Born in 1987, Jedidiah Brown is an ordained Christian minister and “anti-violence activist” based in Chicago, Illinois. On February 1, 2013, he founded the Young Leaders Alliance (YLA), a “multicultural direct-action organization” that seeks to “transform” communities across the United States by training their residents in the arts of “leadership, civic responsibility, alliance building, and public …
Born in 1987, Jedidiah Brown is an ordained Christian minister and “anti-violence activist” based in Chicago, Illinois. On February 1, 2013, he founded the Young Leaders Alliance (YLA), a “multicultural direct-action organization” that seeks to “transform” communities across the United States by training their residents in the arts of “leadership, civic responsibility, alliance building, and public demonstrations.”
Viewing the United States as a nation awash in white racism, Brown in August 2013 delivered a speech suggesting that because black Americans had been deprived of so much, both historically and presently, they were not really “free”—e.g., “we see schools closing in our neighborhood and have no say so”; “we are afraid to let our children be children when they are slain in their own community”; and “our Voting Rights Act has been crippled.” The latter was a reference to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down, as anachronistic, a Voting Rights Act provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before being permitted to change their election laws in any way (for example, by instituting Voter ID requirements or re-configuring their voting districts).
Lamenting that “still today we [blacks] are portrayed as lazy, aggressive, suspicious … poor, consciousless [sic] animals,” Brown affirmed in that same 2013 speech: “No longer will we settle for what others have called us. No longer are we coons, ni**ers, negroes, or colored. We will not accept what the media has said and continues to say.” “America’s soul needs cleansing,” he added, “… if it will not properly acknowledge the color that made it great! Black made it great.” Moreover, Brown exhorted fellow African Americans to “Buy Black and support our own” merchants and business owners, rather than behave like “economic slaves” who “send their 1 Trillion Dollars of spending power to other communities, leaving our own on welfare.” “It is time to have all our children understand their black power,” Brown emphasized. “Black power at the polls, Black Power in their community, and Black power in their inner self.”
In December 2014, Brown led a two-night rally near Barack Obama‘s private home in Chicago’s South Side, demanding that the president do more to acknowledge the problems plaguing nonwhite minorities. “We are not ignoring that he [Obama] has made attempts,” said Brown. “We actually applaud him for the steps he’s made. But we don’t need [merely] a Band-Aid.” Citing the fact that nonwhites as a whole experienced disproportionately high levels of incarceration and poverty as well as substandard education in urban school districts, Brown said: “[W]e are in a war where we feel like it is time for America to stop the battles against Black and Brown peoples that don’t allow freedom to truly be experienced at its full capacity…. The fabric of American society has been conditioned to view the Black man as a subjugated individual that is less than and not worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s why we have the concept of White privilege. There shouldn’t be any privilege. That right should be extended to all races.” In total, Brown’s two-night protest drew nearly 270 people, among whom were numerous mothers who had lost their children to police shootings; also present were members of the radical ANSWER Coalition. Participants signed a banner demanding a response from President Obama, and Brown personally threatened to chain himself to a fence outside Obama’s home until such a response was received.
In 2015, Brown ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on Chicago’s city council. His platform strongly emphasized the role that he believed government, rather than the free market, should play in solving the economic problems facing nonwhite minorities and the poor. For example, Brown supported a mandatory $15-per-hour minimum wage for all full-time corporate workers nationwide, and suggested that the massive unfunded pension liabilities that were owed to Chicago’s public-sector workers could best be addressed by the implementation of various taxes. These included: (a) a “financial transaction tax” (on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives and other securities); (b) a tax on large bonuses to bankers; (c) an “income tax” on Chicago’s highest earners; and (d) a “commuter tax” to be paid by disproportionately white suburbanites who worked in the city. Brown also voiced his opposition to the detention of “nonviolent” drug offenders, who, by his reckoning, should instead be placed into drug-treatment programs, “supportive housing” facilities, or even “house arrest.” The funds that were normally spent on incarceration, said Brown, should be used instead “to expand mental-health treatment centers, improve economic challenges, and strengthen unstable households.”
Though Brown voiced great admiration for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2015, he subsequently redirected his support to Senator Bernie Sanders, who he said “speaks the heartbeat of what America needs.” Brown articulated his radical political orientation in January 2016 when he tweeted, “Its [sic] not enough to change a senator, not enough to change a President[,] for we must change the system.”
In March 2016, Brown rushed the stage in protest during a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally at the University of Illinois-Chicago, but was quickly grabbed by Secret Service agents who then released him back into the crowd. Brown later punched a Trump supporter at the scene and was eventually taken into custody by campus police. In the aftermath of the chaos, it was reported that the anti-Trump protest had been organized by Chicago University’s Muslim Students Association. Notably, Brown had previously participated in at least two Muslim events—titled “Anti-Muslim Hate” and “Denouncing Islamophobia”—sponsored by the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In July 2018, Brown was arrested after he and others blocked traffic in Chicago during a protest over the police killing of Harith Augustus, a local man who had pulled a gun on several officers. He was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing traffic, and two counts of misdemeanor battery to a peace officer.
Further Reading: “Who Is Jedidah Brown …?” (International Business Times, 3-14-2016); “Anti-Violence Activist Mentors Gunman Who Shot at Him in Humboldt Park” (DNAinfo.com, 7-10-2014); “Jedidah Brown’s Speech at Dusable for the March on Washington Commemoration” (8-25-2013); “Marchers in His Hometown Demand President Obama Address Core Issues of Racism and Police Misconduct” (The Final Call, 12-29-2014); “Jedidiah Brown, Candidate for City Council: Responses to the Chicago Tribune’s Questionnaire” (2015); “‘This Can’t Go On In Chicago,’ Says Anti-Trump Protester” (NPR.org, 3-13-2016, re: Brown rushing the stage during Trump rally); “Muslim Brotherhood’s Involvement at the Chicago Trump Rally Protest” (The Real Side, 3-14-2016); “Community Activist Facing Charges after Police Said He Resisted during Protest Thursday” (Chicago Tribune, 6-21-2018).