The family of a Black woman slain by a Fort Worth police officer is channeling its frustration with the slow wheels of justice into a nonprofit it established in her name.
The Atatiana Project’s mission is to expose children in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, fields the 28-year-old was passionate about when her life was cut short in October 2019.
It will be hosting a summer camp for about 15 children at Texas Christian University from July 19-23, Atatiana Jefferson’s sister Ashley Carr said.
Carr and Jefferson’s other sister, Amber Carr, asked for volunteers and donations during a virtual forum Wednesday evening. They said helping others is helping them heal.
“We wanted to be able to give the world Tay and make so many little Tays that the world can’t stop,” Ashley Carr said, using her sister’s nickname.
Jefferson graduated from Xavier University, a private, historically Black Catholic college in New Orleans. She majored in Biology and loved to play video games, her family said. In fact, that’s what she was doing with her nephew, Zion, the night she died.
They said proceeds from the nonprofit will also go towards Zion’s education and establishing a gaming center.
Emily Herzig with TCU’s department of mathematics and Curt Larsen with TCU’s department of engineering will help the children assemble a computer from a kit and teach them how to program and use it.
“I’ve been on a mission for a number of years to reach out to children of all ages to inspire their interest in math, engineering, science, technology, etc., as so many others did for me,” Larsen said, “so I just couldn’t possibly think of saying ‘no’ to this opportunity when it presented itself.”
The virtual forum Wednesday evening was held by another nonprofit, CommUnity Frontline. Its president, Dante Williams, told attendees that CommUnity Frontline would be matching donations up to $1,500.
Members then shared the ways in which Jefferson’s death had affected them.
Nysse Nelson became a mentor to Zion and lamented how Jefferson’s name isn’t on people’s lips as much now the community is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. She asked that if people couldn’t donate, that they give in other ways to further Jefferson’s legacy.
“It takes a lot for a person to step out of their own life and care about what somebody else has going on,” she said.
It’s unclear when Aaron Dean, the officer charged with killing Jefferson, will go on trial. Carr told the Fort Worth Report during an interview on Thursday that this is because courts are backed up from not holding trials in 2020. (A spokeswoman for the Tarrant County DA’s Office referred the Report to David C. Hagerman, judge of the 297th court, for an update. His court coordinator could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday afternoon.)
“But we’re not giving up. We’re not saying we’re not going to fight for justice for my sister. This is just more we’re trying to build a legacy for my sister that lives past us,” Carr said.
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This story was updated on June 1 to correct a source’s pronouns.
Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.