Marty Lawfer: For the recording can you acknowledge that you signed and receivedthe consent form?
Denise Brown: I did
ML: Will you say and spell your name for the record.
DB: Denise Brown D-E-N-I-S-E B-R-O-W-N
ML: When and where were you born?
DB: Like the year? [Laughs] I was born in Wellsfork, VA, in the '60's.
ML:How did you get to Louisville?
DB: I went to law school at Howard University and U of L was one of the schoolsI applied for a scholarship and they granted a fellowship to me and that's how I ended up here. Money and family.
ML:[talking about recording] [Long pause, silence]
ML:Can you briefly describe your education and professional background.
DB: I have an undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in businessadministration from Howard University. I have my law degree from the Brandeis School of Law here at U of L. I have several certificates that relate to 1:00professional coaching and certified as a family law mediator.
ML: What year did you graduate from law school?
ML: Professionally just briefly after law school what did you do?
DB: After law school I worked at the Commonwealth attorney's office as aprosecutor, then I worked at the Jefferson County Attorney office as a prosecutor, and then I worked at the City Law Department as an assistant attorney there. I forget what they call it, Assistant Label Director, something like that. I worked with the Human Relations Commission [HRC] because I used to represent them as an agency. Then from there I went to the Human Relations Commission. After the Human Relations Commission I worked in corporate at Brown & Williamson as a diversity resources person and then at YUM Brands as a human 2:00resources person for about 6 years or so. And then I came back to private practice full time in 2003. Prior to taking the corporate jobs, I always had a part-time practice until I went to the HRC.
ML:Tell me how you became involved with the HRC?DB: As I said, I started out asan agency attorney, so I would attend all of the hearings that would be conducted by the commission and some of the board meetings initially. I would go to those just to be familiar with them and answer any legal questions they might have.
ML:Describe your official duties and responsibilities while you were at the commission.
DB: Well, I was the executive director of volunteer community organization as3:00well as professional staff for the commission and our primary responsibility was to enforce all of the local ordinances that related to discrimination whether it was in housing, employment, Title VII, anything discrimination related as well as the affirmative action objectives of the city of Louisville. So we were responsible for overseeing that as well.
ML:I know you said you couldn't remember dates, do you remember how long youwere at the commission.
DB: I want to say I was there for about 3 years. I think it was in 1992, from'92 to about '95.
ML:Who did you follow as Executive Director?
DB: Gwen Young
ML: Did you take any informal volunteer responsibilities as related to the commission?4:00
DB: You mean outside of the work of the commission?ML: I guess, I'm not surewhat this means, my guess is that did you do volunteer work that was sort of related to the mission of the commission.
DB: Oh yeah, sure, we did. We actually started the study circles, basedrelations study circles here in Louisville. I think we had a local conference here and one of the off springs of that was to have these study circles. I want to say we did it for at least 2 years after the conference where we would come together and have those community meetings where folks get together in small
groups and discuss race and its impact in the border community. Then come backwith solutions and I think one of the ideas that came out of the study circles was the police community person that was supposed to be kind of like a liaison 5:00for when people had complaints. They could start with this person and this person would work with the police department trying to see if there were ways we could improve the relations.
ML:[inaudible] the same position that -- citizen advocate, is that what you aretalking about?
DB: It is, yeah.
ML:During your time at the commission what were some of the key issues you wereinvolved in?
DB: The sexual orientation statute ordinance where I think it came up a coupleof times but didn't get passed. There was quite a bit of legislative lobbying and presentations to be made on that and then of course police community relations came up and at that time period. There's one more, but I can't figure 6:00out what it was, because I can see myself sitting in the chambers of the board hall. Maybe I'm thinking of the sexual orientation. There could have been something on house -- oh that's what it was, we did some things on housing. We did a lot of testing where were sent out people in pairs to go to different apartment complexes to see if people were complying with the law and that was one of the things that I'm' most proud of that we did. In addition to our work on sexual orientation statute and the study circles on race. 7:00
ML:How would you characterize the commission's relationship with communityactivists and social justice groups during your time at the commission?
DB: I thought it was really very good. We always met collaboratively with allthe other groups. I remember meeting quite a bit with Susie Post on housing issues and at the state level with folks on housing issues and how we could improve that. Certainly with Rev. Coleman and Anne Braden, all of those folks were involved on the social side of Civil Rights. We constantly were in contact with them and working on things together. To get an impact on the community and even with gay rights -- Carl Wallace I believe was the person we worked with quite a bit. 8:00
ML:How would you characterize the commission's relationship with city governmentduring your time with the commission?
DB: We were not a senior cabinet level organization but I think whenever we werecalled upon to present information to do things in the community that we clearly had the support of the administration to get those things done. One of the things we did on a yearly basis was to report out on what cases had become before us. What kinds of awards and what were some of the initiatives we were working on? And that was always met with support from the leadership.
ML: In your opinion are there any governmental laws, acts, rules, regulations,or common practice that you see as an impediment to fair housing choice in Louisville? 9:00
DB: I think the impediment is probably that - sometimes I don't think ownersknow when they are violating the law. So I would say education that's targeted at both sides. You obviously want people to understand they cannot be discriminated against, but I think we also need to build better relationships with those folks that we ultimately have to bring a charge against somehow. Disseminating information to them so they understand that having this knowledge doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. It's just good to know, so I think a lack of knowledge is an impediment for folks who get complaints filed against them. I don't think it's uncommon for them to say, "I really didn't know that's something I shouldn't do. Or I would have done this differently had I had more information." 10:00
ML: Similarly are there any private organizations, businesses, ornon-governmental agencies that intentionally are not imposing impediments to fair housing choice in Louisville in their policies or practices?
DB: I would say probably at the time I was there I did not see this as animpediment as much because our role was to educate the community at large about rights, responsibilities, and fair housing. But being on the other side of that and having a fairly large bankruptcy practice, I would say that impediments to 11:00fair housing would include predatory lending. And how that pretty much causes them to steer people to bad loans that they were never going to be able to keep and as a result they have all these folks losing their homes now and also strapped with debt. They have to file bankruptcy on or other alternatives. But it still doesn't - I feel like decimated some communities more than others. In particularly the West End of Louisville.
And I see the same thing as it relates to insurance. And the cost of insurancefor your home. It amazes me that people say I'm not able to get insurance -- my insurance doesn't include the hail damage to my roof because they don't cover that in my area. And I'm like how can it be they don't cover natural occurrences 12:00just because you live in a certain area. But I see that now I'm on the other side and I hear the experience of people saying that. At my work at the commission people did not come to use to say I'm not getting that kind of coverage.
One of the emerging things that were occurring towards the end of my tenure wasthe environmental issues. And we did begin to work with some of the chemical companies in Rubbertown to talk about what is it that we can do differently. How can we keep the public informed and what will you do to make sure you are minimizing the environmental impact here in the West End. That was something that was new and coming up, so I really didn't get to see anything come to fruition in that arena. But obviously I've been away from the commission and 13:00reading the papers and a lot has been going on there. The community has made great progress so I hope the commission is involved in some of that.
ML: Do you sense that fair housing discrimination --
[AUDIO ENDS AT 14:37 BEFORE THE END OF THE INTERVIEW]