Jamar Brown | Open Society Institute – Baltimore

Jamar Brown, Associate at RMG

Role within Organization: Leadership Council Member, Recently assumed role as Co-Chair of Leadership Council, serving with Co-Chair Mary Louise Preis (Former Maryland State Delegate)
Number of Years/Months Involved: 5 Years

Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?

I think OSI is boldly tackling some of the issues that create most of the problems facing Baltimore.  OSI’s work focuses on three important missions.  First, OSI’s juvenile and criminal justice program works to reduce policies that create an over-reliance on incarceration when they do not actually improve public safety and promote programs and resources that assist formerly incarcerated people re-enter society.  Another big issue we tackle is youth development and education in Baltimore which involves expanding quality learning opportunities for youth by, for example, developing strategies that keep children in school rather than kicking them out due to suspensions and arrests for disciplinary issues and providing additional resources to Baltimore City Schools.  Many of the policies and advocacy work also affect the Maryland State education system.  Finally, OSI also works on drug addiction issues, providing resources and treatment services for those who have a chemical dependency.

Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?

Definitely.  One example is that our firm was a sponsor of the OSI Solutions Summit.  The summit was held in December 2016, and the purpose was to present Mayor Pugh upon her inauguration with a list of recommendations that she could actually accomplish within the first year or so of her administration.  The event was the culmination of months of meetings with many community leaders and stakeholders who had for months been working to craft these recommendations based on their expertise on a variety of issues.  Mayor Pugh and Sherrilyn Ifill (Board Member for OSI Global) President and Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in NYC spoke at the event.  The summit produced a number of solutions related to increasing jobs, behavioral health issues, and criminal justice.

What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?

In 2013, we had the first Big Change Baltimore event that OSI put on which consisted of a 1-day meeting of keynote speakers who provided recommendations to Baltimore about how we can better tackle our challenges. Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at NYU’s Steinhardt School, made it very clear that we have the capacity to revolutionize youth education in the city.  If we get serious about it and invest in it, and if we think of each and every kid as our own, public school education is a problem that we can absolutely solve.  I hadn’t heard anyone else confront this challenge before in such an encouraging way.