City: Atlanta, GA
Movement: Project director for Grantmakers for Southern Progress, a philanthropic organization focused on advancing social justice in the South; philanthropy consultant with her own TruthSpeaks Consulting
Music: Performs R&B music, informed in style and content by Southern Black secular and sacred music traditions, under her own name through Atlanta-based Pink Butterfly Records
Story: Brown grew up surrounded by music, courtesy of her own musician parents, and says she played her first paid gig at the age of five. She was riding a Greyhound bus between her Alabama home and family in New York, and entertained the bus’ passengers with Christmas songs the whole way through. "Now, it’s funny, because I probably got on a whole bunch of people’s nerves, but I made five dollars!" she says with a laugh.
Her parents also raised her with an acute passion for social justice, and she organized youth in Selma in her first job after college. "We created music that affirmed leadership, and we learned and taught Civil Rights songs," she explains about her workplace’s music pedagogy. "I was a sort of singer on staff."
Brown balanced this organizing work with performing in an R&B band. She eventually moved to Atlanta, drawn by "three things that I love: Black people, an international airport and Outkast."
But when Hurricane Katrina hit, the Gulf Coast native took a six-year hiatus from singing to move into philanthropic directorial work with a fund for the region’s renewal. Her return to music came after acknowledging that the environmental disaster traumatized her and that music would help her heal. She now makes a point of bringing music into her day job as well, singing in funder settings with the same ear for music’s transformative power as she does on stage. She hopes to use this skillset throughout the international Black diaspora, as she did in a recent performance at the Belize International Jazz Festival.
Listen to music from Brown’s Soundcloud page below: