I grew up in Los Angeles, in a very loving home with a big extended family. When you’re a child, you just see things as they are and you don’t judge what you’re seeing. As I began to get older, I began to realize that something was a little different in my home and in my family. When I was 18 or 19, I really began to identify that my dad is someone who is what would be called a “formerly incarcerated person” or a “returning citizen.” I didn’t see myself in any of the stories that I had heard about returning citizens or incarcerated people. My dad picked me up from school every day. He was very loving. He was a surrogate father to every child in our neighborhood, as well as every child in my family. That was when I began to really understand that there were some narratives that were out there that I just couldn’t identify with, and I knew something was off. I grew up in a family where the vast majority of people were in and out of prison. The vast majority of people were convicted of some sort of crime and spent some time away. I knew there was more to my family and our experiences than what you might see in a show like The Wire. Not that The Wire doesn’t have its own beauty and there are a lot people that can identify. I just couldn’t. And when I began to realize that things didn’t have to be the way that they were, that my cousins didn’tt have to grow up without up a mother. There didn’t have to be this abandonment and this pain, and that there were some very specific things that were happening in this country, and some very specific trends coming way above what I could even imagine from Congress, Senate, and the President. That’s when I began to realize that I wanted to do something that was around activism or organizing.
As a Black woman in my early years I didn’t necessarily identify with a
feminist label. I think I totally misconstrued what it meant. But as I was a founding member of BYP 100 and I began to really identify with Black feminism. I also began to see it as vital that Black women and girls were centered in this work because I saw my own family. Men might have gone away to prison or jail, but it was Black women who were actually holding the family together. It was Black women who were dying early from stress and hypertension and heart attacks from being grandmothers and seniors and having to raise babies by themselves.
Since I came to Color Of Change, my work has been intentionally centered on Black women and girls. Building the Black Women’s Brunch was a joy for me because I saw it as an opportunity to commune with the people who actually hold activism in this entire movement together in the Black community at large, which is Black women and girls. For so long Black women have been viewed as votes or just bodies in the political arena. And as a Black woman who was raised by Black women, I know that we have our own unique stories and narratives behind our actions – political, spiritual physical. And so a lot of my job is to go across the country to places where, quite frankly, big political establishments are not interested in building, like Flint, Michigan. Like Jacksonville, Florida. Like Las Vegas, Nevada. Meeting the Black woman there, helping them to build their own independent apparatus and their own Black political organization that has both community and political roots, and bringing
all those Black women together across the country to take action.
I see myself as an Organizer. At my heart I will always be an Organizer. But before you can organize you have to identify and develop the story which will help move people to action. People don’t respond to statistics. They respond to stories of people’s pain, of people’s triumph, of people’s struggle. At Color Of Change, a lot of our job is to see the story and really get in there through building community with women and to identify the stakeholders so we can turn those stories into wins for Black women across the country.