Nearly one year after the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, Amber Carr said the pain of losing her younger sister hasn’t subsided. Jefferson was shot by a white police officer while inside her mother’s house playing video games with her nephew.
“I’m really numb,” Carr said. “I haven’t been talking to people. It’s like sitting still, and the world is moving around you, but you are stuck. That’s where I’ve been.”
Growing up, Carr and her sister, who went by “Tay,” were close, Carr said.
“We were 11 months apart” in age, Carr said. “I’m October of ’88, and she’s November of ’90. At one point in life, I had an issue in school, and I ended up in the same grade level as Atatiana. That’s when she would help me with my academics. Even though she was my younger sister, I looked to her for help when it came to school. She also was my self-esteem booster. When I felt like I couldn’t, she always made me feel like I could.”
When Carr decided to pursue cosmetology school, it was Tay who encouraged those pursuits even when relatives were less supportive.
“She would come get her hair done by me,” Carr recalled. “When she had balls to attend, I would do her pinups. I was a girly girl, and she was the tomboy. When she allowed me to doll her up, she and I bonded.”
Jefferson was 28 when she was shot by Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who had arrived at the house in response to a non-emergency call that reported the front door of the house had been open all day. Dean shot through a window, striking and killing Jefferson. Two days after her killing, Dean posted bond and has been awaiting trial since.
On October 28, dozens of cities participated in the National Day of Outrage to demand accountability for Jefferson’s killer and to draw attention to policing practices that too-frequently lead to the killing of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of white police officers.
“I’ll never forget the day,” Carr said. “That’s when I met Jeff Dazey. He just introduced himself as a local musician, but he’s so much more. It was an instant connection. He even comes over and spends all day with us and goes to football games. We changed his name to Uncle Jeff, so he’s stuck.”
Local musician Dazey said he was on tour when he read about Jefferson’s killing. Saxophonist Dazey is perhaps best known for accompanying international Fort Worth superstar Leon Bridges, but he’s been a mainstay in the local music scene for more than 15 years. When Dazey returned to Fort Worth, he attended a candlelight vigil for Jefferson and, weeks later, the National Day of Outrage where he met Carr and other relatives of Jefferson.
“I’m an uncle of seven kids,” Dazey said. The shooting happened “just down the road from where I live. I babysit and play video games with my nephews and nieces all the time” just like Jefferson did.
Dazey and Carr kept in touch and met against this past June during the launch of the Atatiana Project, which is in the process of transforming the home where Jefferson was killed into a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning center for children.
This Sunday, to celebrate Jefferson’s life, the Atatiana Parade and Celebration begins at 3 p.m. at 3303 S. Fwy., where participants are invited to decorate their cars for a car caravan. Photos and images of Atatiana will presumably be popular decor choices. A celebration at Jefferson’s home (1203 E. Allen St.) featuring DJs, food, a tribute video, and guest speakers begins at 4:30 and runs until 8 p.m. A candlelight vigil is scheduled after sunset. Sales of T-shirts and other items that day will raise funds for the Atatiana Project, Dazey said.
A balloon release is scheduled the following morning at the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. The Facebook event page can be found at Atatiana Jefferson Parade & Celebration.
Carr said Mayor Betsy Price has not spoken to her directly about Jefferson’s killing, but Carr hopes Price and other city leaders will attend the event. If the mayor does meet with Carr, police defunding will be a top talking point of those discussions, Carr said.
“My personal opinions are to defund the police department and use that money to help the Southside community” where Atatiana died. “That area needs a whole revamp. After my sister was murdered, my mom passed. A few months later, my mom’s house was vandalized. It was horrible.
The [intruders] were hungry. That area needs a shelter or a place where these people can get hot meals every day. The Southside community doesn’t need so many liquor shops and little convenience stores. There should be more fresh produce stands.”
Carr is preparing emotionally for the weekend events. She said he has been touched by the outpouring of support from individuals like Dazey, protest leader Nysse Nelson, and many others.
“We are trying to make it a joyous occasion in the midst of a tragedy,” she said. “It amazes me to see so many people who actually care who don’t know us at all.”
When asked how she plans to cope with the emotional pain that may arise on the one-year anniversary of her sister’s killing, Carr said she plans to “just keep breathing.”
“That’s what I plan on doing — just keep breathing,” she said.