Stefanie Brown James is a young and influential power player who has worked behind the political scenes. A politically passionate person, her efforts were essential in getting out the Black vote for President Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012 working directly with the White House. Her company, Vestige Strategies, has worked both domestically and internationally to develop political strategies and solutions for various diverse communities. As CEO of Brown Girls Lead, she continues to inspire young women to break through obstacles and reach their highest potential. Rolling out spoke with Mrs. Brown James on a myriad of issues affecting the Black community:
Baltimore is in turmoil over the death of Freddie Gray. What was your initial reaction when you heard of his death and the circumstances?
Just a sickening feeling in the stomach that something this egregious is happening again. It makes you angry and so I understand the frustration and anger that folks in Baltimore and across the country have, and at the end of the day what the community wants is answers. We ultimately want justice but in order to get to justice we have to be able to know the facts that led up to a situation and why things happened the way they did. So when something so greatly happens where a young man is fine before he gets in the truck and paralyzed later there is something that happened. We are not stupid. I think when you get to a situation where people are treated like they are stupid you get to a point where people are enraged and that’s not where we want to be.
What are three steps that any community faced with such a situation should follow?
Not rush to judgment. This is why facts must be presented as soon as possible. You would think that police departments and city governments would want this to happen; so that people aren’t left to determine what may or may not have happened.
People, before incidents take place, know what your plan of action will be. What this means is that know which organizations will be a point organization that must convene the meetings, convene the conference calls and keep the public pressure in place. You have to have a leading body to be able to let people know where they can “plug in.”
It’s important to have open dialogue with decision makers at all levels. So yes, we are concerned about specifically about the police department but we also need to have conversations with the city council and the mayor you must have a pre-plan in place.
What was your opinion of the recent confirmation of Loretta Lynch, and what do you hope her tenure as attorney general will accomplish?
I was fortunate to be at the Senate when the confirmation was finally voted on and I said it was about time. This lady had been held up for six months, the longest time for an attorney general to be confirmed in recent history. There were political games being played. She has proven herself overly qualified for this position and I was also proud she was a fellow member of Delta Sigma Theta. I was proud of so many Black woman organizations [that] stood up, but there was a real lack of support from mainstream political organizations that was also disheartening. There was not the level of support of progressive organizations that should have been there.
Lastly, what achievements are you most proud of when it comes to serving the Black community?
I’m proud of my work as the African American vote director for President Obama in 2012 because we were able to for the first time in history to have such an overwhelming turnout of Black voters. I know the work we did totally was the reason why this happened. Lastly, I’m proud of the organization, I founded Brown Girls Lead; we are dedicated to helping Black women leaders to break the glass ceiling for leadership on all levels we are going into our fifth year of this program and I am very excited about the life changing work we do with young professional women and college women.