Youlanda Givens was born in Seattle and grew up in Seattle's Central District, attending Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. She was in middle school in 1967 when Stokley Carmichael spoke at Garfield, electrifying the community with his demand for action, for Black Power. In her high school years Youlanda worked for Seattle Mental Health, now Sound Mental Health, as a Youth Recreation Coordinator, marking the beginning of a life-long commitment to social work with young people and people in need. "I come from a family of service oriented people," she explains.
At Garfield, she was drawn into activism as she learned about what the Black Student Union was accomplishing at University of Washington and what the Black Panther Party was doing in the community. She was drawn to serve in the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party through the older brother of her best friend who was heavily involved in the organization. Youlanda devoted her efforts to raising funds for the Free Breakfast Program, to selling Black Panther Party newpapers, and providing information to the public in downtown Seattle 1974 through 1975.
She left the party as policies and values turned in directions that made her uncomfortable, particulary regarding the roles of men and women. In the years that followed, inspired in part by her experiences working with children in the Free Breakfast Program she began her career as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Child and Family Therapist, and Emergency Department Social Worker for local area hospitals.
Today Yolanda Givens continues to work with homeless and traumatized children and mothers and families in need.
This interview is part of Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers, a film by Patricia Boiko and Tajuan LaBee available at https://seattlewomenpanthers.com.Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax. Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.