De’Von Brown: Youth Activist and Entrepreneur

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Spotlight Spotlight interviews advocates, community leaders and policymakers who have dedicated their careers to improving our communities, our nation and the world.

De’Von Brown, is a 23-year-old Baltimorean who at a young age was targeted as an up and coming negative youth statistic. De’Von had a troublesome childhood, he dealt with drug addicted parents, which led to constant instability. In 2002, while in the 6th grade, the hands of fate lead Brown into being accepted into an all boy’s boarding school in Kenya called the Baraka school. 

The Baraka School changed Brown’s life dramatically and was publicized to the world through the award winning documentary “The Boys of Baraka”, which was released in 2005. The film gave Brown a platform to talk about his life and become a youth activist throughout the country.  Some of his most noteworthy achievements include having formally hosted a talk show on the public access channel in Baltimore, serving as co-chair of the Charm City Community Block festival for four years, and working alongside his mentor and friend, Maryland First Lady Judge Katie O’Malley, as a mentor for the youth in truancy court. In 2011, during his junior year at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Brown ran for City Council of the 12th district of Baltimore, and although he lost the election, he managed to come in 3rd out of 7 candidates and received an official endorsement from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Upon graduating from MICA, Brown became CEO of Taharka Brothers Ice Cream Company. Taharka Bros. is currently the subject of a documentary produced by the directors of the film “The Boys of Baraka” and will debut in the Spring of 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival. In recent months, the company has been featured in several national publications, including Forbes, Ebony, and NPR.

Who inspired you to do the work you are doing?

I always wanted to be someone who could have a postive impact on others. I was given an opportunity to go to a boarding school in Kenya called “The Baraka School” when I was 12 years old. The school took at risk 12-year-old boys from Baltimore and taught us in Africa. That experience truly changed my life and inspired me to do what I do today. It gave me a platform to do what I always wanted to do—serve the community.

What is the biggest challenge facing the United States and how would you fix it?

The lack of education reform is the biggest challenge facing the U.S. I believe this is a major issue because I have seen how education can open up the door to so many other great opportunities. I think education should be taught in more ways than just in an institutionalized format. I also think it would be great to create and develop more real life experience opportunities for youth, that will inspire them to want to seek higher education, like I did after my Baraka experience. I believe the U.S would get higher test scores and graduation rates when students are motivated to learn through hands on real life exposure.

Education also starts at home and in the community, so I think finding a way to build better partnerships with our community and parents, so that everyone plays a role in educating our students, would help fix this policy challenge as well.

Where can we find more of your work? 

What advice do you have for young people interested in your field?

You are never too young to start a business. I would also advise them to research the field and find people who are currently doing it and intern with them. Pick their brains and slowly build a business plan. Find business plan templates and start early!

How do you find balance with a career as demanding as yours?

I try to set clear goals and not spread myself to thin by having a organized schedule.

What is your favorite book?

The Mis-education of a Negro by Carter G. Woodson

What do you when you are not saving the world?

Cooking, fishing, watching movies

What are your comfort foods?

Sweet potatoes and ribs!

Who is your favorite musician?

Lauryn Hill