Kellen Stepler | Editor-in-Chief
“I’m still here.”
These were the words Dannielle Brown, mother of Marquis Jaylen “JB” Brown, who fell to his death from the window of Brottier Hall in 2018, said Tuesday afternoon in a protest outside the Duquesne arch on Forbes Avenue.
“I’m here, and I’m not going nowhere,” Brown said. “I’m right here.”
Tuesday, Sept. 22 was Day 81 of her hunger strike in protest of how she believes Duquesne’s administration has improperly handled the loss of her son. Her demands include full access to the investigative reports into her son’s death, as well as an independent investigation, while also making body cameras, increased mental health crisis and de-escalation training mandatory for university police.
The university has said it’s attempt- ed to meet her demands by offering an in-person viewing of the files and ordering body cameras. Administra-tive officials said they tried to reach out to Brown’s attorney to review the files, but were unable to reach him.
On Tuesday, she noted that Duquesne is the only Spiritan university in the world, which means that they can set an example to be a leader.
“That means that you guys set a precedent, that means that you guys can stand up and make changes and laws, and reform, and I’m asking for a seat at the table,” Brown said. “I’m qualified; why won’t Duquesne invite me to the table? … Who do you think has initiated all of this reform? Jaylen Brown.”
To Duquesne students, she said, “It’s so important for you to question the narrative. You have that right to be critical, free thinkers — you have that right.”
Brown read from a paper of Duquesne’s Spiritan principles, the “dimensions of a Duquesne University education.”
“One of them is ‘apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills,’” she said. “You know why this is important? Because one of the problem solving skills you can apply is me. I’m right here; use your problem solving skills and critical thinking to address why Momma Brown hasn’t eaten for 81 days. Where’s the body cameras? Where’s the reform plan for training of the officers? Where’s the before and after plan? Where’s my seat at the table?”
She said that while her and Duquesne President Ken Gormley have a lot of respect for each other, he’s “not getting it right.” Brown said that Duquesne shouldn’t work around her, and to not have social justice programs, for example, with- out inviting her into the conversation.
“Where’s the invite that says, ‘Momma Brown, you’ve been out here champion for these students. It’s time we champion for you. We’ve been out here laboring for these students. Mama Brown, come to the seat at the table and help us heal. Help us get it right, help us reform,’” Brown said.
Brown also cited the social justice components of the dimensions of a Duquesne education, and that she wants students to dedicate them- selves to being leaders, focusing on reform and being the change.
“I want to see you in the classroom asking, how can we have this if a mother is starving at the gate? Where is that social justice?” she said.
She also offered an open mic, where some Duquesne students and alumni attending the protest voiced their disapproval of how the university is handling the situation.
Following the action, Brown posted on social media that she received a letter from Duquesne stating, “trespassing on our campus and inviting others to do so is unacceptable.” Brown tweeted the picture, writing, “false narrative alert.”
“I have not been publicly recruit- ing individuals to gather with me on Duquesne campus today. Duquesne Alumni and Students created the flyer, promoted the action, and asked that I share it!” she wrote.
As of Tuesday night, 70,944 people have signed an online petition, titled “Justice for Marquis ‘Jaylen’ Brown who fell to his death at Duquesne University.”
The letter noted the university’s COVID-19 protocols, non-affiliated visitors banned from trespassing on campus and “noise that impedes (Duquesne’s) educational mission.”
“The University has been accom- modating in providing you space in order that you may express your views. Our top priority is and always will be the learning environment for our students and we will focus on their safety and on minimizing disruptions in that environment. We ap- preciate your cooperation,” the letter concludes.