Sylvester B. Brown, Jr.
“MAKING A POSITIVE CHANGE, ONE YOUNG MAN AT A TIME…”
When Sylvester Brown, Jr.’s brother Wesley had the idea in 2007 to start Young Men Enlightening Younger Men, a grassroots non-profit for at-risk urban youth, he had no idea of the impact the organization would have on his own life or future. Growing up in the greater DC Metro region, Wesley saw a critical void he wanted to fill: a place where underrepresented populations of young men could safely come to find role models for guidance on how to live a life that is self-empowering, productive and community-oriented; in short, to teach these youths that, with enough discipline and self-motivation, life’s possibilities are endless. Sylvester, already working full time as a Legal Advisor at the Department of Homeland Security, offered his brother his time and support in getting the project off the ground, lending every free hour he had to help organize the effort and coordinate mentoring initiatives. The brothers’ dedication brought much success – the mission of Young Men Enlightening Younger Men, or YMEYM, spread quickly as more and more young urban males attended meetings where they could find encouragement, explore educational pursuits, avoid societal conflicts and develop solid leadership skills that would help prepare them for life’s future challenges. When Wesley, a Maryland State Trooper, was tragically shot and killed while working an off duty security detail – one of many jobs he took to earn extra money to support the organization – his family and his community were shocked. Coupled with their grief at the loss of a beloved individual, they also worried for the future of YMEYM. Sylvester never anticipated that he would be faced with the decision, but after considerable soul-searching, he knew that he had no choice but to take the reins of the organization his brother had worked so hard to establish. In 2010, he became the Executive Director of Young Men Enlightening Younger Men, embracing Wesley’s original vision while also infusing the organization with his own unique, personal sense of style, direction and purpose.
In only a few short years, YMEYM has touched the lives of hundreds of young men in DC Metro and its surrounding areas. Emphasizing the organization’s commitment to advocacy, Sylvester has spearheaded several core events which serve the community at large. Partnering with faith communities, law enforcement divisions and more, he has designed and implemented biweekly food drives which distribute much needed supplies to citizens and families in financial crisis. Holiday events include annual Thanksgiving turkey drives, which have produced over 300 donated turkeys each year, and toy drives each December which benefit more than 1000 children in the region. YMEYM members have also initiated block parties and field trips, all with the intent of lifting the minds and spirits of young men who may never have had the opportunity to experience the positive camaraderie of their peers and learn to believe in themselves.
Knowing that education is key to success, Sylvester was determined to remember his brother in a way that would reflect this important component of the YMEYM philosophy. In 2010, he established the TFC W. Brown Memorial Collegiate Youth Scholarship Fund, a resource that delivers financial aid to YMEYM members, offsetting the increasingly prohibitive costs of higher education. In conjunction with monies donated for college, Sylvester has organized the acquisition and distribution of laptops to many additional college-bound students. Finally, program participants also hold an annual car wash fundraiser each summer, just in time to help with the upcoming school year’s expenses.
YMEYM mentors are dedicated to committing as much of their personal time and resources as possible to get the job down. Our goal is to listen so we can understand the problems of the youth and find different ways to positively assist them with their journey in life. YMEYM meets together as a group at least once a month to enlighten and empower the youth. At our meetings we talk to one another as men to figure out ways we should step up in the community, home and school. The mentors does a great job staying in touch with the young men and encourage them to stay in school, do the best they can by respecting others and themselves. We also teach the youth ways to avoid unnecessary conflicts that may resort into violence. We also plan field trips outside of our community and spend countless hours bonding and mentoring to one another as brothers and as men.
Young Men Enlightening Younger Men has been the subject of articles in such prestigious publications as The Washington Post and The Maryland Journal, as well as received coverage by several local media outlets for its outstanding contributions. One of the things of which Sylvester is most proud is the organization’s ability to retain its former members as mentors. Almost all of YMEYM’s mentors were once in the same troubled place as current members, and feel compelled to give back the level of life-changing support they received themselves.
Sylvester B. Brown, Jr., has an exceptional ability to inspire and motivate not only his organization’s young members, but also everyone with whom he comes into contact. His dedication is infectious, and Young Men Enlightening Younger Men is poised to grow significantly in the months and years ahead. With Sylvester’s tireless leadership and inspiration, his brother’s dream of “making a positive change, one young man at a time” is destined to be realized, making a difference in the lives of many young men who will go on to share the gifts of altruism, discipline and community advocacy they learned from his steadfast example.