Brandon and his Mom at the Imagine Justice Concert in Sacramento.
In the aftermath of fires, shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, and yet another attempt by The White House to yank the dignity of affordable health care from millions of Americans, I could not conceive that the past week could have gotten worse.
But it did.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Brandon Harrison, 20 years young, was gunned down as he left a party in Stockton. Brandon embodied both the adversity and the promise of our work in Building Healthy Communities. He emerged from a gang-involved existence, a past littered with dozens of school suspensions, community violence, and the juvenile justice system.
Somehow, and with the support of mentors and support figures with the Fathers & Families program of San Joaquin, Brandon evolved as a young leader for peace, opportunity, and social justice. He was a vocal and visible leader at our annual Boys & Young Men of Color summer camp, spoke on youth panels at conferences on issues of social change, youth activism, and restorative justice — and recently joined my President’s Youth Council. Brandon was a most natural and gifted leader.
Robert K. Ross, MD and Brandon.
Brandon was open and candid about the past life he tried to leave behind, and wondered aloud about the risks in remaining in the Stockton community he was intent on serving. As recently as this past week, he was engaged in discussions with adult mentors about moving away from Stockton, while continuing on his path of youth activism.
From the bottom of our hearts at The California Endowment, we offer thoughts, reflection, and prayer to Brandon’s mother and family, including his two young children Noah and Adrian. Brandon’s legacy of youth activism and leadership is etched into the history of Building Healthy Communities. He will not be forgotten, and we carry on the work of Building Healthy Communities with his brand of leadership and vision in mind.