Life After RYTF: Tolani Dare

Rockaway Youth Task Force alumna Tolani Dare has certainly left her mark here at RYTF. After becoming a member as a junior in high school in January 2013, she realized the importance of community and coming together in times of despair. Tolani kept this attitude through high school and now, as a junior at SUNY Albany, she’s made it her mission to serve.

“It’s all about community. I can say that RYTF really pushed me to want to do more in college,” she said. “I always wanted to do more and that’s why I joined RYTF— because they were doing more. When I came to college I didn’t just want it to stop there.”

Education has always been important to Tolani and her family. As the child of two Nigerian parents, Tolani is expected to go above and beyond in her studies. When she was younger her parents even banned her and her sisters from watching television during the week because they valued schoolwork over recreation.

“A bachelors degree to them is nothing,” she said. “It’s like okay well what about the masters? My mom has two [masters degrees] so its like I always had to, too.”

Tolani plans to get a masters degree in law, but as an undergrad, she makes an impact through school organizations and clubs. Since enrolling in college, Tolani has been part of three school groups that have required her to do community service. As a freshman, it was mandatory that she joined a living and learning community in order to live on campus. Everyone in each individual community was grouped with other students that had similar interests and majors in order to create a sense of unity.

After freshman year she joined the African Student Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. The AKA mission is to be of “service to all mankind,” a statement that Tolani closely identifies with.

“It’s all about just serving the community that I’m part of,” she said. “It’s about letting people know what you do and getting them to want to do it with you. It’s all about community.”

One of the ways that both groups show solidarity within their community is through protests. Earlier this year, it was reported that three black SUNY Albany students were assaulted while riding a CDTA bus. Initially it was reported that the students were attacked by a group of 12 to 20 white students, some yelling racial slurs and others just standing by.

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“I went to the protest just to see what was going on, because I know that the school that I go to, something like that would never have gotten to that point,” she said. “Still, it was nice to see everyone join together, although no one really knew who they were—they just knew they were black and that was enough to take action.”

Later, it was discovered that the students fabricated the story and were actually the aggressors. The women have since been expelled, but the support given to them by campus organizations, as well as people all over the world through social media, did not go unnoticed. Once the news reached the student body organizations did not hesitate to respond.

“They wanted answers and they weren’t getting them, so they went into action and started protesting,” she said.

Being a member of Rockaway Youth Task Force prepared Tolani for every aspect of her current college career, from her civic duties as an AKA member to her choice to minor in public policy. Tolani realizes that there’s always work to be done, and is ready and willing to be part of the process.

“When I come back from school I see this [the garden] and I’m like wow I remember when it looked like that [the lot next door]. I was helping out clear out the weeds on the lot and now its turned into this beautiful garden, and I know that there’s gonna be more stuff that we have to do and it’s gonna get much bigger,” she said. “I definitely see this organization flourishing more and more, that’s why I wanted to be part of it because I knew it wasn’t just gonna be just one little group trying to get their voices out; it was about the community.”