2016-17 Fellow: Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown

Rev. Brown, Richman Fellow | Photo by Christopher Evans, courtesy of the Boston Herald

Photo Credit: Christopher Evans, courtesy of the Boston Herald

The 2016-17 Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life is Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, founder of RECAP (Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace) and a key community leader responsible for what the New York Times called the “Boston Miracle,” when the youth homicide rate declined from a high of 73 deaths (1990) to zero (1995–1998). The model of social responsibility Brown helped mastermind involves new roles for youth, police, and courts to advance social justice and ensure the right of every young person to live in an urban community without violence.

After obtaining a master’s degree from Indiana University and attending Harvard Divinity School, Brown became the full time pastor at Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., where, watching the rise in gunfire deaths of youth in his community, he became deeply committed to ending the violence cycle. His aim was to prevent the assumption that the youth were “bad” kids who wanted to join gangs, and sought to understand the circumstances that led to their behavior. He saw that preaching alone wouldn’t solve the problem. He discovered the best way to connect with teenagers was to walk the neighborhood himself at night, meet with gangs on their own terms, and listen.

On May 14, 1992, 14 gang members entered the Morningstar Baptist church in Boston during a funeral and beat and stabbed a rival gang member in attendance at the service. This prompted Brown to join forces with other clergy to develop the TenPoint Coalition, forging connections between the clergy and Boston’s minority youth. Brown was recognized for his efforts by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2013. Brown pastored at the Union Baptist Church for 22 years, and continues his ministry in the 12th Baptist Church of Roxbury.

Brown has helped communities all over the world adopt this model, including Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and communities in Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, and Belfast. See his TED talk at tinyurl.com/revjb.

Brown was in residence from March 21–23, 2017. The Richman lecture and award ceremony was held on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 4 p.m. in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library.

Event Videos

The Courage To Listen: Why It's More Critical Now Than Ever
March 22, 2017 | Watch the lecture video

Jeffrey Brown in Conversation with Jon Chilingerian, Professor at the Heller School
March 21, 2017 | Watch the conversation video