Honoring Alma Brown

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Last week, as we have done for the past five decades, the National Urban
League presented the Equal Opportunity Day Award – its highest
commendation – to outstanding Americans who personify the League's
mission and have been champions of equal opportunity, civil rights and
social justice.

Equal Opportunity Day is always a high point of the year
for us – a chance to take a deep breath, celebrate our progress, and
recognize the people and organizations that have supported us over the
years. It is even more special when we have a chance to recognize
someone who has been a part of our volunteer family for as long as the
recipient of this year's Special Recognition Award, National Urban
League board vice chair, Alma Arrington Brown.

In 1996, Alma Brown and her husband, Ronald H. Brown were one of
Washington's most dynamic power couples. After years as a National Urban
League official and success as Chairman of the Democratic National
Committee, Ron had been appointed by President Clinton the first African
American Secretary of Commerce. Alma was building a career of her own.
She was well on her way to becoming senior vice president of Chevy Chase
Bank while lending her talents to numerous local and national civic
causes, including the National Urban League.

Ron's death in a tragic plane crash while on a trade mission to Croatia
in April of 1996 changed everything. Alma's personal grief was shared by
an African American community that was proud of Ron's rise from the
hard streets of Harlem to the innermost circles of power in Washington.
Her loss was also felt by a mourning nation that was coming to know her
husband as a tireless champion of economic empowerment for all
Americans. But instead of allowing herself to be broken by the tragedy,
Alma Arrington Brown, realized that it was now up to her to uphold Ron's
legacy and to inspire their children, Tracey and Michael, by redoubling
her own commitment to equal opportunity and social justice.

In addition to her day job as senior vice president of Chevy Chase Bank,
she serves as Vice Chairman of the National Urban League board and has
become a national leader in public and community service. Alma Brown has
been a program specialist with the National Black Child Development
Institute, program director of the National Council of Negro Women and
Director of the Office of International Business. She has hosted her own
public affairs show on Washington's WKYS-FM and remains active in the
United Negro College Fund and the Girl Scouts of America.

She has also
worked to get more progressive African American women elected to public
office and has supported efforts to end domestic violence. She
established the Ronald H. Brown Foundation and the Ron Brown Scholars
Program in honor of her late husband. Their son, Michael Brown, is a
member of the City Council of Washington, D.C., and their daughter,
Tracy Brown, is an attorney with the Cochran Firm. The next generation
of the Brown familly are following in the family tradition and making
their marks in the legal and political worlds.

A graduate of Fisk University, Alma Brown credits her success to the
closeness of family and the values of empowerment and self-sufficiency
that were instilled in her by her mother and that she shared with her
husband, Ron Brown. It was a great honor for me, on November 16th, to
present the National Urban League 2011 Equal Opportunity Day – Special
Recognition Award to Alma Arrington Brown.

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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