Daj’za Demmings did not wait for officials to tell her what to do the day after tornadoes tore through the Dayton area on Memorial Day.
Demmings and other members of Dayton Young Black Professionals sprung into action to deliver food, water and other supplies to hundreds impacted by the worst of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes in Trotwood and Dayton.
They and other formal and informal groups did what they could to help during what was the darkest hour for many local residents.
Three weeks after the storms, we caught up with Demmings, the latest Daytonian of the Week.
What do you do and how and why did Young Black Professionals come about?
Monday through Friday, I am a project engineer. But 24/7, I am a well-known community organizer and the CEO and current president of the Dayton Young Black Professionals.
DYBP is a millennial organization which aims to empower, inform, and nurture the community through service and philanthropy. To rejuvenate the City of Dayton by fostering a network that provides professional, social, and personal opportunities for the betterment of the community. DYBP came from a need needing to be met. Meaning, there is a lack of hope and resources in West Dayton. We wanted to be, for the generations to come, what we needed. We just want to prepare others for success as much as possible so we can pay it forward in our community.
What did you do to help community members after the tornadoes?
The members of DYBP got together Tuesday morning after the storm and created a short-term plan to get water and resources to those affected areas in Trotwood and West Dayton.
Being a native of Dayton and being involved in service the way I am, it was only right that I took care of home the best way I could. As a Dayton native, it’s important to give back to the community who helped raise me. This community taught me life lessons that I couldn’t acquire in my household or in a classroom. My motto is you find yourself in the service of others, and it’s the community that makes me who I am today.
What did you learn from these volunteer efforts?
I learned that empathy goes a long way. Sometimes it’s not always about what you can do for people, but how you can make them feel. I learned that life is precious, and that life can change in the blink of an eye. I realized that every person has a story, a story of who they are, and how they came to be where they are now, and that helped me be a better leader and made me appreciate life so much more. I learned the power of patience. The importance of communication and problem solving. As a volunteer, no matter if it was handing out a bottle of water, or picking up trash, big or small, every effort made an impact.
What sorts of things does the Dayton Black Professionals group typically do?
Dayton Young Black Professionals is a millennial organization that focuses on the advancement and revitalization of West Dayton, an area that’s typically left out and forgotten about. We host all types of events to help empower, inform, and nurture young professionals in the area. We hold workforce development seminars, resume workshops, health fairs, social gatherings, community service events, financial literacy classes, and much more to help put each other in positions to grow. We also provide a free after-school program and summer camp in a low-income housing neighborhood in Dayton.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love how Dayton is the city of innovation, it’s truly The Gem City. We have so many hidden gems here from Paul Laurence Dunbar, to the Wright brothers, to Roger and Zapp. I love the fact that Dayton has so much potential for it to be whatever we want to create. So to answer the question, the possibility of opportunity.
What role can young professionals play in improving life in the Dayton area?
DYBP focuses on how to retain young professionals. The role young professionals can play in improving the life of others in Dayton can be a host of things. One, we can be leaders, we can set the example for the generation forthcoming. We can give back. Not only as servants to the community, but monetarily. We can purchase abandoned properties and create opportunities for those in need.
Why did you decide to build your life and career in Dayton?
I love my city! Dayton is beautiful, it's a GEM. I just couldn’t imagine building a life elsewhere. I have my dream job as a project engineer. I was able to attend two of the nation’s most powerful Historically Black Colleges and Universities ( HBCU) — Wilberforce University and Central State University. Then, my love for empowering and being a part of the betterment of the community made my decision to not leave easy.
Where do you go for a great time?
I love art, so Picture Perfect Paint Parties in the Talbott Towers downtown is my favorite place to go. But I enjoy time with my family the most. I’m very family-oriented. Anything with family is always a great time.
>> RELATED: Talbott Tower sold
What super power would you love to have?
What’s interesting is that many people consider a super power to be a skill set. For an example, Wonder Woman could run as fast as a NASCAR car, and to me having a super power is more than that. Having a super power is more so about a perspective, a mindset, a way of working that enhances everything you touch. If I could have a super power, it would be just to be an effective leader. A person’s super power is their particular genius: the specific, unique and specialized skill that they bring to the workplace. It is their secret sauce. Everyone isn’t an effective leader, and that’s just my super power.
What is your favorite Dayton-area hidden gem?
I am a lover of nature, Wegerzyn Garden is the most beautiful, peaceful place. I go there to clear my mind and come up with new ideas.
What is your biggest hope for your fellow Daytonians?
I want my fellow Daytonians to just remember their community. So many people get successful and completely forget where they came from, and it shows. I hope that people realize giving back to your community is the most influential thing we can do, it gives people a sense of hope and pride.
What inspires you about Dayton?
Dayton is the home of innovation, which is why I pride myself on being innovative.
>> City of Invention: Dayton remains a cradle of creativity
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10 to 15 years?
I have so much hope for Dayton. In 10 to 15 years, I feel that Dayton could go back to being this amazing city with a booming economy like it once was. Dayton is bigger than just downtown. I really feel DYBP will be able to shift the narrative when it comes to West Dayton and it will be an amazing place where people will be excited to call home. There will be more jobs, better education, and safer neighborhoods. We are the ones we've been waiting for, so we just have to do what we can to bring that reality into fruition.
What do people do if they want to become a part of Dayton Young Black Professionals or help causes you support?
For those interested in Dayton Young Black Professionals, they can visit our website www.daytonybp.org and view the future events we host. Additionally, sign up to be a member, we are growing and those who support the mission and vision are more than welcome to join us. DYBP operates by our Seven Pillars of Excellence, which are committees (engagement, community service, education/ workforce, arts and culture, economics, politics and social justice, and health and wellness) that help manage the goals and aspirations of Dayton Young Black Professionals. We are very active on social media, and we encourage everyone to follow our Instagram and Facebook by searching Dayton.YBP.