ROXBURY—As snow gently fell onto the Roxbury Community College campus, the smell of burger patties and hot dogs wafted into the Student Commons, where booths lined the foyer and people of all ages wore red and black—the official colors for homicide awareness.
In the back corner stood a mother, daughter, and best friend selling a variety of clothing items with the logo YD for YUNG DUMME. Their mission, however, extends far beyond just fashion. It was turning their anger into action.
The trio started YUNG DUMME, a Boston apparel startup, and hosted their first event on Feb. 25, called “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence,”—a pop-up affair that featured local vendors and resources. The aim was to unite the urban community through arts and culture while also educating the public on the enormous impact of homicide and violence of all kinds.
As of March 12, 2023, there have been nine recorded homicides, 28 victims of shootings, and 154 cases of domestic aggravated assaults citywide.
“I see a lot of comments like what’s being done about violence,” said Tanaijsa Brutus, the 27-year-old director of creation and design at YUNG DUMME who lives in Chelsea, Mass. “This event is a step in the right direction.”
Brutus, Stephanie Wilson, and Kidiah Roberts founded YUNG DUMME last year, after losing KeAndre’ Roberts, their best friend, son, and brother, to an unsolved homicide on Aug. 31, 2022. The brand is their homage to KeAndre’ as he had originally wanted to create the urban apparel line himself.
KeAndre’ also came up with the name YUNG DUMME, which stands for “Your Universe Navigates Greatness. Discipline Undoubtedly Made Me Exceptional.” After facing his own trials and tribulations with the corrections systems and violence, he wanted to create something that showcases how everyone makes mistakes but taking those next steps to learn from them would make one exceptional.
Through their personal social media accounts, a business website, and over 60,000 views on Pinterest, Roberts, Brutus, and Wilson have taken KeAndre’s vision and brought it to light via e-commerce.
While their business is primarily online, the organizers wanted to bring everyone together in person, said Roberts, the 28-year-old director of community outreach and resources from Dorchester.
“Feeling the energy, support, and emotions… it’s totally different than sitting on the computer screen listening to a seminar talking about the same things,” she said.
The “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence” title highlights the need for more openness about issues such as abuse and trauma, said Wilson, the 45-year-old director of operations.
“If you’ve been abused, if you’re a victim… just talk about it, speak about it. We need to break this saga of nobody saying anything.”Stephanie Wilson
At the event, 20 small businesses sold paintings, jewelry, personalized cups, and other items. The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and the Boston Neighborhood Trauma team were among the organizations at 13 booths, offering resources to individuals affected by violence and homicide.
Aretha Maugé, outreach coordinator at Mothers for Justice and Equality for the last 10 years, said after losing her son to violence on the MBTA back in 2008, her mission is to make sure mothers and families get support after traumatic events.
“I was working in corporate and lost my job when it happened because I didn’t know how to turn that pain into purpose,” Maugé said.
This idea of transforming pain into purpose is something that inspired Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia.
“So many people are experiencing trauma, especially after COVID,” Mejia said in an interview. “Creating spaces like this where people can build with each other … is one of the most important things that we could do.”
Wilson recalled negative media reports after her son was killed, adding that she wanted the event to be much more. She wanted to “touch the people being touched’’ in a show of support.
“This is about the camaraderie of people getting together for something positive, especially in the Greater Boston area and urban communities,” she said.
Clifton A. Braithwaite, who is running for Boston City Council at-large, said he is pleased the events’ emphasis was on “great organizations,’’ than on violence. The way YUNG DUMME brought fashion and community together is a “beautiful” thing he said.
“The only way to get to people is through love, education, and events like this,” he said. “There’s more to life than just worrying about being in a body bag.”
This story was published as part of a collaboration between MA Latino News and Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication. The student journalist is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.
Annika Chaves is 20 years old and from Pittsburgh, PA. She is a sophomore at Boston University, studying Journalism and Anthropology with aspirations of working in the legal field as an attorney. As a first-generation immigrant from Colombia, she is passionate about finding ways to connect with and amplify the Latine voices in local communities.