A passionate leader, Stefanie Brown James is a master of making the political, personal. She has dedicated her life to empowering people to organize and advocate for justice and equality in their communities. Stefanie is the CEO and Founding Partner of Vestige Strategies, LLC, a Washington, DC-based public affairs firm that specializes in grassroots community and civic engagement strategies. Through her role at Vestige, Stefanie leads of team of four to connect clients like the Black Civic Engagement Initiative, MomsRising.org, the Climate Action Campaign and others around the world with their targeted constituencies – especially people of color, women and youth.
Personable and engaging, Stefanie’s outsized personality draws people to her, making her a magnet for the whispered secrets, concerns and dreams of those around her. But it’s what she does with that information that makes her a true maven: Stefanie excels at making connections between those who confide in her, matching burgeoning entrepreneurs with financiers, employers with hidden gems, and women with their future husbands (seriously, she already has three marriages under her belt).
Though this knack for connections is innate for this 33 year old Cleveland, Ohio-native, Stefanie honed her skills while working as the National Field Director and National Director of the Youth & College Division for the NAACP. In the process of overseeing the organization’s 2,200 adult branches and representing the 23,000 under-25 youth, she helped communities identify their pressing issues and crafted creative solutions that turned citizens into stakeholders, and unlikely allies into partners.
In fact, her reputation precedes her, which is why it only made sense that President Barack Obama would bring her onboard to work as his campaign’s National African American Vote Director for the 2012 election cycle. She didn’t just convince a record breaking 66.2% of eligible Black voters to cast ballots, she also empowered a massive volunteer force to engage their friends, family and neighbors, by bypassing the tired tactics of the wonky (you know, the folks who like to talk over the heads of their audiences) and getting to know who they are and what they need to be their most successful selves.
It’s a strategy that the 2003 Howard University grad also employs as the founder and Executive Director of Brown Girls Lead, Inc., a leadership development organization focused on helping collegiate and professional women cultivate the skills they need to effect positive social change on their campuses and in their communities. Whether it’s helping college students in the Brown Girls Lead Academy pick the right clothes to wear to an interview or motivating professional women to take charge of their lives, Stefanie and her six-member planning team are helping to break the glass ceiling of leadership for brown girls across the country.
Yet even with her many accolades – like being recognized in The Grio 100, The Root 100 and by Essence and Ebony Magazines – Stefanie is most proud of the wonderful union she shares with her husband Quentin James. As a couple who plays hard and works harder together, they share co-ownership of their company Vestige Strategies (Quentin’s no slouch either…at only 26 years of age he currently serves as the Black Americans Director for the Ready for Hillary PAC). While a lot of couples couldn’t stand the thought of living and working together, Stefanie and Quentin love to be around each other and push each other to be their best selves while empowering lives and having fun in the process.