When Shanell Parrish-Brown decided to leave her home in Harlem at age 17, she did so with the goal of becoming self-sufficient. Attending Hunter College part-time, studying human communications while working full-time as a human resources manager for the MetLife Insurance Company, she did just that.
Now an attorney at Viacom International, married with three children, Parrish-Brown, 48, a West Hempstead resident for the past 16 years, said she is in a position to give back to her community. A member of the Safe Center LI for two years, she was elected the organization’s vice president last month. The Safe Center, in Bethpage, is a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic, dating or child abuse as well as and rape and sexual assault.
“As an adult, I’ve been drawn to issues of domestic violence due to early adolescent experiences where domestic violence impacted me personally,” said Parrish-Brown, who grew up in Harlem. “I’m really looking forward to learning more about all the work that we do so that I can be an advocate for our services.”
She said she was surprised at how fast she became an executive board member for the Safe Center. After speaking with her fellow board members, however, she understood that her presence was much needed. “Diversifying the board is a commitment that our president, Stephen Bondi, has made a high priority,” said Parrish-Brown, who is the only Black member of the board. “We need to have diverse voices at the table in order for us to better identify issues.”
She added that many board members had been there for more than 20 years, and that Bondi said he hoped that Parrish-Brown’s addition would spark something of a “youth movement.” Bondi, who interviewed Parrish-Brown in 2018, said that she came across as a strong-willed woman who was more than capable of bringing new ideas to the organization.
“We’re hoping that her voice on the executive committee and the leadership that she shows will impact the organization in a positive way that will attract more people like her to the organization,” Bondi said.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky described the Safe Center as a leading force in the fight against domestic violence and abuse in Nassau County, and said that the addition of Parrish-Brown was exciting news for the organization. “I am looking forward to her leaving her mark on the Safe Center and their important mission,” Kaminsky said in a statement.
Because of her full-time job with MetLife, it took Parrish-Brown about nine years to complete her bachelor’s degree, which she received in 1998. In 2002 she earned a law degree from St. John’s University. She became a staff attorney for National Grid later that year, and worked there until 2008, before joining Viacom.
“I give a lot of credit to my mother, because she was a jack of all trades who was a really smart person, but she struggled a lot, too,” Parrish-Brown said. “I recognized her struggles, and I just wanted to get to a point where I could raise a family, support my community and become a well-rounded individual.”