Note: The video begins with Brandy speaking in Spanish. Subtitles are provided.
Good evening, welcome, and thank you so much for being here with me tonight! My name is Brandy Brooks, my pronouns are she/her/hers, I live in Kensington-Wheaton, and I am very proud to be running for Montgomery County Council At-Large in the 2022 elections.
Tonight is the culmination of so many conversations, so many weeks of hard work, and so much organizing! And the best part is, that we’re only at the beginning – we have 500 days to demonstrate what a grassroots, people-powered political movement can accomplish in this county. And the work won’t stop even after that, because we have years of joyful, powerful organizing ahead of us as we transform Montgomery County politics and policy to put people first.
When I ran my first campaign in 2018, election day wasn’t even officially over before folks were asking me if I’d run again. My joke is usually that I told them, “First, I’m going to sleep again, then I’ll decide if I’m going to run again!” That kind of incredible enthusiasm is so affirming and inspiring – to know that people felt so strongly about the shared vision we’d built, and were so supportive of my leadership, and were so ready to throw down for the next time.
That enthusiasm can also be daunting, because you can get carried away on that tide without grounding yourself in your own clear sense of purpose. So as I was thinking about running for office this election, I found myself asking, “Am I doing this because everyone wants me to, or am I doing it because it’s the right thing for me, because I am the right person and this is the right moment?”
I spent the entirety of 2020 reflecting on that question. And while I reflected, I watched a devastating pandemic sweep across the planet. I watched our nation become first on the worst possible list: number of people dead from COVID-19. I watched fires and storms ravage communities in the United States and across the globe. I watched unarmed Black women and men and trans folks choked out and beaten and shot to death – while white people shot people down and walked away unharmed. I watched people losing their jobs and their homes and their loved ones and their lives.
But 2020 wasn’t just a series of crises that I observed from a distance. I struggled to figure out how to support my mother through three serious health crises, of which COVID-19 was the least life-threatening. As someone who has dealt with chronic depression since she was a child, I struggled with the grief of being unable to hug friends or family members and the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion of making it through each difficult day and wondering how long it was going to last. I struggled with shedding longstanding narratives of racial, cisheteropatriarchal capitalism that told me that as an Afro-Latina woman without wealth that I didn’t deserve to rest, that I didn’t deserve support, that what I was doing and the fact that I was managing to get up every day was never good enough, no matter how much of a victory it truly represented.
And throughout 2020, I was very clear that both the personal traumas I was facing and the collective traumas we all were experiencing had the same roots: systems of oppression, exploitation, and dehumanization that put us out of right relationship, with our planet, with one another, and even with our own selves. And we needed public leadership that would speak to those root causes, look beyond “getting back to normal” – a normal that was harming us and our communities every day – and reach for what it looked like to build a politics and policies of healing, restoration, transformation, and liberation.
At the end of 2020, I became clear that was a role I wanted to embrace by running once again for County Council At-Large. I wanted to use all of the things that I had experienced and all of the struggles and the lessons I’d learned from them to build the kind of world that would hold me and heal me, hold and heal my family and friends, hold and heal my community. And I was certain then, just as I am now, that I’m not the only person who is ready to build that world.
I am running because I believe that we will win.
I believe that we will win. Running for office is a faith journey. When I ran in the 2018 elections, I’d never run for office or even worked on a campaign before. I didn’t know enough to know that what I wanted to do was considered kinda crazy – and that’s probably a good thing! But I did have a conviction: that while I was busy making myself small and thinking I wasn’t good enough, people like Donald Trump and Larry Hogan woke up believing they had the right to lead, and their leadership was doing terrible harm to the people and places I loved. I got clear that my holding back only gave them room to run roughshod over us. I got clear that it was time to stop letting other people’s visions rule our world – and start building power for our visions instead.
Because of that conviction, we were able to do tremendous things. With my sister and mother as the core of my team, we built a base of hundreds of volunteers and donors, raised more than $150,000 through the PEF, and earned 21 organizational endorsements and 26,000 votes. We developed amazing leaders who have gone on to play critical roles in policy around racial equity, domestic violence, criminal justice, education, and more. We connected with people who’d never thought they’d be involved in a political campaign, but who became passionate advocates for a shared vision of a Montgomery for All. We showed that a grassroots campaign led by Black women that engaged everyday people could shift the landscape of local politics.
This campaign is the next stage of that faith journey, and we are leaning into our vision. We are going to be bold and unapologetic about centering the voices of people of color, women, the TLGBQ+ community, immigrants, young people, and poor and working people. We are going to be bold and unapologetic about our progressive vision and policy solutions. We are going to redefine the conversation about what it’s possible for us to do through public policy to support every person who lives in this county. We are going to do this because it is what is right, because our lives depend on it, and because we recognize that we cannot prosper as a county if we are attempting to do it by marginalizing and exploiting our own people.
