Grantee Spotlight: Brownsville Community Justice Center
We recently visited the Brownsville Community Justice Center (BCJC) to learn more about their inspiring work supported by our Invest in Youth grant program. BCJC is a neighborhood institution focusing on transforming Brownsville through investing in local residents and community development.
During our staff visit, we learned about their youth-led transformative justice work, their planning and placemaking projects, and their efforts to reduce violence in the community. After speaking with BCJC’s Director Deron Johnston and Deputy Director Jasmine Bowie, it is clear that the space exists for and in collaboration with Brownsville residents. Bowie and Johnston highlighted BCJC’s plan to expand the space for small business development, particularly geared toward young entrepreneurs.
Much of the work we talked about reflected BCJC’s commitment to empowering local youth and providing a space for healing, learning, and thriving.
We also spoke to Kwesi Johnson, who at the age 25, has been with BCJC since 2017 where he started as a program participant. After graduating, Kwesi worked for BCJC as a teaching artist and consultant. He previously taught a sewing class and is now teaching photography. Kwesi is also the organization’s resident photographer and recently, he founded his own creative agency, SCTR7.
Kwesi says he took the “do it yourself approach” and attended workshops and worked retail before setting up SCTR7 in the space BCJC offers to young artists and entrepreneurs. He says he was interested in improving his neighborhood and this space has allowed him the opportunity to make this happen—and inspire others to do the same.
Kwesi said, as an artist and entrepreneur, he is more confident now, and knows that there is a strong support network at BCJC. When asked about what advice he would give to someone looking to make change in the community, Kwesi suggested going out and finding people who share a similar goal and find your local community center. “Try one in your area, if there isn’t one, go out and make one.”