Amen Brown had on a face mask covering his nose and his mouth when I ran into him earlier this month — but I could tell he was smiling.
He had good reason.
The 33-year-old entrepreneur had just pulled off a stunning upset against Democratic incumbent G. Roni Green in the race for a state House seat representing the scandal-plagued 190th District, anchored in West Philly. Even though votes were still being tabulated, Brown was in the lead.
Since then, Brown has been officially declared the winner, with 43.1% of the vote to Green’s 38.9%. Attorney Danyl Patterson came in third with 13.2%.
Come November, he will face off against Republican challenger Wanda Logan. It shouldn’t be much of a contest, since 87% of the district’s voters are registered Democrats. If things go as expected, Brown will be the third state rep from the 190th in four years, which is pretty much unheard of.
The father of two has come a long way from just a year ago, when he launched his political career by announcing his candidacy in the special election to fill the seat vacated when former State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown was convicted of bribery and other charges. He lost that race to former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell. She served less than a year before resigning in December and pleading guilty to stealing $500,000 from a charity she founded.
“I am very, very excited about what happened on June 2,” Brown told me, adding that he is planning a public event to celebrate his victory. “This is something that’s been in the works for 20-plus years.”
Hopefully, he’ll be able to do what three state representatives who preceded him were unable to — stay out of legal trouble.
The residents in the 190th have been through more than enough in recent years, which is why I focused on this particular race.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing for a position like this my entire life without even knowing,” Brown told me on Tuesday. “All of the community work I did, even back when I was a child, a lot of the people who stood in those lines [to vote].… These were citizens who I had helped in some shape or form, whether it was going to the store or shoveling their snow.”
Brown grew up in a single-parent household at 43 S. 56th St. Money he earned doing odd jobs went to buy food for his eight siblings. At age 12, an assailant shot him and a friend in the back while they were standing near his home at 56th and Market Street.
A few years later, he was working in the after-school program at what was then Sayre Middle School when he got caught up in a police raid at a corner store while he and his friends were hanging out nearby. He spent about 45 days behind bars before he was released and the drug charges were dismissed.
After graduating from Overbrook High School in 2006, he attended Community College of Philadelphia with the intention of becoming a school principal, but said he dropped out because “it wasn’t fast enough for me.”
When he was 22, he and a business partner opened a child-care facility in Frankford called Education Nation Learning Academy. That was followed by a second facility.
Brown eventually left that partnership and started the Overbrook Beacon Community Center at 56th and Lancaster Avenue. Meanwhile, he was dabbling in real estate. These days, he’s out of the day-care business. Brown spends his time holding listening sessions with residents and learning more about the legislative process.
“This win wasn’t about what we did the last six or seven months. It was the work that we put in for years,” he added. “I’m known for helping people.”