Brown Memorial and the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP) Hold the Mayor to Her Promises

Rev. Tim Hughes Williams sits on a stage with BYOP leader Samirah Franklin at a meeting with the Mayor.

(Photo: Rev. Tim Hughes Williams and youth BYOP leader Samirah Franklin at the April 4 meeting with Mayor Pugh.)


On April 4, 2017, more than 150 youth and adults packed the basement of Trinity Baptist Church in West Baltimore for a Youth Accountability Assembly with Mayor Catherine Pugh. The event was planned by the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP), a youth-led community organizing initiative created by BUILD and the No Boundaries Coalition in 2015. Brown Memorial has supported BYOP since its founding through financial contributions and significant staff support. (Listen to an April 26 NPR story about BYOP and interview with BYOP leader Samirah Franklin.)


By the time Mayor Pugh finally took the stage on April 4, more than 20 young people were present from Brown Memorial to support the BYOP Coalition.


For two years BYOP has listened to young people (ages 14-24) across Baltimore to learn what changes they want in their community. They’ve built power through relationships with churches, schools and youth organizations. While running for mayor, Pugh made clear commitments to the 200 young people present at the BUILD One Baltimore Assembly (March 13, 2016). She promised:


  1. To create 1,000 year-round youth jobs over the course of her first term through the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the corporate community.
  2. To increase funding for after-school and community school programming to $8.2 million.
  3. To fully fund the existing Recreation Center plan or devise a new one.


The purpose of the Assembly on April 4 was to hear Mayor Pugh’s plans to honor her commitments around youth jobs and after-school funding. BYOP asked her to commit to working with them to create 250 new year-round youth jobs in her first year. She agreed that she was eager to create working opportunities for young people but was reluctant to commit to a specific number. When Avery Williams, a senior at Polytechnic Institute, asked her for a clear “yes” or “no,” her answer was “Yes.”


Secondly, the BYOP team asked Mayor Pugh to explain significant cuts to after-school funding in her preliminary 2018 budget. Despite promising she would not cut after-school funding, it was cut by approximately 25%. A tense exchange followed in which the mayor denied cutting after-school funding, citing an increase in state funding for transportation to school and after-school programming. However, the mayor’s budget is clear. After-school programming is taking a significant cut.


Mayor Pugh agreed to meet with BYOP leaders to achieve clarity on this point, and they did this on April 25. BYOP also organized a large crowd of young people to attend the City Council meeting on April 24 to demand after-school programs be fully funded. 


Brown Memorial is proud of its youth for their commitment and willingness to stand in solidarity with youth citywide, many of whom are seriously underserved by local government. Stay tuned for more news about the continued engagement of this important ministry of justice for our youth.