The Call to Make a Difference

Written by Eva Singleton, Participant in the 2020 Spring Leadership Discovery class, after hearing from mentor, LaVanda Brown, Executive Director of YWCA Greater Charleston

LaVanda Brown is no stranger to answering the call of social change. She is girded with over 20 years’ experience in social services. LaVanda is a longtime activist for the homeless, at-risk teens, justice against institutional racism and a promoter of gender equality. Her church, faith and family cultivated a desire to be an advocate for the social change she desired to see. In 2016, LaVanda began serving as the Executive Director of YWCA Greater Charleston, where her skills, talents and passions are dedicated to empower the dignity for all.  

At the age of thirteen, LaVanda worked at the YWCA in Georgia where she grew up. She never thought her first job would come full circle with her as an executive director of a YWCA. She interprets this phenomenon by using the expression “life has a way of putting you where you need to be”. 

LaVanda has led a life of servitude and leadership in behavioral health, employment, homeless case management and other community services in Savannah, Georgia prior to relocating to Charleston, South Carolina.  

She brought her fight for injustices with her to Charleston – the principles, beliefs and standards she stands for are more than just platforms, they are her lifestyle. Her activism and strategic planning skills made her the conduit that brought the Racial Equity Institute (REI) workshop, a nationally recognized program to bring awareness to institutional racism, to Charleston in 2017. REI workshops are used to educate our local law enforcement officers, school district personnel and many other workplaces throughout the greater Charleston Area on the racial disparities that are still prevalent today in the hopes to bring awareness and social change locally. 

“We may be in the same place, but we didn’t get here the same way. We are on a journey not knowing if we actually reach the destination.” LaVanda Brown, Executive Director, YWCA Greater Charleston 

LaVanda describes her career and activism as a journey in which she has learned and encountered countless opportunities of growth that have led to priceless life lessons. 

 Leadership and Relationship Tidbits… 

  • Leadership and management are not the same. A leader sees the future and motivates others to bring that future into fruition.  
  • Good leaders listen but great leaders demand feedback. You are never doing everything right. Ask for feedback to become a better you.  
  • Do not sugarcoat answers to your team. It is not productive and leads to confusion. Be direct, kind, and respectful.  
  • Broaden your circle. Build relationships and learn from others that do not look like you.  
  • If you need a mentor ask someone. Do not assume people know what you need.  
  • Be accountable. 

LaVanda’s Diversity Challenge… 

Take inventory of your business and personal relationships by doing the following:  

  1. Review the contacts in your cell phone. 
  2. Assess the relationships of those you interact with regularly.  
  3. Assess those friends and associates you invite to your home.  
  4. Assess those friends and associates you speak to over the phone. 
  5. Assess those that influence you. 
  6. Do you have a healthy mix of relationships with people that do not look like you?  
  7. If not, find ways to create diverse relationships.  

LaVanda shared childhood stories, shortcomings and moments of growth with total transparency to edify new leaders. Her practical lessons and activism are empowering. The diversity challenge she proposed created space for introspection and personal responsibility towards being the change we desire to see.  


Thank you LaVanda for sharing your experience and passion for social change with us. Learn more about Leadership Discovery and the upcoming class here – https://www.charlestonchamber.org/career/leadership-discovery/

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