A Madison nonprofit organization that got its start feeding protesters here is taking its grill on the road to Minnesota.
Feeding the Youth founder Jazzman Brown said this afternoon, a contingent of five people will depart Madison for Brooklyn Center, Minnesota with hundreds of hot dogs, brats and burgers, along with protective supplies like goggles and face masks, to support the hundreds of people protesting the police killing of Daunte Wright. The group plans to connect with some Madison folks already there, and to provide medical support as well as food and supplies.
Feeding the Youth got its start less than a year ago when Brown and a friend set up to feed protesters downtown Madison after the police killing of George Floyd. The effort caught on, and they soon expanded their efforts beyond protests.
“We started doing once a week, we would just pop up at the homeless encampments with the grill and feed everybody there,” Brown said in an interview Tuesday. “And then that escalated. And now we do give-backs, where we provide people with all kinds of hygiene and health care and health supplies. And then we usually have a hot meal and a pantry box with two meals in it they can take home.”
Running the organization is now Brown’s full-time job, even though the group’s efforts are almost entirely funded by donations from the community.
Brown said she’s seen too many people come to protests not quite prepared to care for themselves.
“After 10 hours of marching in not the best weather conditions, you’re going to need something more than a chocolate chip granola bar or a bag of chips,” she said. “Most of them are coming with a warm bottle of water and a granola bar in their back pocket. So a pizza or a hot dog is heaven.”
Besides the practical necessity to be fed, gathering around food can change the mood.
“Especially once we pull out music, it definitely turns the crowd. It deescalates things. It makes people stop and think for a second,” Brown said. “That’s a lot of the reason why we bring the grill a lot. People are quick to huddle around the grill with a hot dog in one hand and a water in the other and just kind of talk. It does definitely change the vibe with the crowd.”
Brown noted that she didn’t want to tell anyone else how to protest or express anger.
“I’m not anybody’s parent but my child,” she said. “I don’t get to tell you how to act. But … sometimes the best thing to do for everyone involved is to just pull out the grill.”
Brown said Feeding the Youth is her first foray into organizing or taking a leadership role in the movement.
“I’ve always done social justice things,” she said. “I was always just a part of the crowd and I wasn’t really a leader or organizer by any means. I was always present though.”
Brown said she truly appreciates the support she’s gotten from the community, and hopes people will support the trip to Minnesota that gets underway today.
“We’ve had such a good response and it’s our first year. It’s amazing,” she said.
Brown expects to provide support at three protest actions before returning to Madison Monday. With about 1,000 people expected at each protest, she anticipates needing to buy more food while she’s there.
You can donate at https://www.feedingtheyouth.org/ or through any of the following payment apps: