These days, it’s almost unavoidable to find yourself wrapped up in a lot of noise. Press an icon or two on your smartphone and you’re suddenly inundated with a veritable cornucopia of opinions about every topic under the sun. You’ll see a lot of political hot-button topics with a never-ending stream of people talking the talk about how to “fix” whatever ails us.
Talking about an issue is one thing, taking action is another and it takes a special person to walk the walk.
Jamil Brown is that person.
Jamil has spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement, including the past 10 years with the Chicago Police Department. He currently serves as the community liaison for youth and faith in the 10th District that encompasses North Lawndale and Little Village, living and working where he leads.
“I always want to help people,” Jamil said. “It’s just in me to uplift people, help people, bring people together and be a connector. Just get out and do it and don’t make any excuses about it.”
He moved from his birthplace of East St. Louis to Elgin, Ill., as a 10-year-old, along with his mother and sister, to be closer to his aunt and grandmother and escape a turbulent existence in one of the most crime-ridden areas of the country.
It took a leap of faith for his mother to uproot a young family on her own, without a definite landing spot, to seek out a better life for her children. Jamil and his family spent months in temporary living arrangements, sleeping in basements and bouncing from one location to another until finally settling into a place of their own.
It was an unsettling adventure for a young boy, but one that led him to ultimately find a welcoming community in the church.
“My faith is a huge component (of who he is). I grew up in faith. I grew up in the Methodist church,” Jamil commented, noting that it was his grandmother who would take them to church “nearly every day” once he arrived in the Windy City.
It may not have been his preferred after-school activity as a youngster, but it shaped Jamil into the servant leader he has become.
The upbeat, jovial Jamil oversees CPD community outreach programming for both young people and faith organizations across the 10th District - but it’s more than programming. It’s about building the necessary relationships between a community and those tasked with protecting and serving it.
“We have so many things to offer. A lot of people don’t realize what the police department is and has been doing with the community.”
He didn’t want to be seen as an outsider, someone who came into a neighborhood, pillaged and left. And that’s why when he had the opportunity to live in the community he serves, he set roots in North Lawndale so he could walk the walk for his community.
“My job is all about community,” said Jamil. “When I had the opportunity to live here and work here, it just added that much more credibility.”
“They see me in the grocery store, they see me wherever - we’re talking and chatting.”
His mission goes beyond simply being a familiar face in the grocery store or on the street corner. Jamil is guiding a new generation of community leaders as part of his Youth District Advisory Council, an annual cohort of young people ages 16-24 who receive leadership training, networking opportunities, and work directly with CPD to provide recommendations and find solutions to the pressing needs of their areas.
It’s a critical program in his eyes, one that directly impacts the current and future interactions between CPD and its constituents.
“We are people. We have hearts, we have families,” Jamil said.
His is a humanizing role, helping people on both sides of the street see the other with compassion, a message rooted in his faith.
You may have heard the phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or as Jamil says it, “Give someone some love. Give somebody some grace.”
Jamil Brown is one of 18 up-and-coming Westside leaders selected to be a part of the inaugural cohort of Community Leadership Fellows. Community Leadership Fellows (CLF) is a leadership development experience that involves educational workshops, tactical training, collaborative learning, coaching, mentoring and networking. We believe that the investment in homegrown talent will lead to sustainable, vibrant communities.
Jamil Brown, District CAPS Office as the Youth Liaison and the Faith Based Liaison. Hear more about his mission to use faith based mentoring to help youth on the westside.