Coach Derek Brown knows the hardships of growing up on Chicago’s West side. Going by the name of “Shotgun,” he joined a gang at the age of thirteen and spent many of his younger years between the streets and jail. By the time he was in his twenties, “Shotgun” had been shot and his best friend was lost to gun violence.
Now dedicated to building up the same community he once helped tear down, Coach Brown is determined to prevent the next generation from enduring the hardships he experienced as a child. He started this program on a grassroots basis in 2009, meeting youth after school outside of Penn Elementary for physical training. Boxing seemed to be the activity that best held the kids’ interest – as Coach Brown has put it, “You want to fight? Well bring your bad self over here.”
Of course, as youth get further into the sport they experience what Coach Brown refers to as “sneak discipline” – the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in the ring. This program is about far more than fighting: It’s about achieving anti-violence through youth empowerment, with boxing simply being the vehicle for fostering self-respect, confidence, and a sense of purpose within a culture of positivity. Boxing Out Negativity seamlessly combines physical training with mentorship, motivational discussions, and civic engagement to help youth realize the best within themselves.
When Coach Brown started the “North Lawndale Boxing League,” community members started to notice his efforts and offer Gatorade, boxing equipment, and other support. That grassroots effort has now grown into Boxing Out Negativity, where Coach Brown heads three anti-violence components:
- Youth Boxing
- Street Outreach
- Community Anti-Violence Events
This is more than a program, it’s a way of life – Coach Brown has dedicated his time and resources to building BON into a comprehensive peace movement.