When I reflect on 20 years of work and achievement at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol I am deeply moved by the personal stories and journeys of our young people. It has been a profound experience to watch so many youth become lovers of education, to come to define their own moral and ethical code - and to be involved in guiding them as they become politically aware. It is a dream fulfilled.
Jason and I are now called social entrepreneurs - a term rarely used in 1995, when we were 21 and answered what was, in truth, a calling. It means that we were deeply committed to a social justice issue and we were moved to do something and create our own vision - on our own terms. We sought to respond to rampant inequality and lack of opportunity. I have been honored to walk this path with Jason for so many years and to struggle alongside him - as well as with a staff who is unparalleled in their commitment and dedication, educators who have been unyielding in their support of our young people.
I have been honored to see our youth achieve in spite of the suffocating conditions that they face due to poverty and race and America’s continued inability to provide a high-level education and stable employment for all its citizens. Our young people have built resilience, developed skills, honed their minds and critical thinking skills and become committed - and so they have endured and become successful. To see our youth as they spend a month with us in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America is to see lives transformed. To watch as our members become alumni who have dedicated their lives to social change, the arts and education is inspiring and affirming.
Our themes - Positivity, Knowledge, Community and Future - have guided our work since 1995. These themes now guide them. Our Theory of Change is to provide multi-layered support, guidance, education and love to our membership, to teach them to have self-discipline and form order in their lives, and then to offer opportunities and access so that they may develop agency. After 20 years and documented results - it is no longer a theory. We help young people to change and transform their lives. It is what we do.
In 1995 Khary and I were barely out of our teens. We had just graduated from Brown University and we were ready to head home and take on the world! Guided by a deep recognition of our historical legacy and a passion for youth empowerment, we were anxious to return to New York and make our mark on our community.
We had created “Da’ Brotherhood” in Providence, working with Black and Latino boys who were involved in the drug trade. The program had proven that even amidst the worst circumstances, providing a safe-space, where young people come together to form community, to define their beliefs, find their voice, and to receive the support, guidance, resources and love of elders, was the anecdote for a generation of youth suffering from the poverty, drugs, violence, mis-education and racism that destroys communities.
We began our work in New York with minimal funding and no space of our own. We didn’t have “carrots” to offer youth. However, what we lacked in financial resources, we made up for by developing deep and loving connections. Providing long-term holistic support, culturally relevant education, and unconditional love became the hallmark of our organization. Indeed, demonstrating the power of love, through the formation of supportive relationships and true bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, is at the core of our method of healing our community.
As I reflect on 20 years of The Brotherhood-Sister Sol, I am heartened and humbled by the people who have shared this journey with me. The many people who have volunteered their time and energy to uplift and support our work; the incredible staff who have dedicated their lives to serving the youth of our community; and the countless alumni who are “spreading the word”, and leading exemplary lives within their families, their professions and their communities.
I have been blessed to be a part of this family. It has enabled me to find my calling, to pursue my life’s passion, and to work side-by-side with people I love, to build a better world!
With lots of love and gratitude.
Jason Warwin and Khary Lazarre-White create "Da' Brotherhood" project and begin working with young men at the John Hope Settlement House in Providence, RI, while students at Brown University.
May - Jason & Khary graduate from Brown University and return home to NYC. Da' Brotherhood is maintained by Ralph Johnson, a fellow Brown University student.
October - Khary and Jason incorporate "The New York City Brotherhood" and establish a formal non-profit organization know as "The Brotherhood". They establish partnerships with Central Park East Secondary School and East Side Community High School, and work begins with 45 young men from Harlem, the South Bronx, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. The first two chapters of the Rites of Passage Program are created - Knowledge of Self and Invincible/Untouchable.
- First additional staff members are hired to expand the program.
- Begin our first summer programs, which will become annual programs of Bro/Sis, including summer day camp, job training program and students studying internationally with us for a month. In 1996 they studied with us in Morocco and Spain, in future years we will hold programs in Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico.
Publishes the first of its collection of youth writings - The Brotherhood Speaks.
- First chapter, Knowledge of Self, graduate from High School and from the Rites of Passage Program.
- Organization is renamed The Brotherhood/Sister Sol and becomes a co-educational space that serves young women as well. Susan Wilcox joins the leadership team to help create and lead the co-educational space. The first Sister Sol Chapters are Sol Axe and EleLoLi - The Pages.
- The Liberation Program begins, the activist training program.
- Bro/Sis purchases the building that continues to serve as its headquarters and renovates the site in 2000 to move into the facility.
At our new site, Bro/Sis begins to serves our younger members, ages 8-11, through our Elementary Aged After School Program.
Khary and Jason appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show and receive the Oprah Angel Network Award.
Publishes the 2nd collection of youth writings, Voices of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol.
Holds our first Voices gala event. Over the years honorees include - Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, David N. Dinkins, George C. Wolfe, Susan L. Taylor, Dr. Cornel West, Rosario Dawson, Theodore & Nina Wells, Ana Oliveira, Elaine Jones, Cesar Perales, Esperanza Spalding, and Michael Ealy. Hosts include: Soledad O’Brien, Tracee Ellis Ross, T.J. Holmes, Boris Kodjoe, Tamron Hall and Kerry Washington.
Jason, Khary and Cidra Sebastien collectively receive the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award.
Publishes the 3rd collection of youth writings, Off the Subject: The Words of the Lyrical Circle of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, with an introduction by Bro/Sis founding Board member, the late Sekou Sundiata; and our first volume of curriculum, Brother, Sister, Leader: The Official Curriculum of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol.
Purchases the land adjacent to our building, ensuring the necessary space for our future capital expansion.
Out of over 400 applicants from around the work we are selected by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ashoka as one of the leading programs in the world serving “at risk” young men.
Publishes Why Did This Happen: Content, Perspective, Dialogue: A Workshop Model for Developing Young people’s Reflective Writing.
- Our Board of Directors wins a Brooke W. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Board Leadership.
- At our annual Voices gala event we honor Harry Belafonte, among others. He becomes a key advocate for our work, inviting our alumni to present at international conferences, returning as special presenter and speaker at our events, and inviting our staff to present at conferences he convenes.
- Jason trains educators in Bahia, Brazil and together they create Irmãos Unidos (Brothers United) establishing an international chapter of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
Via an Open Society Foundation (OSF) grant, we expand our training effort and train educators and OSF grantees from across the United States on our model, in cities that include New Orleans, Jackson (MS), Chicago and Milwaukee.
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation selects Bro/Sis as one of their 10 national Forward Promise awardees for the leading programs in the nation serving young men of color.
- Jason returns from seven years in Brazil and rejoins the existing leadership team of Khary, Cidra, and Wendy De Jesus.
- Creates a youth run farmers market that brings high quality produce to the local area as a part of our decade long environmental program.
- Begins two partnerships with New York City Department of Education that brings our work formally into schools in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx establishing Bro/Sis as a truly citywide agency.
- We are selected as one of the 8 inaugural grantees by the Thrive Foundation for Children as members of their first cohort of leading programs in America using a model of "high impact, intensive, caring adult engagement with disadvantaged youth."
Celebrate our 20th anniversary