In popular culture, the term Bro Code is a friendship etiquette to be followed among men. The universal Bro Code is that you are to always have your brothers back, no exceptions. Among society, a brotherhood is that of similar and like minded individuals with a commonality or same purpose. When founder, Jamais Burts started this organization it was to change what she was seeing with our youth and young men in the streets of Baltimore. She saw a purpose and a chance to do better. So let’s find out more about Jamais Burts and Bro Code Baltimore.
LB: Tell my readers about you and how you came to be who you are today?
JB: Well I was born and raised in Bronx, New York. I grew up in a very traditional middle class family. Two parent household, Grandparents were married lived in the same house but different apartment, and we were a tight knit family. Cousins were more like siblings, holidays were big, and the house was always filled with love. My Village instilled values and morals at an early age. My grandparents, parents, aunt and uncles, taught us the importance of being kind and helping those in need. Our house was the neighborhood house. It was always packed with kids. It was innate that I gained so much compassion for people and wanting to help as much as I could. As a young adult I remember braiding hair for the neighborhood kids, teaching a dance class around the corner in a Karate center for the young girls, and writing news stations trying to get a community center in the neighborhood.
LB: Where were you born/raised and how did you come to settle where you are now?
JB: Again I was born and raised in the South Bronx. I came to Baltimore to attend Morgan State University. Go Bears! After Morgan, I left for a short time and came back. Something always kept me here and at this stage I know it was God’s plan because I have work to do here. Everybody always asks do I ever plan to go back home. I say, “no.” One because I cannot afford New York City.
LB:What made you decide to do what you do and how has the impact on community changed your life?
JB: Before I started Bro Code Baltimore I had volunteered for many organizations and with many programs that focused on serving the youth. Helping to make change is what I was placed to do but more specifically being able to be an advocate for change in our young people is my calling. I’ve always wanted to work with kids but wasn’t always sure it what capacity. It started with wanting to be a family lawyer, then social worker. I just needed to be more hands on. Even with working with other organizations it was always things I wanted to implement and run the way I had envision. I knew for a long time I was going to start a nonprofit, I sat on it though. Then God gave me no choice but to get off the fence. The impact its’ had on my life is awareness. I see things differently, I asses every situation. I never look at a problem and think it’s a simple solution. I want to know the background, the history, all the factors that assisted in creating the problem, then I start looking at the full wrap around solution. You know, it’s like you don’t just wake up homeless one day.
LB: What inspires you to do what you do?
JB: My biological children, my children in my program, my mentees, and the children who are still looking for a way are my inspiration. I need my children as much as they need me. I have so many children that call me mom, I can barely keep track of them. I love it though! Knowing they have someone they can depend on is important to me. I can’t and won’t let them down.
LB: What was the biggest obstacle in achieving your success?
JB: I think the biggest obstacle for me is sometimes not having sufficient resources. We are a grassroots organization that isn’t even a year old. People want you to convenience them that your program is successfully and I get it. I let the work speak for itself. If anyone talks to any of my kids or parents they will be sold.
LB: What was the initial experience like and what was the upside/downside of the experience?
JB: Oh goodness. I threw in the towel many of times before I started and many more times after. The initial part of getting off the ground was extremely hard. I didn’t have any funding except what was coming out my pocket with big dreams. What I was able to envision from what God gave me did not match what was in the pocketbook or any of the debit/credit cards. People always talk about the rose that grew from concrete, well we came from under the concrete. To now be almost a year in with a fully functional program that is actually making a difference, yeah it was worth every tear, struggle, cuss word…..it was worth it all. I don’t think of it as the downside. The only way to get to the top of the mountain is to start from the bottom and gradually make your way up. Different mountains require different climbs and different efforts. You just have to start. I’m thankful for it all. Still climbing to the upside.
LB: What would you change about what you do?
JB: I want to say nothing because it’s all a part of the process but I do wish that people would be more involved. I’m talking about all the way from a government level to a parent level. I’ve had to move good kids from the program because of the parent. It’s heartbreaking. I mean one of the hardest things to do but parents have to be accountable.
LB: What advice would you give to young people who find interest in what you do?
JB: To the young people who are thinking about starting a nonprofit or serving their community in any capacity I would say, “Don’t take it personal.” I’m a very emotional person in the sense I wear my heart on my sleeves. If you have a pure heart and are passionate about what you are doing people will be able to see it. Some people will just not like you or what you do for various reasons, some won’t support, etc and it may not even be something personal to you. Guard your heart, and don’t take it personal.
LB: How has family played a part in your success?
JB: I can’t imagine doing this without the support of my family. Family is big for me! I come from a big family with big love. They push me, inspire me, they keep me together in a sense. As long as I have my family I know I will always have willing helping hands around. I’m fall into one of the generations who grew up with the support of “the village.” I’m thankful for everyone who had their hand in it and still do. I can’t think of one person in my village I can call for help and they will say no. Shout-out to family.
LB: Is there any one thing that you constantly do/say that makes a difference in the outcome of what you do?
JB: I don’t know if this counts but, press down, shaken together and running over. Also the prayer of Jabez is important to me. It’s important to self-affirm and speak things into your life. If you ask my kids what I constantly drill into them is me asking what the “a” word is. Accountability, making sure I’m accountable as well as them. Also for me, I have to write stuff out and see it. I like visuals.
LB: What is in store for the future?
JB: In the future I see Bro Code Baltimore in their own building running multiple programs daily. I’m also in the process of providing a transitional home for homeless youth. Bro Code Baltimore is definitely also going to expand. I plan on working through every door God opens up for me.
LB: How can readers reach you or make contributions to you or your organization?
JB: I can be reached on all social media outlets under Bro Code Baltimore. Can also be contacted by phone at 667-367-1800 or email: Jamais@brocodebaltimore.org. We accept donations via paypal: http://paypal.me/BrocodeBaltimore, Cash App: $BroCodeBaltimore, or online at http://youcaring.com/BroCodeBaltimore. Our mailing address is PO Box 41044, Baltimore, MD 21203.