Brown Shares His Rise to Mayor with Choffin Students
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “Adversity is going to happen to you guys. It’s how you face it,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown told Choffin Career & Technical Center students Friday morning to kick off Black History Month events at the school.
Brown, born and raised in Youngstown, said he is the 51st mayor in the history of Youngstown, but only the second African American to hold the office.
He talked about his upbringing by his mother and how he overcame challenges in his own life to become mayor. After the speech, Brown said he hopes that students can see his childhood and the things he faced are not different than many of their lives, and they, too, can be successful someday.
“You need to get involved. And you need to understand why you want to become mayor. I always say to become mayor, you just need a heart and a head and determination,” Brown said in response to a student’s question. He noted he has a job interview everyday and he has an evaluation every four years.
Brown’s mother still evaluates him often, he said, questioning the decisions made by his office and the city. Brown said as a child, his mother made sure mediocrity was not an option, serving as both his greatest critic and greatest cheerleader.
Additionally, there were people in his neighborhood who helped take care of him and kept an eye on his actions. He mentioned one woman who sat on her front porch, keeping an eye on who was there that didn’t belong, praising those who deserved it and letting their mothers know what they were up to. Brown said more people need to keep an eye on their neighborhoods these days and look after each other and the elderly who live there.
“Don’t ever let anyone tear down where you live,” Brown said.
Advice From His Father
The mayor also told the students about visits to his father in jail and the advice his father gave him.
“Son, I’ve done enough jail time for you. You don’t have to go to jail,” Brown said, reflecting on his father’s words.
Brown said he later realized his father wanted him to do better than him. While they, too, may have a father or other relative in jail, Brown passed that message along, encouraging the students that the generation before them has done enough jail time for all of them, and they can change the trajectory of their lives.
“The generations before us, they got us voting rights, they got women’s rights, they got housing rights, civil rights. So they’ve paved the way for us,” Brown said after the speech. “We just got to get better. We can’t go back.”
Brown was senior class president and also a teenage father. He said he was recruited by a college outside the area for an athletic scholarship. But right before camp was to begin, he learned the scholarship was being cut in half because of his good academics. After calling his mother, Brown decided he was going to school for an education, not athletics, and he would come home to get his degree at Youngstown State University instead. He followed up his undergraduate degree with a master’s degree from YSU.
Brown said he has no regrets, despite the recruiter from that college telling him that he would. The experience taught him that sometimes people do not tell you the truth. You have to stand up for yourself, and the other school was cheated out of a great student.
Brown said he lost by 142 votes the first time he ran for mayor. “Delay is not denial for you,” he said.
After explaining the three branches of government and what a mayor does, Brown encouraged the students to not just vote just in presidential races. They have the opportunity to meet with local elected officials, who can make their lives better right here.
“Take care of your neighborhood. Understand people are not going to tell you everything you want to hear, and they might not be truthful,” Brown said. “And don’t let where you come from determine your future.”
Brown also inspired the students by telling them about some other mayors who achieved milestones.
He cited Carl B. Stokes, one of the first African American mayors of a major city, who served as Cleveland mayor for two terms, then went on to be a United States ambassador and the first Black anchor at NBC in New York. Brown also spoke about Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, the first African American woman to win three terms in a major U.S. city.
“So there’s always a ceiling to be broken,” Brown said. “There’s always barriers to overcome, and you understand when you grow up, there will be adversity for you.”
After his speech, Brown said along with an education, the Choffin Career & Technical Center gives students a pathway toward a career and a future. Students who are entrepreneurial offered him their products, something he said he encourages.
“One day they can be standing up here and talking about how they made it and how they got an opportunity to spread love, opportunities and hope to others,” Brown said. “I really love Choffin. They give them different avenues in life.”
Pictured at top: Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown speaks to students at Choffin Career & Technical Center on Friday to kick off Black History Month.
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