Dannielle “Mama” Brown began a record-long Hunger Strike on July 4th, 2020. Her historic Hunger Strike is meant to draw attention to unanswered questions surrounding the death of her son, Marquis “Jaylen” Brown. On Oct. 4, 2018, Jaylen Brown, a young student-athlete at university, abruptly fell 16 stories from his dorm room window. Three campus law enforcement officers and a residential assistant were in the dorm room at the time of Jaylen’s fall. Due to a lack of officer-worn body cameras and the university’s refusal to fully cooperate with Brown’s request to conduct her own independent investigation, Brown may never fully know the circumstances that led to Jaylen’s death.
Tired of not having answers, Brown traveled to Pittsburgh from her home in D.C. with nothing but a rocking chair. She placed her rocking chair at Freedom Corner, an African American memorial near the site of her son’s death, and began her Hunger Strike. Brown’s Hunger Strike was driven by Three Demands for the university where her son lost his life: full cooperation with her own independent investigation into her son’s death, body cameras for all campus officers, and mental health and crisis de-escalation training for all campus police.
Brown sat outdoors at Freedom Corner for two days before Pittsburgh citizens began to take notice. Over the next weeks and months, a 24/7 encampment of volunteers and supporters formed at Freedom Corner as the #Justice4JaylenBrown movement spread rapidly online, demanding that local universities take steps to prevent such a tragedy from befalling another student. Brown has since taken up residence in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District and has become one of Pittsburgh’s most influential political figures.
Dannielle Brown’s unique set of personal circumstances and professional background has garnered her recognition as an important advocate for fundamental change to campus policing and expansion of mental health resources for students and staff. She holds a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice, a master’s degree in counseling psychology, is a former law enforcement officer, and she currently works in the field of national security for the Department of Defense.
Brown’s movement has inspired several major universities to make changes to their public safety protocols. She regularly conducts virtual sessions and collaborates with students who want to make a difference on their own campuses. She is now the Founder of The Marquis Jaylen Brown Foundation, a nonprofit that unites students and mothers in a shared mission for improved transparency, accountability and mental health resources on campus.
The MJB Foundation has taken the original Three Demands of Mama Brown’s Hunger Strike and expanded them into a set of guiding principles that will transform policing and mental health on campuses nationwide.