Fearless Five | Baltimore
Every day, no matter how many challenges we’re up against, I see the kids I’m working with, like Daron, DeMar and Tony, they get to be themselves, be free. And that’s what drives me and keeps me going.
B-360, Founder and CEO
In my past life, I marketed the City of Baltimore. I loved to watch strangers’ expressions change when I rebutted their negative perception with one phrase, “Baltimore is a city of grace and grit.”
It’s an inarguable fact. The people of Baltimore live their lives on both sides of the coin. It’s an energy…it’s a vibe…issa mood. And, when you meet our Fearless Hero, Brittany Young, you experience what that truly means.
West Baltimore has experienced great economic depression and is often colored by crime and housing abandonment, but against all odds it has produced a young woman who has single-handedly taken on one of the largest and most polarizing issues for Baltimore’s youth, the criminalization of dirt bike riding.
After one discussion with Brittany, you begin to feel accountable. You stop pointing the finger at what you don’t like in the world, and begin focusing on what you can do to impact the change you want to see. That’s fearless.
Brittany Young breaks the mold by simply being herself.
How much does Baltimore play in who you are and what you do?
Yeah, where else would I be from? Like when people asked me, where would I move to? I don’t have an answer because I would never move anywhere. I will always live in Baltimore.
Both of my grandmothers are from Virginia. It was the great migration that came to Baltimore for the promise. So, I’m only the second generation of Baltimoreans. And so, Baltimore owes me that promise, and that legacy of my grandmother is a freedom of equity and to undo racism. And so, I’m going to get it in my lifetime, and make sure more people get it after me.
B-360 | Igniting ingenuity in Baltimore
In their own words
One thing about our Fearless Five role models: They are always on the move. We’re grateful they slow down long enough to drop diamonds of insight and share what motivates them. Check out the videos.
Her Fearless Story
I’m Brittany from Baltimore, West Baltimore, specifically. And that’s me. I think I’m just a Black girl from West Baltimore, through and through. The awards, accolades. That’s cool. That’s cute. But being from here, that’s a superpower. What I do is be myself and make sure that other people know how cool it is to be themselves.
Who did you see that was taking action when you were young?
One of my grandmothers. She was one of the matriarchs of our neighborhood. And I just knew people didn’t play with her. A woman who held her own, she wasn’t afraid to fight, cuss people out, and you’re not going to do anything to her or her family without her knowledge.
A lot of what I saw of how to be a free Black woman came from Ms. Lou. And they called me little Lou. We look exactly alike, which is scary. Same hands, same everything, same mannerisms. Yeah. And if you met my grandmother, you would say that’s me.
So, I guess that was my first spark. I gave my grandmother lots of problems as a kid. I was “Pinky and the Brain.” So, I had a cousin, I used to be the Brain, he was Pinky. Whatever I said to do, he did. And we would just fight every day. And my grandmother didn’t know what to do with us. So, grandmothers have switches. I had a whole tree. I had a whole bush for myself.
She was the first person who acknowledged, “Brittany is really, really smart. But if I don’t let her do whatever it is she wants to do, it’s going to be bad for all of us.”
B-360 means “Be the revolution.” In 2021, what does revolution look like to you?
Revolution for Brittany, not Brittany the founder? It looks like sleep and rest. Like Audre Lorde says the best: There’s nothing wrong with rest. And that’s a whole revolution in itself. When I first started B-360, like a lot of people, I went full steam ahead, and I just did stuff because it was right. But then I also lost myself in creating B-360. That means my revolution is that it’s OK to rest. It’s OK to sustain yourself. It’s OK to just be here.
For B-360, we’re revolutionizing how people think about education and how people are undoing systemic racism and making sure that people can reimagine public safety. Since 2017, we’ve worked with 8,000 students and counting. We’ve saved the City of Baltimore $1.3 million and counting. We’ve decreased dirt bike arrests by 81 percent. And now we’re trying to move and grow the entire industry, for not just dirt bikes, but education. To make sure people know, yes, you’re smart, you’re talented. You’re brilliant. But more importantly, your voice matters.
What do you say to that person who sees behind the curtain and knows the system is rigged? What do you say to motivate them to stand up anyway?
That’s a good question. The system was not made for us. Our ancestors had been fighting fights before we existed. And I always say, I can’t change all the world’s problems, but I can take one specific issue and do whatever I can to undo it.
