Jamira Burley’s professional mission involves doing what’s right, and not what’s necessarily popular, which includes her recent move away from her hometown of Philadelphia.
Burley, FOX ’12, recently accepted a position as a Senior Campaigner for Gun Violence and Human Rights with Amnesty International USA, the domestic division of the global human rights organization.
To take her current position, Burley relocated to Washington, D.C. The native Philadelphian had been employed as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Youth Commission, a position she had held since graduating from Temple University’s Fox School of Business with degrees in International Business and Legal Studies.
The 26-year-old Burley said she’s “still working on the same issues” by focusing on reducing gun violence and trying to create opportunities for young people to have platforms upon which their voices can be heard.
“My goal is to eventually come back to Philadelphia because it’s where everything is,” Burley said recently. “It was extremely bittersweet to leave, but I know there are other ways I can contribute to my community, even from another city.”
With Amnesty International USA, Burley hopes to shed light on human rights issues on a much-larger stage than simply in her hometown. She will work with federal agencies and government officials toward the engagement of young people, the reform and affordability of education, and the reduction of the nation’s murder rate and gun violence.
In short, Burley strives to do good. Along the way, she’s doing good work, too – and people have taken notice. In December, USA Today highlighted Burley’s activism and named her one of five American young women who are changing the world.
“Five years ago, I never would’ve expected to be where I am,” Burley said. “I try to remain humble and remember that life isn’t just about the opportunities you have but also how you share them with the world. My opportunities are through doing good work, my relationships, and people giving me a hand up, and I’m very cognizant of that.”
Burley does not hesitate when asked to pinpoint her font of inspiration. In 2005, her 19-year-old brother Andre was shot and killed by a friend. That moment, while devastating, spurred social activism from Burley.
One of 16 children, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. She was a mayoral appointee and chairperson of Philadelphia Youth Commission during her undergraduate career at the Fox School, advising the mayor and Philadelphia City Council on issues, legislation and policies affecting young people in Philadelphia. She spoke at the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference, as one of three students selected to speak to more than 1,500 young people.
“There are things that transform how you see the world, your place within the world and the contribution you can make to it,” Burley said. “My brother is the driving force for the work that I have dedicated my life to. It fuels my mission and my purpose, but though the course of this work, I recognize that its much bigger than my brother; it’s for every young person who wants to be more than their predecessors and is just searching for the tools to do so.”
Accomplishments in social activism are nothing new for Burley, whose resume is dotted with recognitions from the White House, People for the American Way Foundation, BET, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Tribune, among others.
“In life you never stop learning, you never stop growing and there is still so much of the world I want to see,” Burley said. “My long-term goals have always been to help others and just be happy, but what that looks like changes every day.”