By Rob Taylor Jr. – Courier Staff Writer
Dannielle Brown’s hunger strike is over, but her battle for justice for her son is everlasting.
Brown, whose son, Marquis Jaylen Brown, died after falling out of a Duquesne University dorm room window in 2018, announced the start of a foundation named in her son’s honor on March 11, at the site where her fight for justice in Pittsburgh all began—Freedom Corner.
“The actions we’ve done here at Freedom Corner…man, epic,” Dannielle Brown told the crowd gathered at Freedom Corner in the Hill District, the site where she staged her hunger strike for 237 days demanding answers from Duquesne University officials about the death of her son. “I will never, ever forget how each and every one of you played a role in helping us get to this place, so I want to say thank you, personally, from the bottom of my heart.”
Marquis Jaylen Brown Foundation aims to advocate for students at universities
For much of the past year, Dannielle Brown’s relocation from her hometown of Washington, D.C., to inside a tent (and subsequent hunger strike) at Freedom Corner garnered national attention to the death of Marquis Jaylen Brown, who played football for Duquesne. Dannielle Brown was angered at the lack of transparency she felt university officials gave to her about the Oct. 4, 2018, tragic incident involving her son on his 21st birthday. University officials said that their investigation revealed Marquis Jaylen Brown broke the 16th floor Brottier Hall dorm window and jumped to his death. But Dannielle Brown never fully believed that story, and made her presence known and felt to Duquesne University officials that she wanted more answers to such a perplexing situation.
On Feb. 25, which was day 236 of her hunger strike, Dannielle Brown was rushed to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, after a possible seizure. She was told by her doctors that continuing the hunger strike could have adverse effects on her health, but up until Feb. 25, Dannielle Brown was not deterred.
During the March 11 event at Freedom Corner, Dannielle Brown praised UPMC doctors for nursing her back to good health, while concurrently deciding to end her hunger strike on Feb. 27.
“I went to the edge,” Dannielle Brown told supporters, “and at the edge, Jaylen was there, but Jaylen pushed me back and he pushed me back in to the arms of my other son. So I knew that it was just not my time, and I also knew that I’m going to keep raising my fist and continue this fight, and I also know that the Marquis Jaylen Brown Foundation needed me.”
On Feb. 28, Paul Jubas and Max Petrunya, attorneys for Dannielle Brown, told WTAE-TV in a statement that Duquesne University had complied with some of Dannielle Brown’s demands, including turning over to the attorneys its public safety files and video camera footage related to the Marquis Jaylen Brown incident, purchasing body-worn cameras for its officers, and enhancing its de-escalation training for university officers.
The Marquis Jaylen Brown Foundation’s mission is to collaborate with students and mothers “to advocate for justice for any student who faces a crisis at America’s higher learning institutions,” according to a release from the organization. The foundation wants to ensure that “not another mother has to endure the grief and pain surrounding the sudden, unresolved death of their child, and that all students’ voices are heard and represented in universities nationwide,” a release said.
“It is imperative that we collectively work together to make sure that our students are safe,” Dannielle Brown told the crowd at Freedom Corner. “We want to know what happened to our children.”