By Rich Polt
Published May 03, 2012
Tyrone Barnwell is a community organizer with Baltimore’s Safe & Sound Campaign, a 10-year movement to measurably improve conditions for children, youth and families under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national Urban Health Initiative. A three year veteran of the organization (half of which was spent as a volunteer), Tyrone leads the advocacy effort to stop the building of a new jail for youth charged as adults.
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To help start a worldwide movement where children will know that they can be whatever they want to be.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
Because employment is critical to being a thriving member of our community and because currently there is not enough opportunity to prepare and provide youth with jobs, I would like to start and lead a youth program that prepares youth for adulthood and that teaches them work place readiness skills and financial management. This program would provide a safe space for youth and would meet them where they are by asking them about and listening to their needs.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
Patti LaBelle, and I would ask her to please marry me right now.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Your Struggles Develop Your Strengths
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
With his great sense of humor and his ability to adapt to many situations on screen and I am sure off-screen, it would have to be Will Smith. He would capture my playful and serious ways, and not to mention my great looks.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
As we say at Safe and Sound, “With opportunity, life turns out better.” If you give a seed the proper sunlight and water that it needs, it will grow into a beautiful flower. Likewise, if you give kids the proper opportunities, they will grow up to become our future doctors, lawyers, teachers, presidents, whatever it is they want to be – the sky is the limit.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
I choose Joann Barnwell, my mother, because she went beyond her duties of a mother to not only raise me and my brother as a single parent, but she also raised five others on her own, and treated them as equals to me and my brother. She made a way out of no way, with little education and little money; she made a way to support us all. As far back as I can remember, my mom would cook meals for homeless people at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We would have dinner with them outside, and we would give them any clothes and blankets that we could gather up. And that makes her my hero. I have to also say Lady Gaga because she has broken many barriers and helped people to be who they are because they were born that way.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I would be touring the world with Lady Gaga as one of her main dancers setting the stage on fire. Laughing out loud…
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
As charismatic and as open as I am to a lot of things, I am totally scared of heights — no roller coasters for me.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
"If I could change one thing about the world, what would it be?" My answer: That people would not be categorized by the color of their skin.