In memory of Ivol Brown: A call to action

June 14, 2010

Two weeks ago, we lost a beloved member of our community, Ivol Brown. Ivol was many things: A son and a brother. A parishioner and a student. An artist, a guide and an organizer. He was a questioner. He was an Ella and a Malcolm to be. He was 17.

Ivol Brown speaking at a rally for youth jobs in Boston

Ivol’s life and death is a story of redemption cut painfully short. At age 14, he was thrown out of school for selling drugs. Shortly after, he was approached by a youth worker who offered him a job. He took the opportunity.

Three years later, he was working three jobs to help support his family, was active in his church and had taken a leadership role in the youth jobs campaign. Ivol believed deeply that every young person should have the opportunity to work for something they believed in, to turn their lives around the way he had.

ACE stands with Ivol, his family, his pastor, the Campaign to Save Youth Jobs and our partners (and his employers) YouthAim! and The City School. Our elected officials need to know that the time to fund youth employment is now, before any more lives are lost!

In 2002 and 2003, Massachusetts and the City of Boston made devastating cuts to youth employment, violence prevention and outreach programs. In 2006, the Boston City Council established what youth leaders had been saying for years: There is a strong correlation between the decrease in youth employment and the increase in shootings.

More than 700 young people, including youth from REEP and a dozen other organizations asked policy makers at a 2007 City Hall rally, "Who's Next?" In public hearings we pleaded, "Don't wait 'till we're dead!" As part of the United Youth and Youth Workers of Boston coalition, REEP youth helped restore several million dollars for youth employment. Still, the Commonwealth and the City refused to restore funding to the 2001 level.

Major state funding cuts made last year will cause 9000 teen jobs to be eliminated this summer. Despite dozens of youth-led legislator meetings and two marches of nearly 700 and 1000 teens from across Massachusetts, the House and Senate refused to restore these devastating cuts in the 2010 budget.

However, the fight is not over. Funding for summer jobs can still come from the federal government or the Mayor.

On March 19, Senator Scott Brown voted against an amendment to the Senate’s Jobs Bill that would have put 6,700 teens to work in Massachusetts this summer. Please call Senator Brown and tell him to support $1 billion for youth jobs in an upcoming vote: (202) 224-4543 or (617) 565-3170.

In Boston, Mayor Menino and the City Council will approve the city budget this month. Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in City Hall Plaza, REEP and several hundred Boston youth will rally to demand an increase of $2 million for youth jobs. Please join us.

. . .

Ivol Brown was planning to lead Tuesday’s rally alongside a host of powerful youth leaders—just as he did in February and April of this year. See Ivol speaking at a youth jobs rally at 0:52 in this video and a picture of him marching in The New York Times (middle, on the right). In addition, Ivol was a key organizer of the New England Youth Freedom Rides to the United States Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit later this month. He was murdered on his way to a Memorial Day cookout for participants of the trip. As part of the 250-strong New England mobilization, we dedicate our trip to Ivol’s legacy. In Detroit and after, he will not be forgotten.

If you are able to make a contribution toward Ivol’s funeral expenses, please do. Checks marked "In Memory of Ivol Brown Fund" may be sent to Deliverance Temple Worship Center, 232 Columbia Road, Dorchester, MA 02124.