1st African American SF Mayor Willie Brown turns 90: Here's his birthday wish for future generations

Willie Brown was mayor of San Francisco from 1996 to 2004

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, March 21, 2024
1st African American SF Mayor Willie Brown turns 90 years old
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is celebrating a huge milestone birthday. He turns 90 years old.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Former Mayor Willie Brown is known for his elaborate birthday parties. When he turned 75 years old in 2009, he invited 120 of his closest friends to Paris.

On March 20, Brown is celebrating his 90th birthday. This time, he's staying put in San Francisco, also known as the "Paris of the West." He will host a gala event to raise money for one of one of his dearest causes.

We met up with Brown at City Hall. He served as mayor from 1996 to 2004 and continues to be an insider.

"It was almost like a club, almost like a fraternity, not available to Black people in most cases," he told us.

Yet despite those challenges, his political trajectory consisted of many firsts. He was among the first Black State Assembly Members, the first Black Speaker of the Assembly, and the first African American Mayor of San Francisco.

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In 2008, he established the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Fellowship Program with the purpose of placing students from San Francisco State who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to work in city government.

"The Willie Brown Fellowship really serves as this tool that allows students to be in these agencies and have their voices heard and really impact policies that are influencing them and their families, and friend and folks that look like them, explained Monica Barbosa, Program Manager of the fellowship program at SF State.

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Twelve undergraduate students are selected among many applicants, working in city government 16 hours a week for an entire semester. Each students receives a stipend of $3,000.

The goal for many is to get a permanent job with the city once they graduate.

"We have students who maybe were fellows in 2018, 2008, 2021 who are now working in city agencies," added Barbosa.

Alondra Esquivel Garcia was a Willie Brown fellow who is now the Director of the San Francisco Youth Commission.

"I basically help advise 17 youth from across the city to advise the mayor and the Board of Supervisors on anything youth related. Nowadays it's housing, homelessness, transportation, city planning, food insecurity," said Esquivel Garcia.

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Jessica Campos was also a prior fellow works full time for the Human Rights Commission.

"The Willie Brown Fellowship gave me the opportunity to know people," added Campos.

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We asked the former mayor how he wanted these kids to remember him years from now.

"I want them to replicate what I've done and if I inspire you to do that, then I have succeeded," he expressed.

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