Former NAACP Pasadena Branch President Recaps Lessons Learned, Ahead of Accepting Leadership Award at October Gala

Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | 6:00 PM


Joe Brown, the former Pasadena NAACP Branch President whose term lasted a remarkable 12 years, said he got many a helping hand and learned some valuable lessons during his tenure.


Brown will be honored with the NAACP Leadership Award at the group’s 34th annual Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner this fall at the Pasadena Hilton.


“It takes the help of many people to be a good leader,” Brown said. “I received great advice.”


Brown tipped his hat to current President Allen Edson, adding he “would be remiss if I didn’t say it takes a great president to recognize a previous president on their accomplishments.”


In making the recent announcement, Edson said former president Brown was someone who “contributed to the advancement of life in Pasadena.”


Despite his long tenure in the top spot, Brown said many of those years he was in the learning phase.


“During my time at NAACP I had to learn that it takes people to keep a volunteer organization going,” he said. ” It takes a good leader to want to listen to what people want to say. You don’t have to agree, but you have to listen.”


“Also, I was shown that you have to keep a line between advocacy and adversarial, and that was something I had to learn,” he said. “If you’re going to take up advocacy, you have to draw that line. You can’t stay mad at people.”


Brown brought a rebirth of sorts and rechared mission to the NAACP in Pasadena. His organizational skills and people skills were highly valued.


“I got a lot of support,” said Brown. “I received tremendous support from Jaylene Mosely and the former Pasadena Police Chief Bernie Melekian.”


Moseley passed away last May. It was Moseley who taught Brown to listen to everyone regardless, and it was Melekian who taught him to draw a line between “advocacy” and “adversary.”


“Jaylene Mosely took me under her wing,” Brown said. “At that point [the NAACP Pasadena Branch was] on financial life support and Jaylene told me, ‘I’m going to help you. These are the things you have to do. One, you can’t open at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock. So she would call me every day at 8:15 in the morning. She said ‘you have to be consistent.’”


“Secondly, I was in the Army [earlier], I was hard-charging,” Brown said. “Jaylene told me, ‘You have to listen to everyone.’”


“During that period of time we had some people who were a little rough,” Brown said. “Sometimes people can’t keep emotions in check. I was not accustomed to that but Jaylene said ‘You have to give everyone respect. Running a community organization is different than being a postal supervisor where you give orders and expect your orders to be carried out.’


Melekian also gave Brown solid advice, he said.


“Bernie Melekian, the former Pasadena Police Chief, would come by the office and again, he was the one who helped me understand about advocacy versus adversary,” Brown said.


“Bernie said ‘Go to the Police Academy’ I said, ‘OK we’ll give it a try,’” Brown recalled. “After every week he would call me and ask ‘What would you do differently?’ And that’s when I started to look at things from a different perspective. And that’s what helped me achieve longevity. They both helped me because they made me better.”


Brown said the advice he would give others is to take yourself out of the picture.


“I give respect and I try to suppress my ego,” he said. “You have to make your ego the last thing. I didn’t always do it that way, because I came out of managerial and military. Leaders are made and not born, as they say. People are what make leaders. They’ll support you or they will not. The position calls for that. That’s how I’ve been able to maintain my sense of sobriety. You have to be able to get along with people and understand people.”


Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Brown recently turned 74 years old. He came to California in 1968. Brown has been married 52 years to wife Yvonne and the two have a son, Bernard, and a daughter, Karen.


“Yvonne is a retired L.A. City employee and I’m a retired postal manager,” Brown said. “We are here in Altadena and have been in the same house for 48 years.”


But Brown isn’t really retired. He is still active in the community and government.


“I’ve been a Commissioner for the Department of Social Services, I was appointed in 2003 by Mike Antonovich,” said Brown, who was re-appointed by County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “That’s how I’ve been able to learn Los Angeles County.”


What is a good path for the NAACP going forward, according to Brown?


“The NAACP can continue to be inclusive,” he said. “Successful groups are able to pull people together. Over the years if a group becomes adversarial, people stop showing up.


“I’m not here to fight the way it used to be, but instead make it better for the next generation,” Brown said. “What it was, is what it was. What it can be is now, what we call ‘Hope.’ We want to leave it better so that people can persevere and push to the next level.”


Brown will be honored at the NAACP Pasadena Branch Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner set for 6:00 p.m. on October 3, 2019 at the Pasadena Hilton, 168 South Los Robles Avenue.


Tickets are available here: