Valerie Kahan is organizing this fundraiser on behalf of Evangeline Semark.
Yakez Lee Semark, Heaven-Lee.
(YAKEZ Native American-Athabaskan meaning HEAVEN)
Yakez Lee Semark was a wonderfully creative, kind, and inquisitive young person with big dreams and the drive to achieve anything. At 6' 4", he stood tall with a low-key swag, a gentle soul, a sense of pride, and the biggest heart. Everyone who knew him loved him, and knew their lives would be better with him by their side.
Yakez was shot and killed in his hometown of Evanston, IL on February 9, 2018. He was only 20 years old. The police investigation is ongoing.
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on July 24, 1997, Yakez and his mom moved to the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago when he was three years old. They moved to Evanston when Yakez was entering the second grade, where he attended Dawes Elementary School and Chute Middle School. Yakez graduated from Evanston Township High School in 2015.
Yakez had just moved into his very first apartment this past year along with landing his first full time job at Shake Shack in Westfield Mall. He had dreams of purchasing a home one day and knew his apartment would be the first step to building his credit and payment history. This job was the first stepping stone to his future dreams. He took his commitments very seriously and worked hard to pay his rent and bills on time. He had dreams of moving cross country to California to live and work close to his beloved grandfather, and eventually hoped he would have the opportunity to travel the world for work. He spoke often with his mom about his dreams and how to achieve his goals to become fully independent. He spent the little free time he had creating, writing, composing music and lyrics, and exploring the City of Chicago. He loved spending time with his friends. Yakez was an aspiring photographer, always taking photos and video to document the lives, activities and experiences of his friends. He loved his family, his friends, and his dog Dante with his whole heart, every second, of every day.
This tragedy has rocked his family, his friends, and the entire Evanston community. His incredible mother Evangeline Semark whom he loved more than anything in the world, has had her soul crushed and her heart is devastated. Yakez was her everything, and she is now left to pick up the pieces of her life without her only beloved son. A single mother, a warrior for social justice, esteemed colleague, community builder, and an amazing friend to all who crossed her path. She is a woman with an incredible heart and sense of generosity. Evangeline is the type of mom who did everything for her son to ensure his beautiful life would be full of happiness, love, and whatever vision of success he saw for himself. Yakez was living that life with incredible resilience and strength, navigating adversity, racism, and the day-to-day challenges that all young people face on their journeys toward independence. And he was happy living his life. There are truly no words to describe the void this community will feel without Yakez's presence.
The funds raised here will go towards assisting Yakez Semark’s family during this indescribable time of grief and tragedy. Funeral costs and closing out Yakez’s personal affairs will be paid for first. Any remaining funds raised will be used to establish a fund in Yakez's name to support youth in our community of Evanston, Illinois to assist them in achieving independence.
“Twenty years. After all the cakes and parties and piñatas and gifts, I realize the only thing that matters is time. Not the dinners or the dulces, but time spent saying, ‘I love you’ and ‘You make me proud.’ Time spent driving my adult son home from his job on the eve of his birthday so he can imagine - just for a minute - that he's still a carefree teen, (and so I can witness that he's doing age-appropriately well after months of living on his own, especially while being a young Black man in the U.S.). Here's to the blessing of time, and for cherishing every second. Happy 20th Birthday, Yakez. You're my greatest joy.” - Yakez’s Mom, Evangeline Semark, July 24th, 2017