My thing is you can break the system apart and put it back together in real time. So, I worked in schools as a teacher. It was a part of learning the system to be able to break it. I worked in engineering to learn the system, to be able to break it. And now what I’m focusing on is broken. So now I’m putting it back together. So, we reimagined it.
This year, we launched our diversion program with the state’s attorney’s office so anything in Baltimore [related to dirt bike violations] goes through B-360 [programming] instead of jail. That was an idea that was on the wall in 2016. And so that’s what I mean. I never planned to have a partnership, but I always knew to do this work, what I wanted it to look like. And so, I wrote the protocol, I wrote how it was going to go.
Can you tell me about a time when you had the best of intentions to impact change, but the wrong approach?
Yes. I learned really early on about the dynamics with policing and riders or just Black people in general. So, I’m really big on stakeholder engagement. So, empathy. I have to talk to the students, the teachers, the riders, the government, but that doesn’t mean they all want to talk to each other, right?
My approach was really good, but there was this incident where we had brought in an outside party that was recording what we were doing. The outside party posted a picture of XYZ rider with the police and that kind of went viral. In the comments, people called that rider anything from a rat to a snake, to a snitch. And again, the intention was good from all sides, but that was a good example of everyone doesn’t trust each other, even though we’re trying to build that rapport. It was really important to make sure people felt safe, make sure people felt secure, and that we didn’t go backwards again.
No one wakes up and says they want to be a superhero. What motivates you?
I would start with, I’m not a superhero. And I think that is a label that gets put on you. So, Superman has kryptonite. So do the people who do work every day.
I think when you start an organization, you start a company, it is because you see something good. And of course, then it comes with the awards, accolades. But if you always stay true to your values, that’s the part that matters the most. And I think people throw the superhero label on people like the cape. But then my question would be, when do we get to take it off and then just be human?
So that’s what I want to see, is more people humanizing founders, humanizing Black people. I need to make sure people know. We’re just everyday people that do work and we care about our community, but we’re not superheroes. I can’t save people. I can empower. That’s the difference.
Mentoring has two sides. I’ve learned a lot from kids, and they’ve learned a lot from me. I wouldn’t be who I am if I did not learn in real time how to be a better person to serve them the best.
Using Baltimore’s dirt bike culture to get kids interested in engineering
Engineer Brittany Young founded B-360 to teach kids STEM through an activity they love. Read More…
She turns dirt bikers into science stars
For Brittany Young, dirt bike culture was simply a way of life when she was a young girl growing up in West Baltimore. Learn More…
You seem to have a philosophy on this thing called life. Can you explain your approach to fearlessness?
My approach to fearlessness? I think the older I get, the younger I get. Little Brittany — she was fearless. And so, as I get older, I keep rediscovering her, which is like the little girl that’s in me, that was just about whatever, that’s going to do whatever, that’s going to say whatever and feel good about herself. I don’t think I had a choice but to be fearless.
And I think that fearlessness is a mix of learning and relearning yourself, but also not being afraid to say you need help, which is a whole new skill I just learned. And then constantly going back to your inner child and getting refilled, getting revitalized, because the world tainted us at one point. But I always had to remember her, and what it was like before that.
How do you undo always having to be strong? How do you undo having to be always super hyper-independent? I’ve been hyper-independent my whole life. Now it’s like, you can ask for help and that’s a new type of being fearless. It’s constantly changing and evolving. And 10 years from now, I will evolve into a new type of fearless person, but it was always in me.
We would like to understand where your resilience comes from. What are the things that bring you joy, that bring that smile?
I can’t change the world’s problems, but I go to work and be fulfilled. I go and see all the smiling kids and smiling adults. Knowing that we can’t change everything, but I’m seeing in real time what we have done. And that’s what keeps me burning.
When I started B-360, it was out of spite. I was fed up. I was mad. I do a lot of stuff because I get mad, but like a chimney, it can burn white and that’s a good smoke or can burn black and it can destroy your house. So that type of smoke was a black smoke that could destroy me and my house.
Now where I’m at, that’s what keeps me going. I’m burning because I love the work that I do, even when it drives me crazy. I still love it. And I appreciate it because every day, no matter how many challenges we’re up against, I see the kids I’m working with, like Daron, DeMar and Tony, they get to be themselves, be free. And that’s what drives me and keeps me going.
There’s a sense of family around you and the youth that you serve. I’m wondering if you’re putting it in, or do they come like that?
I would say it’s organic. With the ones we had the longest, I was their fourth-grade teacher. They used to drive me crazy in the best ways. Like they wouldn’t let me eat lunch by myself. Imagine, not being able to get rid of people’s kids.
