16-Year-Old Entrepreneur Creates The ‘Trespass Project’ To Empower Underserved Communities
Very rarely do you hear of people with as much drive and ambition as Cayden Brown. A criminal defense attorney at just 16 years old, Brown has also launched his own organization, The Trespass Project.
In an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, the Michigan native shared how the program came to fruition, his journey into becoming an attorney, and what’s next for his career.
Brown has always been passionate about social justice, so his venture into law is no surprise.
“It was a calling from God. I knew by that feeling I got when I was ten while walking out of the theater after watching The Hate U Give,” Brown said. “I knew by that feeling I got every time I was profiled in a store and mistaken for a grown man. I knew by the way my blood would boil every time I saw another Black man, who looked just like me, being brutalized at the hands of our law enforcement.
“At the time, it was unclear how I was going to speak up or even why I felt the need to. I’m still learning, but through maturing, I’ve come to discover a lot about myself and my purpose.”
This sense of purpose has kept Brown in several different leadership positions at school. He has worked as a board member of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, participated in the Student Safety committee, and served on the student council.
Brown’s start in criminal defense was through Oakland County Teen Court, a program “aimed at keeping juveniles out of the court system, designed around the philosophy that a jury of one’s peers is more influential in dealing with behavioral problems than any other method,” according to Detroit Metro Times. “Teen Court uses teen attorneys and jurors who have learned about the court system to analyze cases.”
“I had heard rumors of the Teen Court program, but I truthfully dismissed it because I didn’t have the expectation that I’d be able to participate in the way I did,” he shared. “But it was all in God’s plan because a month or so after hearing about the program, I ran into my school’s program chapter organizer. He pushed for me and got me in. I was meant to serve as a juror because the senior class tends to get the key positions. But I was happy to get the experience.”
Soon after, Brown was contacted by the organizer, who informed him that his defense had backed out and asked him to step up.
“That, I believe, was God’s intention all along. However, this also meant I had less than 24 hours to prepare for this case, while the opposing counsel had weeks if not months. I was able to win, and that opened so many doors to new cases and carried a win streak throughout all of them,” Brown said. Since then, he has worked on several cases, successfully defending four clients within the span of two months.
“In truthfulness, I only view the law as a vessel to arrive at my ultimate objective. Ensuring justice for underrepresented communities is where I place my commitment. I’ve been advocating for my community for a long time, yet I found law to be the most effective tool in making lasting change,” he said.
Eventually, Brown decided to launch the Trespass Project, a platform that allows young people to discuss the challenges they face in a world that moves in Black and white. From an in-depth conversation about the obstacles academics face in pursuit of higher education to extensive commentary about the state of our country’s government, the project makes an effort to empower minorities as the system continues to neglect them.
“There were many factors that played into my decision to finally release this project. One of the main objectives I wanted to discharge with the release of Trespass was to conceive a space for minorities to come and reaffirm their recognitions of injustice that they endure on a daily basis,” Brown shared. “I wanted them to be able to read these intimate conversations between people of color and say, ‘Yes! This is how I feel.’ I wanted them to feel seen. But I also wanted people who came to walk away feeling empowered to make a change. We want a lot of things changed, yet the discussion often ends there. I wanted to acknowledge the issues while also outlining a solution.”
Brown credits many people for his achievements.
“I believe that every single human I’ve encountered played a part in my journey. Even those who treated me poorly. However, I must offer credit to the army of people behind me. I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents and extensive familial support,” he said. But the teenager offered a personal shout-out to two special individuals who took a chance on him. “From the legal aspect, Rita Soka and Alexandria Taylor of Taylor-Soka Law have also been an enormous blessing to me as well. When they didn’t have to, they took me under their wing and guided me through my first case.”
His work as an entrepreneur has taught him a lot. “I was taught that most times, when you identify an imbalance in anything you live through, you are most likely not the only person who notices that and wants it to be addressed. And that’s really what Trespass is really all about—taking those inner convictions that we’ve been conditioned not to verbalize and amplifying them, to not only find community with those in the same struggle but also to find a solution,” he said.
As for what’s next for the advocate, he doesn’t know. But Brown’s not concerned.
“My next step is to pause and listen. I think that for the past few months, I’ve been doing so much talking—and it’s paid off—but right now, I’m in a phase of listening while I wait for God to give me my next assignment.”