This fall, RuQuan “RuThaTruth” Brown will start his freshman year at the Ivy League school where African-American historian and DCPS alumnus Carter G. Woodson earned his doctoral degree just more than a century ago, becoming the second Black man to do so after W.E.B. Du Bois.
For Brown, attending Harvard University presents an opportunity not only to excel in the classroom and on the football field, but to also clearly articulate to peers from across the country and world what he described as the truth about D.C. youth that has been missing from dominant narratives.
“People in D.C. are motivated to survive and make a way,” said Brown, 18, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School and wide receiver for the Roosevelt Rough Riders. “Sometimes it’s by unconventional methods, but there is also a plethora of young people who are motivated and will go about the more traditional means to get where they desire to be.
“The people I will have conversations with will have resources, and D.C. has a hub for receiving [with] the Summer Youth Employment Program, Promising Futures, and other programs. D.C. youth want to be helped,” he added.
Brown, who was born in Seattle and spent his childhood in the Dallas metropolitan area, recently announced his decision to attend Harvard University before his family, teammates, teachers, coaches and other community members at Roosevelt High School in Northwest.
Over the past year, Brown, also an anti-violence advocate and social entrepreneur, has garnered more than two dozen offers from a string of prestigious colleges and universities, including Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Temple and Howard.
In the years leading up to and following this milestone, Brown has stood alongside his peers on the front lines of causes significant to young D.C. residents, all while playing football and maintaining a 3.9 GPA.
Last month, he and students from other D.C. public and public charter schools converged on the front steps of Anacostia High School in Southeast to demand that Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) expands on-campus youth activities and other violence prevention resources in the fiscal 2021 budget.
During the previous academic year, Brown counted among several dozen Banneker students who successfully lobbied members of the D.C. Council to approve the school’s relocation from Euclid Street in Northwest to the site of the former Shaw Middle School on 9th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, also in Northwest.
At the end of what had been a tumultuous battle between members of the Banneker community and Shaw-area parents who wanted a new neighborhood middle school, Brown, along with Banneker Principal Anita Berger, Bowser and others broke ground on what will be a new state-of-the-art high school scheduled to open in 2021.
Some of Brown’s other outlets, such as his Love1 clothing line, reflect the flurry of emotions that overcame him in the aftermath of his stepfather and teammate’s gun-related deaths within the past three years. Even as he matriculates to Harvard, Brown said he will continue to honor their memory, and that of other victims, with the national and international sales of hoodies, shirts and other apparel that promote love, unity and spiritual ascension.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Love1 products goes to One Gun Gone, a Providence, Rhode Island-based violence-prevention organization that collects guns and transforms them into thought-provoking art pieces.
For Brown, his unique high school experience stands as a testament to a willingness to step outside of his comfort zone. He said that his decision to immerse himself in the Roosevelt community broadened his perspective and influenced his activism.
“In that ‘Banneker bubble,’ we’re the best. It’s important to get out and realize that you’re not the only great ones,” Brown told The Informer.
“My brand wouldn’t have gotten started had I not gone to Roosevelt. I wouldn’t be able to tell this story the way I want,” he said. “We run from discomfort, and look at those spaces and get intimidated, [but] I’m thankful to be in those different spaces where people are a lot looser and relaxed.”