And then, I kind of grew into their other mother, which was good. The same with new kids that we get. I think I have that energy that draws you in where you want to be a part of it, but they have that same energy, too. So, I think it was just a natural family energy.
They were already smart, and the only thing that I can say I helped them with is pulling that out of them, to just know how bright they are. When you hear Daron speak, yeah, he already had it in him. He just never had a person to ask him who he was, what he wanted to do, and who he wanted to be.
We built that sense of family because we all get it. We all relate, and they know that I don’t have anything but good intentions for them. And vice versa.
The world thinks that they are doing organizations a favor. Like they are helping you. What does help look like? What does support truly look like?
People overly mentor Black founders, especially Black women, but people forget to sponsor us. So, mentoring and sponsorship is different. A mentor, of course, can give you advice. A sponsor gives you advice and then also makes the connections that you do not have to better equip you to get the money that you need and the resources. And people forget about that part.
We value sounding boards and people making sure that we get to the next level, which is “Thriving and Sustainability”. In order to do that, of course, we need money, but we really need the networks to do it. And often we don’t have it. We need people to advocate for the work that we do and have the empathy where even if you do not understand why B-360 works, that’s OK. Just acknowledge that it does. Because we don’t need validation. We are releasing the results. We just need help with the results that we’re already getting.
What do you say to yourself when the storm gets too rough?
I’m big on meditating, sitting still. I don’t have to react right away, but my brain is always working. I’ve learned to slow down my reaction so my brain can catch up. And I think about, “What are the consequences?” What’s going to be the best route? As opposed to just jumping straight in and then just handling it, and then maybe I handled it the wrong way.
We would like for you to be honest about the narrative of the Black experience, from the perspective of someone who has a vision for moving forward.
I can only talk about it from my experience as a Black person in the city and not for all Black people. Everyone has a role to play. And even though I’ve gotten to the space where I acknowledge the role that white supremacy has played in my lifetime, other people aren’t there yet. And that’s OK. So, I think as Black people, we have to give each other grace. And that’s why I said, I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I don’t want to be seen as a superhuman. I just want to be known as a normal person. And that’s a part of the Black experience. I want the next generation children to know they can just be mediocre. You know why? Because why is that not something that Black kids can be? I want Black girls to know you can just wear your hair how you want and sound how you want to be and that’s OK. So, I think for me, the Black experience is liberation. It’s finally getting to that point where we’re saying we’re OK with being ourselves…nothing more and nothing less.
What do you think people could learn from the young people you’ve reached?
All of the young people in Baltimore, not even just the ones that I’ve reached, because so many need the credit, too. They’re leading a whole new revolution.
I think as millennials, we’ve done a good job of not caring that the generation before us dropped the ball. But then we inspired a whole new generation that’s just going to say, “F all that. We’re going to do what we want to do and make it real time.”
I remember two years ago, when the youth led the protests coming down to North Avenue against the school system? I loved it. They didn’t ask people for permission. I liked seeing how they’re not afraid to say, “no”.
The only thing that I would say burdens me, not burden, worries me, is that there should never be kids that young on the front lines. And so, my charge would be to our generation, and the people older than me, to make sure that we don’t have kids fighting our battles that existed before us, because it keeps happening. I want kids to be able to be kids.
But I also want people to appreciate that this new generation, they’re not here to play with none of us. I love it. And they are not standing for none of the crap that we did.
I appreciate being a millennial to usher that in. But, I’m looking forward to when they take the reins, learning from us. It’s going to be a whole different world and a new society. And I just want people to move out their way.
With millennials and Gen Z, one of the good things that we’ve done at B-360 is empower them.
So, if you go to our classes you will see 16-year-olds teaching them, for that reason. On the weekends, the same thing: They’re leading the class discussions, and we sit down and have sessions where I just want to hear from them what they want to see next.
And that’s important. I’m growing them as my successors. And that’s what makes the most sense because I’m not going to be cool forever, but I can use my platform. I can use the power I have now to make sure they’re empowered and inspired. And that’s what we’re seeing.
What I like seeing the most is that they are owning themselves, owning the space they’re in. And that is a privilege, for people to meet them and to access their knowledge. And that’s what I want to keep seeing more, especially with our Black and brown kids, is that people know when you hear them speak, you better listen, and that you can also grow with them.
Interviewed by Dionne Joyner-Weems, Director of Brand and Social Impact, Fearless Sports