By Special to the Daily World
Eddie Charles Brown Jr., a great-souled human being committed to fighting the oppression of all people from Mississippi to South Africa, died at his home on Nov. 23. In political circles, he was respected for his enduring commitment to our people. As a consequence of his tireless devotion to, and success in advancing the culture and economic progress of poor Black folk, Ed Brown was widely recognized as among the most incorruptible, responsible, resourceful and effective of the activist leaders of the movement. As his SNCC colleagues said of him, “More than most Ed’s life embodies and exemplifies to a remarkable degree, the principle of undying love for our people both here and in the Motherland.”
Although the consummate organizer and community activist in matters of the aesthetics of Black musical culture and the southern oral tradition, Brown had the soul of a poet and the eloquence of a griot. Similarly, his great sensitivity to African cultures is reflected in the quality of the extraordinary collection of traditional African religious art, which he and his wife, Valinda, have painstakingly gathered over many years.
A year prior to his passing, Ed Brown gave his Shahada (acceptance of Islam) to his younger brother, the Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown) to whom Brown’s observable devotion, loyalty and commitment was widely seen as an unconditional and admirable example of brotherly love. The janaza (last rites) were held on Nov. 24 at the West End Community Mosque in Atlanta.
A native of Louisiana, Ed was born on Aug. 19, 1941, in New Orleans to Thelma Warren and Eddie Charles Brown Sr. and raised in Baton Rouge. Ed’s historical efforts to fight segregation and all forms of oppression as well as to empower Black people started in 1960 when he was a young student at Louisiana’s Southern University. He and 16 other classmates confronted the university and staged a sit-in protesting the racial segregation prevalent in Louisiana at the time. After he and the others were arrested, expelled and banned from enrolling in any university in Louisiana, Ed began the ongoing struggle for justice, which would define his entire life. This expulsion led Brown to Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1961 where he landed on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement. He was an active member of the Nonviolent Action Group, the SNCC affiliate at Howard.
As a leader and field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) he fought to win constitutional rights for Blacks and all disenfranchised people. Brown always proclaimed that he was “fighting fire with a feather,” but he knew he would prevail because he often said, ironically, he was protected by “asbestos gloves.”
Brown never held a job not directly concerned with human advancement. Highly regarded in White political and philanthropic circles for a selfless incorruptibility, he bridged the gap between both communities and was able to direct very significant financial resources into poor Black communities. The three abiding concerns of his professional life, both here and in Africa, can be seen as: democratic political liberation; economic empowerment; and the celebration and enhancement of our cultures. Through Brown’s efforts