Working For the Struggle

Alesha Brown’s nonprofit supports Black communities

Published in 2024 North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine

By Amy White on December 26, 2023

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“The lawyer in the red hat.”

That’s how Alesha Brown is affectionately known in the neighborhoods near the Beatties Ford Road Corridor, home to the historically Black communities in Charlotte where many seniors live. It’s in this corridor that Brown, a civil rights attorney at Justice in Action Law Center, does the work of the nonprofit For The Struggle, which she founded in 2019. It’s also where Brown lives, a decision she made so she could be close to the people her agency serves and the problems they face.

“We always say the closest people to the solution are the folks who are enduring the problem,” says Brown. “Once I purchased my home, I hit the ground running, knocking on doors, talking to people, mostly seniors, who are legitimately afraid of being displaced because of the rapid growth and gentrification happening in Charlotte.”

For The Struggle is dedicated to fighting racial and social injustices in Black communities through several focus areas, including its Elder Response Initiative that helps senior citizens stay in their homes. It’s not just displacement from gentrification that Brown is helping seniors face down; it’s the erasure of culture, too.

“Investors want to build fancy shops, they want to put a Starbucks up,” Brown says. “Ironically, Black folks were displaced to this corridor when they were pushed out of other parts of Charlotte. This area is important because there’s so much history and culture.”

Like The Excelsior Club, Charlotte’s first Black nightclub, where Civil Rights era Black politicians would meet and strategize. “This corridor is very sexy to investors because of geography,” Brown says. “I can get to uptown within five minutes from my house. I’m in the center of everything. But I refuse to allow this attractiveness to erase the culture, history, and everything this corridor stands for.”

Brown rallied a group of estate planning and real estate attorneys, realtors and community activists and canvassed more than 3,000 homes to figure out what help was most needed. “We do free estate planning for these seniors, whether if it’s a free will, trust, power of attorney, healthcare directives, whatever they need to help them with their future planning,” Brown says. “We also have a senior feeding program. We feed 108 seniors twice a week with healthy meals because this corridor also is a food desert. And we help them with their property tax relief applications. Many of them have no idea what the Homestead Act is. So we saved them a lot of money on their taxes, which is important because the property values are skyrocketing because of the gentrification.”

The agency also provides free critical home repairs—roofs, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing—as well as an Eco-Senior Program, which helps with environmentally friendly upgrades to homes. It also has the Eatmon Project, which works to educate and engage Black voters; and the SaluteU program, which provides resources to children either involved in the criminal system or at risk.

How is it funded? National exposure—and $25,000—from The Kelly Clarkson Show’s “Good Neighbor of the Year” helped. So, too, do the corporate sponsorships Brown has earned, from the likes of Target, the Charlotte Hornets and Lowe’s.

After years of running For The Struggle out of her home, in 2022, Brown cut the ribbon on a community resource center, in the heart of the corridor, that exists to fight digital inequality by offering laptops, internet connectivity, and other related equipment.

The emotional toll can be high. “These are the times I turn to my staff, who do incredible things,” she says. “Every morning they make a conscious decision to show up for other people, and dedicate their time to helping other people. They sustain this program.”

Brown has big dreams for her agency.

“I would like to see, in 15 to 20 years, For The Struggle be a national organization,” she says. “There are far too many cities, and far too many Black people, facing these same issues. I want this to last and grow, and I want to have a bigger reach. I have such a passion to do everything I can for others while I’m on this earth.” 

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