Photography by Cade Martin
Stefanie Brown proves it is possible to be a â€œcontemporaryâ€ civil rights leader even in the most traditional of organizations. With a laugh as big as her heart, the 30-year old is turning her constituency of 23,000 members under the age of 25 into a new army of freedom fighters. Her seven-day workweek has her coordinating the field strategy for national campaigns, speaking at events, conducting trainings, and addressing urgent situations around the country. â€œGod put me here to improve the lives of black people, and I feel fortunate to have that calling in my life,â€ she says. Here, she takes a breath and tells us why the revolution just might be televisedâ€”or at least tweeted.
Brown wanted to be an â€œOscar-winning actressâ€ as a child but, â€œAfter joining the NAACP at 14, I knew I had to help continue the legacy of activism that defined the movement,â€ she explains. â€œHearing from kids who weâ€™re helping become better community leaders is a blessing, because I remember the impact the NAACP had on me at their age.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t be a punk in Cleveland,â€ says Brown of her hometown, which she credits for her tough nature. However, she adores working in the District. â€œWorld changing decisions are made on an hourly basisâ€”I love being in the mix,â€ she says.
REACH BACK, PULL FORWARD
Sheâ€™s led protests and planned marches, but Brown is most proud of her scholarship programs. â€œI started a fund in honor of my parents, Harvey and Delores Brown, at my high school to help students attend HBCUs because the scholarships I won helped alleviate the burden when I went to Howard University.â€ Earlier this year, she created another scholarship at Jackson State University, where much of her family matriculated, and will soon have one in place at her momâ€™s alma mater, Tougaloo College.
â€œI live the definition of work hard, play hardâ€”otherwise Iâ€™d lose my mind!â€ says Brown, who cohosts bimonthly happy hours around the city. â€œ[It] gives me balance. I like to connect people, and Iâ€™m quite the matchmaker. I take credit for two marriages and four long-term couples so far.â€
A DREAM REALIZED
Brown says she canâ€™t wait for this monthâ€™s MLK Memorial dedication: â€œThis is a big deal, not just to remember a great man, but to show the hope, determination, and excellence of our people.â€
OFF THE CUFF
Biggest splurge: Plane tickets. Even though I travel for work most weeks, I still love to get away for pleasure.* Canâ€™t-skip spa service: A massage. I have a spa membership, and I take my monthly rubdowns seriously.* Fave mobile app: Twitter. I hated it at first, but the amount of information you can give and get is amazing. Holla at me @Stefbrown33.* Must-have drink: Champagne and pineapple juice.* Favorite local museum: Howard Universityâ€™s Moorland-Spingarn Research Centerâ€”itâ€™s a museum and library in one.