Meet an Emerger – Sara Yousuf

What is your Day Job?

I was a criminal defense lawyer, but am now the CEO of the Plantain! (Miami’s premiere satire news source).

How did you come to Miami?

I was very cold, 18, and wanted to get out Michigan. I wanted to be a journalist, and the University of Miami was offering a journalism program. Miami seemed exotic and I arrived my freshman year sight unseen because 18 year olds make those kind of decisions.

What do you love about Miami?

I think Miami is a largely open-minded place, and what I mean by that is, it’s bizarre, it’s colorful, it’s got massive potential, massive diversity and serious natural beauty.

What is the hardest thing about living here?

Commuting. Getting around. I think half of my decisions are based on what direction traffic is moving in at that time as opposed to what I need or should be doing.

Was there a moment when you knew you had to become involved?

I was raised by really compassionate people for whom service is a moral value, and they’re also really critical thinkers. So, when they disagreed with something in their world, they would think about why it’s happening and how it can be changed. What my parents call ‘service’ I would call ‘activism’. My first organizing experience was with a group called InFact, who were organizing against Phillip Morris and their intervention with public health measures.  That was around sophomore year of college. When I met people whose actions had caused changes in their world, and people who believed that they had the power to set the direction of their community, I became fully inspired and wanted to be one of those people.

What are you working to change about Miami?

Limited access to accurate digestible information about local government and issues hamstringing participation.  I think that there are a lot of obstacles to understanding local government. I want to make it easier to understand what’s happening in local power structures and also to elevate the voices of young people. We have a city where it’s the norm to be completely clueless about who your commissioner is and what kind of problems they can solve for you. I think that by having community conversations and creating more digestible information we can increase voter turnout, civic participation, and put people with good values in office.

What’s your best “only in Miami” story?

Wow so many! This place is so good. I’d have to say it’s when Emerge, Engage and countless community partners turned Parcel B, into Dan Paul Park.  Parcel B is the plot of land behind the American Airlines Arena that has long been promised to the people to be a world-class park.  The land belongs to the people.  On August 8, 2015, the community staged a Chalktacular– a mass action to take back the park.  We chalked the concrete, brought music and community and made it so they couldn’t ignore us. And now there are no locks there, the no trespassing signs are gone and the people have access to what’s theirs.

Have you ever been to Bayside without a visitor from out of state?
Yes. But. it was because I was at a conference at a nearby hotel and was very very hungry for food court food.

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