mother, both single women, really struggling to pay all the bills and make sure my two younger brothers and I had all of our uniforms for school, books, school supplies, food, and the list goes on and on.”
Grieving the absence of a father, while also witnessing her family face a financial bind, only got tougher when her mother died. “I watched my mother for a number of years—she got really sick,” she says. “She had gotten gastric bypass surgery when we lived in California. That was a contributing factor to her health declining.” Depression followed, and Yasmine’s mother began drinking and smoking while taking “medication on top of medication” until she passed away. “I would just say that all of that together was emotionally draining and financially draining.”
Finish reading Yasmine’s story on the next page.