For some time I’ve been wanting to say something about Betty Brown, an old friend who passed away a few weeks ago. It’s taken me a while because the pressing question for me has been how does one summarize such a noteworthy woman’s life accomplishments? Listing them would fill an extremely tall and wide notebook, not to mention exhaust the reader.
But I’ve decided to go with simplicity beginning with the reality that there are many advocates for children on the planet but not many of them, including myself, could keep up with Betty’s pace as a community activist without gasping for air.
You’d bump into Betty and ask a question like “Hey, what you been up to?” and the reply might be: “Oh, nothing much, nothing out of the ordinary; I’m heading a committee for the MLK Democratic Club and the Urban League and CPIE and CNC; I just left the Ballard Parent Center where I was on a panel about parents and families and there’s some questions that need to be answered concerning our children who are bussed to schools North of I-8; I’m helping some young mothers start a PTA; right now I’m on my way to Morse for a meeting of the PTSA, and by the way, you know there’s a meeting next week regarding a little something that bothers me in a big way, our athletes not being fully informed about getting scholarships for schools in the NCAA. So what are you up to?” And I’d be thinking: “Compared to you? Not much.” Whew, would that ever be true. Talking about a woman with a strong “Si, se puede” attitude.
Somewhere, early on, in all that Betty found to do, she managed, also, to: be involved in Neighborhood Watch (there could be no better neighbor); act as a den mother for the Cub Scouts (boy, there were some protected children in that den); serve as a troop leader for the girl scouts (demonstrating leadership at the highest degree), a Sunday School teacher (modeling how a Christian should be) and a Team Mom for her children’s baseball and softball teams (adding even more diversity to her repertoire of activities).
Oh, she was a dynamo, that Betty Brown, loving, caring, forever sharing, always daring to make some situation better for all children. But her imprint as a tireless ever moving mover and shaker in communities of color is as permanent as a tattoo crafted with the most indelible of inks.
Her interest in children was so alive, so palpable, so there for the grabbing, fueled by the simple basic belief that education was the key to a young person’s future. Along those lines she was up on “good practices” in education and could eloquently share the particular philosophy of what was out there and would find a way to bring it to students – or someone had some explaining to do.
As I look back, children and their parents were at the center of pretty much anything I’ve ever observed Betty pursue. And what haven’t I seen her go after?
Health issues? I’ve seen her stand and speak to how hard it is for so many children to learn because they aren’t healthy and eating right and how difficult it is for their parents to care for them if they aren’t reasonably fit and sound.
The Economy? Betty was concerned about the lack of jobs and poor housing that play heavily on so many families and escalate rather than mitigate the problems in poor communities that lead youngsters to join gangs. She saw community service projects as an important means to nurturing young people’s love and dedication to their community.
I suppose all I’m saying is that Betty Brown was born to serve and serve she did, very well, with almost unbelievable energy. She is missed. In honor to her spirit, in her memory, I can only hope that we, as a society, keep our eyes on the prize she feasted her eyes on her entire life: making the world a better place for our children.