Letters of Support

Community members have written letters of support for Ms. Danni's cause. A few are republished below (with light edits).

President Gormley,

I write this to you to implore you to open an independent investigation into the death of Jaylen Brown. The story on Jaylen’s death does not make sense - to anyone. Jaylen’s family, friends, classmates and the citizens of Pittsburgh deserve to know the truth about what happened that night.

Jaylen was one of my son’s best friends. They went to high school together - went to proms, parties, sporting events together. They texted that week for Jaylen’s birthday and were planning on getting together after the season was over. My son did not get to say goodbye to his friend. My son, and our family, demands answers.

I’ve sat with Dannie as she mourns the death of her son. I spoke at Jaylen’s memorial service. I brought Dannielle, Jaylen’s Mom, to Duquesne to gather his belongs and close out his room. I am demanding answers to what happened to Jaylen that night.

Dannielle is very transparent about what she knows about Jaylen’s death, but the story doesn’t line up. Spending time in Jaylen’s dorm room with her, walking through the events as she was told - the story doesn’t line up.

Here are the cold hard facts... People who were hired to protect Jaylen, and all Duquesne students, were in the room when Jaylen went out the window. There were no body cameras, that we are aware of, to show what happened. But somehow, a successful Black student athlete who was celebrating his 21st birthday, excited for Homecoming, excited that his friends and family were coming to see him, somehow he went out a 16th floor window. It was immediately ruled a suicide, which everyone who knows Jaylen immediately knew was false. That narrative was spun immediately, even though it didn’t make sense.

Standing at Jaylen’s window, looking at the broken glass, looking at the chair, reliving the story Dannielle was told - it does not make sense. Have you personally gone to Jaylen’s room and walked through the events as they were told to his family to determine if they make sense to you? How did the chair that was supposedly thrown with so much force to break the window not go out the window and land on the ground below? Momentum tells us that would have happened. If Jaylen “jumped”, why did he go out backwards? Why did a student in the room below have a different account of what she heard, but that not be included in the findings?

One thing that I have to tell you that I was truly appalled at when I came to help clear out Jaylen’s room... when Dannielle and I went to the spot where Jaylen landed on the Earth, there were still glass shards all over the ground. Did Duquesne not even care enough to clean all of that up? I think those glass shards are indicative to the lack of care and concern shown throughout this entire tragedy.

Please, I’m begging you, the time is now to do the right thing. Please open an independent investigation on what truly happened the night of Jaylen’s death. You have the ability to right this wrong. It is going to take humility and courage, two character traits that I’m sure you champion being the leader of such a prestigious university. Please do the right thing and open an investigation to find out the truth of the events that night.

Thank you,

Jennifer Simmons

Founder, CEO

Jennifer Simmons Consulting

Good Morning Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) Alumni,

The Duquesne University Office of Diversity and Inclusion Alumni Council stands in solidarity with all Black Lives. We mourn the most recent and publicized ruthless slayings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade—they should ALL be alive today. There is no excuse for these unconscionable deaths.

As protesters gather across the country in response to police violence and systematic racism, we share the grief, outrage, and demand for accountability and justice.

While these cases are not Duquesne University specific, make no mistake, Duquesne University is not removed from systemic injustices. In accordance with the Duquesne University Spiritan values and tradition, Duquesne University has a moral obligation to acknowledge and take steps to end disparities that exist on campus, and be accountable to harm faced by students and alumni of color.

One unresolved scenario that still plagues Duquesne University’s students and alumni of color are the circumstances and scenario surrounding the untimely and tragic death of a student, teammate, and friend, Marquis (J.B.) Brown. On October 4, 2018, Marquis (J.B.) Brown tragically passed away on campus. According to the Duquesne University Police and Pittsburgh Police the following happened: “ Brown picked up a chair and broke a window. Eyewitnesses in the room -- including two Duquesne University Police officers, a campus security guard and a student Resident Assistant -- stated that Brown then jumped out the window. Brown’s roommate, who was in another room, was an audible witness.”

So many questions are still unclear from that night. J.B. was alive, in his room, with at least 4 individuals physically present, including two Duquesne University police officers. According to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Officers’ press release, Duquesne University police officers were able to hold a conversation with J.B. and his roommate. The release then states that the two Duquesne University police officers were witnesses to J.B., under alleged distress, take a chair and break a sturdy window, and then proceed to jump out of it - without intervention. Why did the Duquesne University police not intervene? Did the officers have body worn cameras? Are campus officers trained to de-escalate trauma based situations? Were the officers on the scene reprimanded for their failures that night? Has Duquesne sought trauma based training for officers on campus? Has Duquesne developed a trauma based response in the wake of this tragic event?

The aftermath of the tragedy ended with the football team proceeding with the 2018 homecoming game and activities, while their teammate died less than 48 hours earlier. Imagine if this was your son, friend, teammate, student, or loved one. The campus should've stood still, everything should’ve stopped, everyone should’ve mourned.

Our days of not standing up, are DONE. We should demand transparency and accountability from Duquesne University. Marquis (J.B.) Brown is one of the many students that have passed away far too soon.

George Floyd didn’t deserve to die. Breonna Taylor didn’t deserve to die. Marquis (J.B.) Brown didn’t deserve to die!

This statement is meant to bring awareness to the Black and Brown Alumni of Duquesne University. You cannot heal a community without acknowledging wrongdoings or missteps. If Duquesne University believes that Black Lives Matter, they should show it. A statement is not enough. Moving on without adequate answers and resolve, is not enough. A student was supposed to be safe in their arms. But, a student died on their watch.

As the Duquesne University Office of Diversity and Inclusion Alumni Council, we will continue to say the names of every Black life lost especially one of our own #MarquisBrown. Marquis Brown’s family deserves justice. Symbols and statements mean little without action.

This message is in loving memory of all the Black and Brown Duquesne University students that have passed away far too soon and to all their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family, and friends. We see you and we are thinking of you.

How to take action:

—Support the family of Marquis (J.B.) Brown: https://www.gofundme.com/f/justiceformarquisjaylenbrown40

—Donate to the Minneapolis community through the Duquesne University Black Student Union hoodie fundraiser. This fundraiser will last through June 20, 2020. For additional information reach out to Kayla Harris ([edited]).

—We will host a Zoom Town Hall this upcoming Thursday, June 18, 2020 from 6 to 8pm to discuss inclusivity at Duquesne University. We want all Black and Brown Duquesne Alumni and current students to attend.

Zoom Meeting ID: [edited]. Zoom Meeting Password: [edited]. The link is included here: [edited]. The Zoom Dial-in: [edited].

—There will be more events and ways to engage in upcoming emails. If Alumni are interested in taking a collective action, stay-tuned for upcoming details. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out and we can coordinate: duquesneuniversityblackalumni@gmail.com.

Please share this message to all alumni.


Charquinta McCray

Duquesne University

M.A. Social and Public Policy

Dear President Gormely,

My name is Vanessa McCullers and I’m the Executive Director of Moms of Black Boys United. Established in 2016, this 501c3 certified organization is focused on providing support to Moms with Black sons in a variety of areas. Almost 2 years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dannielle Brown, mom of Jaylen Brown, through a mutual friend. She reached out to me because her son had died days earlier and she wanted answers. President Gormely, we are no closer to finding out how Jaylen was killed today than we were in October of 2018. The fact remains, that the information provided to the family doesn’t seem factual at all. In fact, it seems quite impossible that the 4 individuals that were present could not prevent what was purported to have happened. I’m writing you because I and almost 200,000 Moms of Black Boys all want to know what happened to our sister Dannielle’s SONshine. How can a young man who just celebrated his 21st birthday, who was looking forward to playing his next game, who loved life and had everything to live for, suddenly “commit suicide”? Can YOU tell us what happened to Jaylen?

When Dannielle brought Jaylen to Duquesne University, she did so expecting that in years to come she would be there again as he received his diploma at his graduation. And though circumstances beyond anyone’s control did not allow for an in person graduation, circumstances that were controllable, prevented Jaylen from being alive to celebrate his commencement. We NEED to know the real story behind those circumstances. During your speech at the graduation you talked about Daria Coleman and her appreciation for her first responder Mom. You mentioned Ellie Weaver and how she had to adjust to virtual teaching. Yes, I was tuned in and listening. I listened as you highlighted students who stepped up to apply what they had learned in the field of medicine to real life Covid-19 situations, like in the case of Frank Grononi. And it was touching when you mentioned that some of the students graduating were there for the beginning of you journey as the President Duquesne. President Gormely, though your words were beautiful, at no time did you mention the impact that Jaylen Brown’s death had on the students at Duquesne and how they themselves demanded answers. In fact, at no time did you mention Jaylen at all. Mr. Gormley, how could you forget to mention Jaylen and the promise he brought to the Duquesne football team, his good nature and how he was loved on campus? Even worse, as a parent of 4 children, how can YOU rest easy knowing that there is another parent desperately in need of answers as to how her son was killed.

As President of Duquesne University, it is your responsibility to make sure that this situation does not go unanswered and that Jaylen’s death not be in vain. You owe it to his mother who left him in your charge and to the students who will be back on campus at some point. The circumstances behind Jaylen’s death just do not add up and as a parent yourself, this should be concerning. A quick, thorough and transparent independent investigation needs to take place immediately. Jaylen’s family, the supporters and the students of Duquesne are owed that much.

I look forward to hearing back from you, as do the Moms of MOBB United.

Thank you for your time.

Best Regards,

Vanessa McCullers

Excutive Director

Moms of Black Boys United, Inc.

Dear President Gormley,

My name is Kathy Kasperik. If my last name isn't familiar, I kindly ask you to look up some history on the University. My grandfather, Lou, was a standout student athlete in the pharmacy school. He also was instrumental in helping with admissions and fundraising for many years. My father, Bob, and my mother, Rosalie (nee Wrobel) met at Duquesne. The school has always held a special place in my heart. But today, my heart is heavy and I am troubled. The reason for this communication is out of deep concern that the University for which you are in charge has perpetrated a serious injustice regarding one of your student athletes, and remains steadfast in not giving his family the truth.

Marquis Jaylen Brown was killed on October 4, 2018. Anyone who can think logically, knows that the story presented to the family is just that, a story. We are hard-pressed to believe that with four individuals physically present, Jaylen did what he is alleged to have done. There are too many holes in this account, and we believe Duquesne has the moral obligation to be accountable in conducting an independent investigation. You were able to take the time to award Jaylen his degree posthumously and send it to his mom, but you were not willing to answer her questions about his death? His death was not a suicide. And if you continue to claim it is, you are going against every university value you are asked to uphold, most importantly protecting your students. This tragedy is Not forgotten and you have the ability to make it right. We demand that you immediately open an independent investigation; we demand transparency from the witnesses, especially the officers. And honestly, what have you done or are you doing on campus to make sure this doesn’t happen again? What are the processes in place for trauma based situations? Jaylen’s mom, his family, his many supporters, and quite frankly, the Pittsburgh community are owed at least that. Jaylen’s suspicious death should not be forgotten, nor should he have died in vain.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you, as well as the outcome of the independent investigation Jaylen deserves.


Kathy Kasperik