March 2 - Happy Birthday, Elaine Brown

Posted on March 2, 2018

Another strong activist! I love it!

Elaine Brown, born on this date in 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has a story that starts out in a familiar way: she was a black girl raised in the inner city, with just her mom, no dad, and desperate poverty.

But Brown's mom worked so hard, she was able to provide a private school (which, by the way, had almost entirely white students). Brown's mom also earned enough money for private music lessons - classical piano - and ballet classes - and nice clothing.

And through all of that, Brown spent her childhood hanging out with her white friends, knowing very few black people.

Even when she moved to California, as a young adult wanting to pursue a career as a songwriter, Brown fell in love with a white man.

But that particular white man knew a lot about the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement. And Brown learned so much, so fast, she jumped into politics and began working for a radical newspaper and even joined the Black Panther Party.

Brown helped the Party do some good stuff - they set up a Free Breakfast program for kids who needed it; and a Free Busing to Prisons Program, so people who had loved ones in jail could visit them; and a Free Legal Aid Program, so that poor people could be advised on their legal rights and could get a lawyer's advice.

Brown also recorded two albums' worth of her own songs.

For three years, Brown ran the Black Panther Party. She focused on getting black people to run for political office, and she also focused on providing community services.

However, according to Brown, there was too much sexism within the Party. She stepped down and raised her daughter and eventually began working on prison reform. She attended law school, lived in France for a while, started a non-profit organization to provide education for poor black children, and started a couple of groups to help young people who are or have been in jail, and to help their families as well. She focused on things like providing transportation for families visiting loved ones in prison, raising money for phone calls and gifts to people in prisons, finding housing and employment for people released from jail...lots of good stuff.

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