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Honoring the Legacy of Allison Brown

Aug 27, 2020

Allison Brown | Photo compliments of the Communities for Just Schools Fund



Allison Brown, Esq. was a warm and generous advocate for liberation, with an unparalleled clarity that kept us all focused on a future where all children could be healthy, safe, thriving and free. Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and so much of the work to resource Black girls and girls of color around the country, would not have been possible without her. In spaces where girls are so often forgotten or relegated to an afterthought, Allison was one of the first people in philanthropy to intentionally resource work that centered Black girls and girls of color. She reminded us individually and collectively that as women and girls of color, our leadership and our freedom dreams mattered.

On August 15th, 2020, Allison made her transition, and so as we mourn her passing we also celebrate her legacy within and among the G4GC family, as well as within our greater community. Allison used her skills, her brilliance, and her power to fight for justice on behalf of children of color in schools and communities. She was the founder and executive director of the Communities for Just Schools Fund, but most of us remember her as teacher, mentor, sister, and friend.

Even as her own health declined, Allison continued to teach and inspire us through her own writing. It was a gift – she was a gift.

While no words could ever justly encapsulate what she gave to our community and our movements, we invited those who worked with Allison in the early days of G4GC to share more about her role in fostering this particular community. We know that many of you held close relationships with her, and we invite you to read these reflections and to share your own.

“Allison was a brilliant and graceful leader. She was deeply kind, brave, loving and held a deep belief that change is possible. Allison’s genius sparked the creation of Grantmakers for Girls of Color and she continued to be a guiding light throughout the years, bringing clarity, purpose and a deep commitment to the freedom of Black girls. G4GC would not be where it is today without her wisdom, bold vision, and courage. Allison gave the world so much during her lifetime to both those who had the privilege of knowing her and so many who never had the opportunity to meet her but whose lives are changed by her deep commitment to justice and freedom. We must honor her legacy by continuing to advance the work and vision Allison held with such dignity, care, and courage.” – Jody Myrum, Former Director, Initiative to Advance Adolescent Girls’ Rights, NoVo Foundation

“I felt like a fan girl who was lucky to know her and work with [Allison]. She was one of the first Black women I saw in the space of philanthropy and she had a kind of divine presence, that knew all, and knew deep compassion. She was so real when I met her despite being a giant in the space of women and girls of color. When she was sick, I read everything she wrote and it was life changing. She touched my life in a way I will never forget, and I watched her have the same impact on everyone she met. A true fierce fighter for equity and justice. And a true loss for everyone who loved her.” – Ada Williams Prince, G4GC Advisory Board Member

“Allison Brown, Esq., was and continues to be behind the scenes a champion for Black girls and children. She has shifted the trajectory of young people yet to be born because of her advocacy and vision. I’m grateful that she ever considered me worthy of friendship and sisterhood.” – Joanne N. Smith, Executive Director, Girls for Gender Equity

“I will remember Allison as a tough and determined champion for justice and liberation. But, also as a leader who radiated grace and compassion for others, one who knew the importance of laughter, and a woman who could find opportunity in the worst chaos and darkness. Her wisdom and work will continue to help us find our way forward… Allison was fueled by love and compassion for Black girls and all girls of color. As a tenacious champion for their right to access a just education system and to live liberated lives she believed fiercely in their potential and understood deeply the power of their leadership.” – Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President, The National Crittenton Foundation

“I first met Allison in 2014 when we started working together to increase philanthropic attention and resources for girls and women of color – Black girls and women specifically. I was in awe of Allison almost instantly. Allison’s brilliance, her warmth, her vision, her care, her rigor, and her beautiful generous spirit have shaped and transformed the philanthropic landscape for Black girls and other girls of color.

Allison’s leadership changed me, too. She made me a more thoughtful and generous person and leader. I will always aspire to honor and reflect Allison’s kindness, loving and humble spirit and unrelenting commitment to justice.” – Pamela Shifman, Former Executive Director, NoVo Foundation


We hold Allison’s family and loved ones in our hearts, and remain committed to honoring her legacy by working every day to advance justice for Black girls and all girls of color.




And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

– Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall