Whether it was a rally to protect DREAMers, or to chastise the federal policy of separating children from their families at the border, he was there. If it was women’s rights or LGBTQ equality, he was there, smiling. And quietly, fiercely, behind the scenes Mark Brown battled systemic racial inequities.
With an affable manner and broad, welcoming smile, Brown, 51, who died Nov. 9 after being treated for a lung ailment, brought his fierce passion to the table to fight for the least among us, movement leaders and politicians said.
Lorenzo Lopez, who worked with him on immigration and LGBTQ issues, said Brown was a fierce and strong advocate who just did the work. Lopez said he knew if he needed an item for an event — water, sound systems, tables — Brown was a phone call away and would get it done.
“That’s a big impact he had on this community,” Lopez said. “There’s not a lot of people like that in the world.”
Bishop David Maxwell recalled hearing about Brown and seeing him at various events. But he came face to face with him when Brown showed up at the office of then-Mayor Virg Bernero, seeking support to gather water to donate to Flint residents
“He was instrumental in organizing 35,000 bottles of water for Flint,” said Maxwell, a minister and the director of the Mayor’s Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives in Lansing.. “It was half a truckload.”
Brown’s “gentlemanly approach” to his advocacy attracted Maxwell. He said while Brown certainly argued passionately for those he supported, he also worked to reconcile with those he was fighting.
“He was a rare blend of passion — I would say aggressive passion,” Maxwell said. “He fought for the betterment of those people who are disenfranchised.”
Patricia Spitzley, a Lansing City Councilwoman at-large, said Brown worked on the Council’s ad-hoc committee on diversity and inclusion.
“He always came to the table prepared,” she said. “He was ready, he engaged and he pushed for change.”
Brown pushed for change throughout Greater Lansing. Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green said he first encountered Brown during Brown's advocacy for police reform. “He was there before the George Floyd incident, working for reform,” he said in a phone interview.
Two years ago, working with the Lansing Branch of the ACLU, Brown began a rare public drive for change and education in Delhi Township. He brought to light the story of John Taylor, a black Union soldier who was lynched by an angry mob in 1866.
Brown’s advocacy, bringing historians and leaders in Delhi Township together, brought about a change in the park’s name. It is now known as John Taylor Memorial Park.
“Mr. Brown was one of the biggest proponents of the project, serving on the citizens committee and helping see it through to completion,” said Mark Jenks, director of Delhi Township Parks and Recreation. “He was a dedicated leader in our community and involved in several projects and was never concerned about receiving praise for his work. That’s just the type of guy he was — he was about getting the work done, not the credit. I had hoped that we would be able to collaborate on more projects. His passing is a big loss for our community.”
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Funeral and visitation for Mark Brown
Friday, Nov. 20, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m, at the Paradise Funeral Home, 1107 Miller Road
The family is soliciting funds to pay for Brown’s funeral. You can donate by clicking here.