In Memory of DAWNN JAFFIER from Boston: Her Life, Her Legacy

 

Boston, Massachusetts — Recently, Hundreds of people in Boston gathered in memory of slain teacher, mentor and role model Dawnn Jaffier.  Dawnn was a young Caribbean-American woman who led a life devoted to service, youth empowerment and youth advocacy.  Two years ago, on the morning of August 23rd 2014, she was killed by a stray bullet while participating in the J’ouvert Celebration during the annual Boston Caribbean Festival.  She was caught in the crossfire between young Black men who had a conflict with one another and was an innocent bystander in the matter.

Copyright 2016 by Teofilo Colon Jr. (a.k.a. “Tio Teo”).  All Rights Reserved. Telephone: (646) 961-3674.

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Last year, I wrote a posting for the Being Garifuna website alerting the public to a Boston memorial that was being planned by Dawnn Jaffier’s family marking one year since her tragic passing, which I was able to attend. A heart-wrenching memorial, I had been meaning to write about it, but never got around to doing so.   Speeches at the Memorial by Charlie Rose, Dawnn’s boss at National Service Organization, City Year; Dawnn’s friend Anim Aweh and her long-time boyfriend Joel Pires I found to be emotionally stirring.

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of City Year Boston

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of City Year Boston

While I did not know Dawnn and never had the opportunity to meet her, I was moved upon reading and learning about her inspiring life.  I HAD to meet the family that produced this dynamic, impactful young woman.   Also tears continue to stream down my cheeks as I think about Dawnn Jaffier.   As opposed to focusing on Dawnn’s tragic death, I will focus on her life.

The text from the program of her memorial last year details that Dawnn Jaffier was born on February 28th 1988.   The first and only daughter born to Ian J. Jaffier Sr and Althea Jaffier.  Dawnn made it a priority to be present in the lives of all her family members and was in attendance for every major event in their lives to celebrate their successes.  Family was a staple foundation in her life.

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Dawnn’s unique heritage consisted of Grenadian, Belizean Garifuna, Curacao/Trinidadian and Honduran heritages where Spanish, African and French/Dutch patois encompassed her rich understanding of the world and a deep appreciation of multi-cultural dialects.  Dawnn took pride in celebrating her ancestry and was an active participant in Boston’s annual Caribbean Day Festival.  She played traditional mas in full regale costume and excitedly participated in the local West Indian / Caribbean Communities for several years.  NOTE: To be clear, Dawnn’s Father is Grenadian and Trinidadian by way of London and Dawnn’s Mother is a Belizean Garifuna woman whose own mother is from Tela, Honduras.

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of Gofundme

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER in various Carnival outfits. Photo courtesy of Gofundme

Dawnn was a resident of Dorchester, and grew up in Allston/Brighton.   She attended the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on a four year scholarship, where she was a member of the Student Bridges and the Black Student Union and majored in Sociology.

In reading about Dawnn’s life last year, it’s evident that she led life devoted to service and making a difference.  To that end, Dawnn was an active member of the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Allston, Massachusettes, where she was a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, Brian J. Honan Fellowship, Keystone Club along with many other activities.

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of City Year Boston

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of City Year Boston

Dawnn was a proud member of her beloved West End Boys & Girls Club and she spent her time participating in any and all activities the Club had to offer.  Dawnn spread her influence across the City of Boston and touched the lives of many–especially the young people she mentored.  Her time at the Club opened her eyes and heart to what would ultimately become her life’s passion: youth empowerment and advocacy.

Here is a video tribute to Dawnn Jaffier courtesy of the West End Boys & Girls Club of Boston.

Dawnn spent a year of service with City Year at the Tobin School in Roxbury.  She then joined Playworks based out of the Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.  Dawnn continued working at the school as a staff of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.  Affectionately called, “Coach Dawnn”; she inspired Boston youth to serve one another with civic pride, instill positive change in the community and always have fun.  She was an inspiration to many and her legacy will live on in the hearts of all those who knew and loved her.

Not only was Dawnn a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, but she also worked for them.  In fact, Dawnn Jaffier was subject to a brief tribute In the opening pages of the 2014 Annual Report for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston.  Mr. Carl Thompson, Executive Director of Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club and former Director of Hennigan Club–Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston explained,

” ‘Coach Dawnn’, as she was affectionately called, was my first employee at the Hennigan Club.  I hired her as my Group Leader and she worked mostly with the 10 and 11 year olds.  Dawnn was passionate about helping young people and worked tirelessly to ensure that the members at our Club were safe and had a fun and positive experience after school.  What I will remember most about Dawnn was her smile.  It was so infectious that it lit up a room. ”

“I will remember her desire and ability to connect with young people because it was beautiful to watch.  And last, I will remember her passion to serve the communities of Boston because it was awe-inspiring.”

“What Dawnn did was not a job to her, but her life’s work.  These are the things that will live on and that no one act of violence can take away from her legacy.  Dawnn added the magic that permeated through the Hennigan Club and the Club would not have nearly been the same if she wasn’t a part of it.  With many, many others, I count it a privilege to have known Dawnn and I will miss her dearly.”   — MR. CARL THOMPSON, Executive Director of Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club and former Director of Hennigan Club–Boys & Girls of Boston

In an interview with Chris Lovett of BNN News (Video Below); Dean and Senior VP of City Year, Mr. Charlie Rose talked about his experience with Dawnn Jaffier.  Again, note his detailed running down of Dawnn’s qualities and what made her so effective with Boston youths.

“There’s been a lot of people that have come through City Year in the last 25 years and she was one of the shining lights.  She was funny, she was smart, she was real, she was great with people, she was amazing with kids.  She had this amazing energy and charisma.  I’m not supposed to have favorites, but she’s one of my all-time favorites.”

“Dawnn had her priorities straight.  She could have done anything she wanted.  Dawnn was incredibly talented and incredibly smart.  But she had a passion.  A passion for community, a passion for bringing people together.  She knew she had a gift with children, with young people.  She was tough, but she showed love.  So what’s going on is she was following her passion.  Dawnn was one of the greatest role models that I have ever met. ”

“Dawnn was drawn to what you might consider the tougher kids.  Who you might look at and think, or feel like, because of their behavior, that they needed more attention.  That they were acting out just to get attention.  Dawnn recognized that.  Dawnn was brilliant with them.  She was MAGIC with them.  I saw it at the after school program at the Tobin in Mission Hill.   I saw it in her work at Playworks.  She had this command and presence where kids really wanted her to bring structure to their lives and help guide them.    Help them make good decisions.” — Mr. Charlie Rose, Dean and Senior VP of City Year. 

Below is a City Year Tribute Video to Dawnn Jaffier.  In it, we hear from Dawnn herself as she explains why she serves.  After her passing, City Year released a statement stating,

“The entire City Year community mourns the tragic passing of Dawnn Jaffier.  Dawnn was a cherished member of the 2010-11 City Year Boston corps serving in the Maurice J. Tobin School.  Dawnn loved working with children and they loved her.  We are heartbroken by her loss but inspired by her life.  Her dedication as a City Year AmeriCorps member to improve the lives of the students she served so passionately will always be a source of inspiration to all of us.” — City Year.

 

In the aftermath of Dawnn’s tragic passing, The Jaffier Family has taken steps to ensure that her life’s work will forever be remembered and that the general public will be aware of her legacy.  The last two years, there have been Memorial Celebrations at the West End Boys & Girls Club of Boston.  Family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, elected officials, etc all gather to remember the life of this dynamic young lady.    Below are Boston news reports from the 2015 and 2016 Memorial Celebrations for Dawnn Jaffier.

2016 Boston Memorial for Dawnn Jaffier.

In 2016, Dawnn’s brother, Ian Jaffier Jr, ran in the Boston Marathon in her memory.  Below is a short video on Ian Jaffier Jr training for the Boston Marathon as well as a Boston News Report on the matter.

Boston News Report on the 2016 Boston Marathon.

Finally, In 2015, The Jaffier Family founded the Light of Dawnn Awards.  Held at the end of February around the time of Dawnn’s birthday on February 28th, the Light of Dawnn Awards honors Youth Leaders who are making a difference in the city of Boston by providing exposure and recognition of their unique contributions to society.

