Photography by Cade Martin
Stefanie Brown proves it is possible to be a “contemporary” 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. “God put me here to improve the lives of black people, and I feel fortunate to have that calling in my life,” she says. Here, she takes a breath and tells us why the revolution just might be televised—or at least tweeted.
Brown wanted to be an “Oscar-winning actress” as a child but, “After joining the NAACP at 14, I knew I had to help continue the legacy of activism that defined the movement,” she explains. “Hearing from kids who we’re helping become better community leaders is a blessing, because I remember the impact the NAACP had on me at their age.”
“You can’t be a punk in Cleveland,” says Brown of her hometown, which she credits for her tough nature. However, she adores working in the District. “World changing decisions are made on an hourly basis—I love being in the mix,” she says.
REACH BACK, PULL FORWARD
She’s led protests and planned marches, but Brown is most proud of her scholarship programs. “I 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.” 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 mom’s alma mater, Tougaloo College.
“I live the definition of work hard, play hard—otherwise I’d lose my mind!” says Brown, who cohosts bimonthly happy hours around the city. “[It] gives me balance. I like to connect people, and I’m quite the matchmaker. I take credit for two marriages and four long-term couples so far.”
A DREAM REALIZED
Brown says she can’t wait for this month’s MLK Memorial dedication: “This is a big deal, not just to remember a great man, but to show the hope, determination, and excellence of our people.”
OFF THE CUFF
Biggest splurge: Plane tickets. Even though I travel for work most weeks, I still love to get away for pleasure.* Can’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 University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center—it’s a museum and library in one.