Quanita “Tay” Jackson had already made a name for herself in Milwaukee as an anti-violence activist and organizer. Last Saturday, the 20-year-old was organizing a youth basketball tournament in Moody Park to promote peace.
A day later, Jackson was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting, across the street from the park she had been dancing and laughing in less than 24 hours before.
Vaun Mayes, founder of Program the Parks MKE, which put on the Saturday event, said Jackson was at her best on Saturday.
“Tay was glowing. She was happy. She was dancing,” Mayes told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We had youth ambassador shirts made and she was so excited about that, and that’s what makes it worse. That she’s gone just a day later.”
“She had an amazing talent,” Tom Schneider, executive director of Children’s Outing Association Youth & Family Centers of Milwaukee, said Monday night.
“But she had more than talent,” Schneider said. “She had heart.”
Local attorney Michael Hupy offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Jackson’s death. According to Milwaukee’s Fox 6 News, Hupy serves on the board of the COA Youth and Family Centers, an organization Jackson volunteered with.
“I want to do something for this family and COA,” Hupy said at a press briefing.
According to reports, police say Jackson didn’t appear to be the intended target of the shooting.
While violent crime is down in Milwaukee overall, certain neighborhoods are disproportionately represented in the city’s gun violence stats. According to reports, 12 of Milwaukee’s nearly 200 neighborhoods made up nearly half of the city’s 476 non-fatal shootings last year.
Jackson’s sudden death has sparked an outpouring of love and grief throughout the community. She worked with a number of youth-centered organizations in Milwaukee, and was a musician. She wrote and performed music encouraging people to “put the guns down,” the Journal Sentinel writes.
“We should be celebrating a person going to school or getting a new job, but instead we are mourning a senseless death,” Kimberly Mahan, a close friend of Jackson’s family, told reporters at the Tru Skool memorial for Jackson’s death.
Mayes penned a moving tribute to the young activist, published Thursday night on OnMilwaukee.com.