11 Little-Known Facts About Yvette McGee Brown, Plus Her Philosophy on Children

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Yvette McGee Brown is an icon of Columbus, a hometown girl made good. Her life-both its successes and its challenges -has been well chronicled. Think you know everything about her, then? Well, think again.

  • McGee Brown is a voracious reader-especially biographies and historical fiction-and she spent last summer buried in the 15th century, learning about King Henry VIII. Her friend Deborah Lindsay says, "Yvette is so accomplished in other things that people sometimes forget how brilliant her mind is. But she took Golda Meir's biography to Jamaica as a beach read. Really. Who does that?"
  • She's known for her sense of style, always perfectly put together and the picture of power. But at home? It's baggy sweats and a T-shirt, just like the rest of us.
  • And, when she gets a long stretch alone to relax, she pours a glass of wine and binge-watches her favorite television shows: "Scandal," "Homeland" and "The Blacklist." "It's bad," she says, laughing. "Tony told me once that when his wife gets home she was going to get on me."
  • Sundays are for a cup of coffee and The New York Times on the patio.
  • When she's angry with her husband, she calls him dear. "Ooooooooooh, and it is DEAR. Every. Letter. Is. Capital. I can hear it now. That's business right there," he says.
  • Her favorite song? "Fantastic Voyage" by Lakeside. (1980s funk. Remember it? "Hey, come on, come along take a ride; There's a party over there, that ain't no jive; It's live, live, it's all the way live.")
  • She and Tony's favorite place for a special occasion is Mitchell's Ocean Club. For casual carry-out, it's Longhorn Steakhouse, and date night is the dine-in theater at Easton. "I was just teasing Tony, he used to take me out for dinner and a movie, now I get dinner at the movie."
  • She makes a mean baked macaroni and cheese: "Carnation evaporated milk. That's the secret weapon."
  • She loves spinning class but dislikes biking outdoors.
  • Her pet peeve: People who don't like something but do nothing to change it.
  • If she was spending a month on a deserted island, the five personal items she couldn't live without include: glasses, shavers, lotion, clothes and "definitely a curling iron. Always gotta have my hair done."

Through all of her career incarnations, the consistencies for Yvette McGee Brown have been that education is important and every child matters. Here's some of what she's learned along the way, in her own words. What is the single most important factor in a child's success? Love without judgment.

What is the most damaging thing that well-meaning adults do to their children?

Place their expectations and dreams on their children's lives. Children are not our miniatures. They have their own wants and dreams. What is important to us may not be important to them. We have to give them space and allow them to discover who they want to be.

How do we break the cycle of violence?

Simple: Children learn what they live. If you can't do it for yourself, think about the silent messages you are sending your children. Look for help to get out. Don't do it on your own, do it in a way that you are safe and can be protected. There are agencies that can help. You have to hold on to that voice that says you deserve to be happy.

How do we break the cycle of poverty?

You have to want something more. Growing up, I wasn't sure what I wanted, but I knew I wanted more. In order to break the cycle of poverty, you need someone speaking hope to you every day. Someone who says they believe in you, that they will be there for you. Someone reading to you, showing you the value of education, why learning is important. And, as kids mature, they have to have the strength to make different "not popular" decisions and, often, that has to do with the adults in their life setting expectations, setting boundaries and holding them accountable. No babies, no sex, no drugs.

What do we, as parents, not do enough of with our children?

I think it's time and consistency. Too often we give our kids things instead of our time. I am as guilty as the next person. There always seems like there will be more time and before you know it, that precious one doesn't really want to hang out with you. Set rules, enforce them, be consistent.

What do we do too much of?

Praise and money. Not every kid, but my children and my friends' children can't think of what they want for Christmas because they never go without. They have the latest and the newest of everything. We praise them for every moment of their being, which, at some point, diminishes the praises when they most deserve it. They can't always be great. They have to learn from mistakes. And as I often say, it's the struggle that makes you strong. If our kids don't learn how to struggle, then what happens when they find the bump in the road?