Jenny Nute, West End House Boys & Club Program Director

Ian Jaffier Sr and Ian Jaffier Jr

Blake Jordan, Highland Street Foundation Executive Director

David Shapiro, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Chairman of the Board — CEO and President of MENTOR

All spoke about the inception of the Light of Dawnn Awards.   The first Light of Dawnn Award Honorees were:

Vanessa Lewis — West End House Boys and Girls Club Leadership and Life Skills Coordinator

Frank Coleman — Friends of the Children Boston Adolescent Program Manager

Reginald Jean — Team Director of the YMCA of Greater Boston, Dorchester Branch

A mural was created by West End House Boys & Girls Club Artist Oscar Aquino and was unveiled at the first Light of Dawnn Awards.

 

In the 2016 Light of Dawnn Awards, Three community leaders involved in service based non-profit organizations throughout Boston received Light of Dawnn Awards and $5,000 Grants.  This year’s Light of Dawnn honorees were:

Latiana Appleberry — My Life, My Choice, provides support for girls who have been sexually exploited.

Kendall Bruce — Boston Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program,  helps victims of violence and their family in the recovery at Boston Medical Center

Tim Bulla — St. Francis House, helped hundreds of people out of homelessness

Three Boston High School Seniors received $5,000 each in the first-ever Light of Dawnn college scholarships.  Recipients of the 2016 Light of Dawnn Scholarships include:

Rachel Kalombo

Shaina Omoroghomwan

Kerimal Guerrero

Click on the link to see PHOTOS from the 2016 Light of Dawnn Awards.

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of Gofundme

Slain Caribbean American from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER. Photo courtesy of Gofundme

Donations can be made to these youth-based organizations

West End House Boys & Girls Club
Gifts in honor/memory of Dawnn Jaffier can be made online at
www.westendhouse.org/donate.taf

In addition, gifts can be made by mail to
West End House,
105 Allston Street
Allston, MA 02134

Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston
Gifts in honor/memory of Dawnn Jaffier can be made online at
www.bgcb.org

In addition, gifts can be made by mail to the
Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston
50 Congress Street,
Suite 730,
Boston, MA 02109

City Year
To make a donation in memory of Dawnn to City Year Boston, visit
www.cityyear.org/boston/support-us

In addition, gifts can be made by mail to
City Year, Boston
287 Columbus Avenue
Boston, MA 02116

Being Garifuna extends its continued heartfelt condolences to the Jaffier family.  May Dawnn Jaffier’s life continue to inspire.  It was reading about her considerable accomplishments and undeniable impact that drew the admiration of Garifuna American guy from New York City and compelled him to travel to Boston to meet the family that produced this unforgettable young woman with a smile that could light up a room.  May Dawnn Jaffier continue to Rest In Peace.

ABOUT The Garifuna People

The Garifuna people are people of African descent (in other words, Black people) whose ancestry can be traced to Africans mixing with Carib Indians and Arawak Indians on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent.  From this cultural fusion of race and ethnicities in St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.

The Garifuna (then known as The Black Caribs) are noted for not only being the main source of resistance against European expansion into the Lesser Antilles over the course of over 150 years, but also being one of the few (only?) peoples of African descent (again, in other words, Black people) in the Americas to have maintained aspects of their ancestral culture and full use of their ancestral language for everyday use over the course of hundreds of years.

After being defeated in war with the British on St. Vincent in 1796; 1004 men,  1779 women and 1,555 children for a total of 4,338 people (mostly Black Caribs, as the Garifuna people were then known) were captured and taken to Baliceaux, a small island, a rock, basically, off the coast of St. Vincent.  This took place from July 1796 through February/March 1797.  About 2,000 Garifunas died of a mysterious and very infectious fever while living on Baliceaux awaiting their fate.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

In early March 1797, the remaining Garifunas were loaded onto the HMS Experiment and other ships.  Once they were rounded up, the convoy were taken to a Bequia, which is another island off the coast of St. Vincent. They proceeded to go to Grenada to get water, then Jamaica for refueling, then finally Roatan, Honduras, arriving on April 12th 1797.

Finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned officials representing Spain and it’s government (which controlled much of Central America at the time) to be allowed to move to the Honduran mainland.  Upon being allowed to move to the Honduran mainland, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797. Subsequently, the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.

Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Miami and Boston.  Despite their mainly Spanish surnames, their culture and history are distinct from other Afro-American and Latino ethnic groups and it’s important to keep that in mind.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

Slain Caribbean American Youth Advocate from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER.

Slain Caribbean American Youth Advocate from Boston, DAWNN JAFFIER.

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