When thinking of all of the words that could be used to describe Brotherhood Sister Sol, “sanctuary” may be the most fitting. In a world where inequalities and injustices run rampant, BroSis prides itself on not only making space for Black and Latinx youth, but also empowering them to change the world, too.
“We were responding to levels of inequality and violence in our city, in Harlem specifically,” said Khary Lazarre-White, the co-founder and executive director of BroSis. Lazarre-White founded BroSis in 1994 when he was 21 alongside his lifelong friend, Jason Warwin, while both were students at Brown University.
“We felt a need to create a structure and support system, and space of guidance, education, and love, for young men to make different decisions and be supported to build long-term strong lives.”
BroSis has steadily grown over the years into a comprehensive nonprofit social justice organization that works at the intersection of educating young people, organizing for justice and training its participants to advance BroSis’ mission. BroSis calls those in its program “members” because of the lifelong bond they share together. Gisela Rosa, an alumna of BroSis, explained what this is like in practice.
“It’s a space where you’re supposed to grow. You go in there as a seed or a little flower, and all they’re doing is giving you all the resources that you need to grow… these people will really hold it down for you no matter what. They make you feel seen.”
Thursdays are for field trips and adventures! @Gov_Island #SummerAtBroSis pic.twitter.com/L7b6YWzryP
— The Brotherhood Sister Sol (@BroSis512) August 4, 2022
BroSis says 95% of its alumni have either graduated from high school or earned their GED and 95% are working full time or enrolled in college. Additionally, no BroSis members or alumni are incarcerated and less than 1% have a felony conviction.
Perhaps another culmination in the story of BroSis is its unveiling of its new headquarters in Harlem. It is a symbolic space that perfectly represents who and what BroSis is, and Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was there for the ceremonial unveiling of the facility’s rooftop court.
Durant put some shots up on the court, which, per the organization’s web site, was “endowed by the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation as part of their “Build it and They Will Ball” initiative” and was designed “by youth members of BroSis and architects from Urban Architectural Initiatives to positively impact the community.”
“My hope is this building will continue to offer hope, and bring light to all of those who may enter,” said Oprah Winfrey, in thanking BroSis for its work over the years.
The children at BroSis have nicknamed the building “Wakanda,” (after the fictional country in the “Black Panther” comic book and movie franchise) and the 19,000 square foot building is certainly worthy of the moniker. Within its walls, BroSis’ “theory of change” model shines through. It’s a transformative youth development model that has been honored and highlighted throughout the country.
Marsha Jean-Charles started as a member at BroSis in 2004 and currently serves and its Director of Organizing. It was when she sat in a workshop led by Lazarre-White in the Liberation Program (a youth organizing and activist collective) that her life’s passion and trajectory was sparked. The workshop was titled Lions and Historians, it’s framework based on the African Proverb, that “when lions become their own historians, hunters cease being heroes.”
Jean-Charles said the workshop inspired her to learn all she could about Black people, setting her on a path in higher education that saw her earn a Master’s degree in African American studies from Columbia and a doctorate from Cornell in Africana Studies.
“At BroSis, we embody and genuinely believe in abolitionist pedagogy, and what it means to imbibe social justice and education into everything that we do at [the organization],” Jean-Charles said. “It’s culturally responsible education. It’s about not only learning about the messed up stuff in the world, but what do we do about it?”
While it is impossible to wholly encapsulate the breadth of the impact, power and stories Brotherhood Sister Sol has contributed, alumni Trevor Walsh put it best: “It’s more than an organization, BroSis is a family. It’s all about the upbringing of youth.”
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