“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
— Anne Lamott
History of Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc.
Founded in 1929, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc. is an African American, nonprofit social service agency open to all, primarily serving the Summit University area of Saint Paul, Minnesota and the broader Twin Cities metro area. The organization was born as the result of the vision, commitment and tireless efforts of several community leaders in the 1920’s.
It was during this decade that the St. Paul Urban League was formed in an attempt to address the growing social problems facing African Americans in the capitol city. Under the direction of Executive Secretary Elmer A. Carter, the St. Paul Urban League provided dynamic leadership at a time when it was greatly needed. Carter initiated the first formal step in addressing the needs of St. Paul’s black community by conducting a survey of possible facilities where critical programs and services could be implemented.
In January 1929, an advisory committee met to formulate new plans for a community center to be housed at the former Central Avenue Branch of the Y.W.C.A. On April 1, 1929, Miss I. Myrtle Carden, the center’s first Executive Director, met with the Board of the St. Paul Urban League to discuss a name for the center. It was determined that the name for the new community center should be chosen through an essay contest in which essayists profiled the life of an outstanding leader. Herbert Howell, a student at Hamline University, won the contest with his essay about the African American educator, elocutionist, women’s suffrage leader, and author, Hallie Quinn Brown. Thus, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc. was born.
Not long after it was established, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc., moved to the Masonic Hall at Aurora and Mackubin until it relocated in 1972 to our current home in the Martin Luther King Center at 270 North Kent Street. When the current facility was built, our primary service area doubled to include the entire Summit-University community.
Hallie Q. Brown Community Center has thus evolved from an independent human services provider to a multi-service center and is the administrative body of the Martin Luther King Center, which houses our partners offering specialized services and programs, including the nationally recognized Penumbra Theatre Company.
Although, Hallie Q. Brown began as a settlement house for African Americans denied services from other agencies, we long ago opened the center’s services to all people. Historically, our service center has been mixed racially and economically. Approximately one-third of St. Paul’s people of color live in the Summit-University and nearly 50% of the population are minority residents (by link). The area continues to evolve demographically and Hallie Q. Brown provides a wide range of services designed to reflect the character of the Summit-University community as a whole.
Mission and Core Values of Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc.
The mission of Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Inc is to improve the quality of life in our community by providing access to critical human services; fostering and promoting African American heritage, personal growth, self-sufficiency and self-determination; and developing community leadership.
With a primary focus on the historic Rondo Community and the broader Twin Cities Metro area, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center successfully operates a wide variety of programs, which specifically address the critical needs of community residents.
We believe an ideal community center is one where community members of all ages, abilities, races, cultures, and economic levels:
- Are recognized as valuable assets.
- Experience a safe and productive environment.
- Have opportunities to contribute to the Center and expand their talents and knowledge.
- Have access to a full spectrum of services, including social, emotional, educational, and recreational opportunities appropriate to their unique needs and interests.
- Are linked to the community’s heritage and history.
- Are involved in intergenerational and cross-cultural experiences that enrich and strengthen the community as well as benefit individuals and families.