My name is Easter Brown and I am the Vice Chair of the We Are Family board of directors. As a community senior, We Are Family’s work is terribly important to me as well as my elderly neighbors.
Like me, many of my neighbors worked all their lives, and now have small monthly retirement checks. However, it can still be really hard to get by sometimes. Having We Are Family there to help out with food, transportation, or even just a friendly visit means so much to us.
Life can be a pretty hard road sometimes, especially for African-American seniors in my generation. I grew up on a farm with 10 brothers and sisters. My father was a sharecropper for a white farm owner and we all helped with the cotton, corn, and sugar cane crops. We worked really hard picking cotton, sometimes in 100 degree heat!
Besides the other crops, we also had a vegetable garden where we grew all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I remember my mother canning 40 or 50 cans or jars of blackberries, peaches, green beans, okra and more each year, so we would have food throughout the winter.
I also have fond memories of enjoying going to the movies as a kid. But we couldn’t go to the theater used by our white neighbors—just one of the many ways we were hurt by segregation.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1959, I decided to escape segregation and the brutally hard work of picking cotton, so I moved to Washington, DC. I had a number of jobs before getting married in 1962. We had 3 children and also helped raise my husband’s brothers and sisters, so at times we had up to 9 children in the house!
To support the family, I held down 2 jobs for more than a decade over my 50 years of working, mostly in the food service industry. I worked at a number of different places, including at the White House for 7 years.
I was in the White House on September 11, 2001, and will never forget how we were evacuated and I had to walk all the way home to my home in Golden Rule Apartments. When I retired in 2004, President Bush gave me a picture of him and me to take with me.
Golden Rule Apartments in the North Capitol Street neighborhood has been my home for 42 years. My former neighbor, Celeste Scott, introduced me to We Are Family. She had worked with Mark to get our Golden Rule seniors connected to We Are Family and their services.
When Celeste got sick, I helped run errands and take care of her—and I also made a promise that I would step up to take her place on the We Are Family Board of Directors when she died. I have been on the board since 2010, because I know we each need to do whatever we can.
We Are Family means the world to me. My neighbors and I really appreciate getting the extra bag of food each month because the price of food is so high these days. I also really love the monthly shopping trips. I can get food for so much cheaper on those trips than the food at the nearby stores. It also is fun to ride with Mark, to get out and see a bit of the world!
I know that We Are Family’s work can mean the difference between life and death for us seniors, be the difference between feeling abandoned or loved and valued. That is why I serve on its board, help coordinate the deliveries and visits, and speak to volunteers whenever I can.
Even though I worked for more than half a century and have faced down some big challenges, I still need a little help sometimes. We all do. I am proud to there for my neighbors by standing with We Are Family.