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Boxing Out Negativity founder, Derek Brown, has always been a leader. From the age of thirteen, others have followed him. In North Lawndale, he was left with very few options and a lack of resources. He had an extraordinary ability, yet he had no outlets to use it positively, and therefore he became a member of the unknown Vice Lords. He quickly worked his way through the ranks, and others followed in his footsteps. His influence grew until he was sent to prison at 17 for drug trafficking.
These experiences shaped who he wanted to be. Witnessing firsthand the consequences of his actions and what they did to his family and friends drove him to realize he was capable of much more.
Now he is fulfilling his purpose. He is a mentor, a leader, and a father figure in his community for those who need it most. He dedicates his life to the youth of his community who are just like him. He spends every day ensuring that these young people have more opportunities than he did.
Brown began his grassroots activism in 2009. He met with students from William Penn Elementary and provided them with free boxing lessons and a safe space. The program is about much more than boxing. It is about empowering youth, raising their confidence, and stopping the cycle of violence in North Lawndale. Eventually, the program adopted the name Boxing Out Negativity.
The program has grown immensely in the past 13 years. It now has a building in the neighborhood, professional equipment for youth to use, and hosts a multitude of community involvement events. One of these events is Biking Out Negativity. It was an enormous community bike ride promoting unity among the residents of North Lawndale. The event consisted of hundreds of riders. Additional bicycles were available for those who did not have one.
A pillar of the Boxing Out Negativity program is self-discipline. Boxing requires an enormous amount of discipline to become skilled. Brown strives to instill this sense of discipline in youth because he understands that with self-discipline, anything is achievable. The program gives young people something positive in which to invest their time and effort. It gives them the most positive thing to invest in, themselves.
In the last few years, youth in the program have had a chance to compete with others in boxing tournaments and other events. This year, for the first time, Brown has had his fighters in the Chicago Golden Gloves, a boxing club for amateur fighters. The organization has featured many world-famous boxers such as Joe Lewis, Sonny Liston, and Muhammad Ali. This incredible achievement for Brown and his fighters proves that it does not matter where a person comes from or what surrounds them, with time, effort, and self-discipline, anything becomes achievable.
Written by Joseph Nelson
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
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Interview: Derek Brown
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Images Courtesy of Chase Williams – Used With Permission