I believe that we will win. What we have already accomplished in the last week is a stunning testament to the power of a grassroots movement. I want to be absolutely clear: I did not do this on my own. The culture we live in likes to frame great accomplishments throughout history as the work of great people – usually great men – acting largely on their own, with their individual genius and initiative being the important factor.
But the Founding Fathers could not have built the wealth and power of the United States without the labor of enslaved indigenous people and Africans. Ford Motor Company didn’t revolutionize transportation in the United States without thousands of auto workers – black as well as white – making that vision real. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not win civil rights victories alone – whether it was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the young people willing to put their bodies in front of hoses and dogs, or the decades of organizing by women like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker, these victories were the work of thousands of people organizing and fighting, and sometimes dying, for justice. Power is always – ALWAYS – collective, even if our histories try to erase the people behind it.
We have come this far because of your support, and that is how we will go forward. This is a campaign that believes in deep movement building: in relationship-building, in leadership development, in tapping into our capacities and our greatness. That is how we have raised over $30,000 in one week with contributions of no more than $250 per person. I know that it is within our communities – within YOU – where we will find the solutions for racial and gender justice, housing justice, transportation justice, economic justice, climate and environmental justice, education justice, health justice, and every other aspect of the healing and justice we need to bring to our communities. I know that it is only by connecting to and supporting our collective wisdom and knowledge and experience that we are going to be able to meet the daunting challenges that our communities are facing. It is time for policy that puts people first – and we are the key.
I believe that we will win. Folks might think that this kind of certainty is hubris; but in fact, it’s history. I know that I am here, running to be the first woman of color, the first Black woman and the first Latina woman elected at-large to the County Council in its 50-year history, because of all the people who came before me and fought and won despite those who told them it wasn’t possible. I know that people like Odessa Shannon, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Navarro, and Ana Sol Gutierrez paved the way. I know that I stand on the shoulders of Harriet Tubman and Shirley Chisholm and Octavia Butler and all of the other warriors and visionaries who proclaimed the future and pressed on into it when everyone else said to turn back. I know that this isn’t just Black History Month; it is Black Future Month, and we have inherited the charge of our ancestors to make transformative history again.
At the start of this year, people who stand against everything our country says it values attempted to steal an election and take down our government by force. They were trying to steal our joy at what we had won in November and what we won again on January 5th. But I will not let our story be overshadowed – the story of how Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native organizers threw down, mobilized our communities, and turned the tide of political power in the United States. The story of how people who have been called “uneducated” and “unreachable” and “unorganizable” voters turned out in droves to secure the future of our democracy – and make history in electing Georgia’s first Black senator in over 100 years and the first woman, Black woman, and Asian woman to ever serve as Vice President of the United States.
I know what we can accomplish because I’ve seen it – and so have the people who stand in opposition to justice and equity. If they didn’t know what we were capable of, they wouldn’t work so hard to suppress our vote, undervalue our labor, take away our wealth, hide our history, keep us locked into neighborhoods without adequate services, and keep us locked up, period. There wouldn’t be pushback every time we rise. We need to be as confident of our own ability as those who are afraid of it. Because there’s nothing we can’t do together.
I believe that we will win. I don’t believe that we will reform, or incrementally change, or wait until someone else says it’s time for justice and time for our leadership. That’s over – because we cannot afford to keep waiting. Our communities and our families need us to step into the boldest visions of our future, the visions that will allow us to live lives of joy and dignity as part of a restorative and regenerative ecosystem on this one beautiful planet we have to call home. This is the time we play for all the marbles.
I know that some of you have been told that your visions are too ridiculous and impossible, that they don’t make sense, that it’s just not done that way. I want to remind you that it’s always impossible until it is done – and we are doing it right now, as we speak. This launch is just the start of the movement miracles you will witness as we build this campaign. Those who tell us that we have to operate out of scarcity instead of abundance, and that we cannot find a way to make equity and justice a reality, are lying to you.
Because if we could find $8 billion dollars of public money to invest in building the wealth of the richest man in the world, then we can find those same resources to house every person in this county. To provide an education that supports every young person in discovering and exercising their full capacity and leadership while learning and growing in safety, not fear. To enable our small business entrepreneurs, who come from every corner of the globe, to build out the economic centers of our communities. To feed every person in our county. To build a transportation system that can get any one of us around this county to live and work and learn and play together. To restore and protect and support the health of each one of us so that we can live and work and learn and play together – and hug each other.
This is what I’m fighting for. This is what I’m asking you to fight for with me.
Because I believe that we will win.
I believe that we will win.
I believe that we will win.
I believe that we will win.