Category: Campaign

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Zivia Lubetkin

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Zivia Lubetkin

National Library of Israel, Schwadron collection

The following is a reflection by Aliza Wasserman as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series.

Today marks the 75th anniversary on the Jewish (lunar) calendar of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After 2,000 German soldiers re-entered the ghetto in 1943 on the eve of Passover, they were faced by hundreds of Jewish resistors combating them for nearly a month through the final liquidation of the ghetto. The Germans burned down the ghetto, forcing the last of the Jewish fighters to escape through the sewers by gassing their bunkers.

Zivia Lubetkin was the only female leader in the command structure of the uprising, and helped found the anti-Fascist bloc, the first organization in the Warsaw Ghetto to engage in armed combat in fighting for their lives against the Germans. A founder and leader of the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB), which organized the uprising, Lubetkin was previously a leader of Jewish youth movements who smuggled many Jewish teenagers out of Poland, where my ancestors came from just 30 years prior. On May 10, 1943 she went through the sewers with the last of the fighters and became an emissary of the movement and its legacy until her death in 1978.

Zivia was part of a group of mostly female couriers, or Kashariyot, who traveled on illegal missions in and out of ghettos and towns in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia, using false papers to conceal their identities. Sharing news and information across the areas occupied by Germany and smuggling identity cards, newspapers, medical supplies and their fellow Jews. Most of the couriers were female, because the social roles for Jewish women in Poland at the time made women better suited for this role –being out in public during the day was more normative for women, they were less likely to be sent to forced labor camps, and they were more likely to have secular education in Polish schools. Earlier in the German occupation they had organized meetings and educational spaces for young Jews to learn about the history of resistance.  As heroes who risked their lives often anonymously and secretly, “the kashariyot were not conventional fighters: they did not use conventional weapons and they did not fight in conventional battles. Their times called for daring innovations and different modes of fighting the Germans.” The resilience exhibited by these female couriers also played a symbolic role in keeping hope alive, just as hearing about their efforts these days helps to push back against the current acceptance of a default passive bystander status.

Since most of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews—there had once been nearly half a million– had already been killed or sent to death camps or labor camps, Lubetkin and her comrades knew their armed combat wouldn’t be able to stop the Nazi machine. However, she hoped that the fighting spirit would inspire more Jews to fight back and earn more support from the Polish Underground.

In her memoir In the Days of Despair & Destruction, Lubetkin wrote “It would be wrong, painfully wrong, to assume that the resistance displayed by the youth during the stormy days of destruction was the response of a few individuals…Our fate would have been very different had we not been members of the movement…We were able to endure the life in the ghetto because we knew that we were a collective, a movement. Each of us knew that he or she wasn’t alone…the feeling that there was a community people who cared about each other, who shared ideas and values in common, made it possible for each of us to do what he or she did. This was the source of our strength to live. It is the very same source which keeps the survivors alive even today. The Jewish people stood the test.”

Throughout history, unconventional women have fought back against oppression against all odds. These women provide the inspiration for the next generation of women heroes and leaders. Now is our time to fight back against oppression in our communities – from housing discrimination to worker exploitation to violence against people of faith – together, we will rise.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

The following is a reflection by Carol McSween-Brooks as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series. McSween-Brooks is a resident of Wheaton.

Mary McLeod Bethune followed a path of being “unconventional” throughout her life. Did you know Mrs. Bethune:

  • Started a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida.
  • Was president of Bethune-Cookman College (the consolidation of the school for African-American girls and the Cookman school for boys) from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.
  • Instituted standards that led Bethune-Cookman College to become Bethune-Cookman University.
  • Was a national leader in the 1930’s, working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on issues of education and social justice not just for African Americans but for all people.
  • Was National Advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt as part of the Black Cabinet.
  • Has a memorial sculpture in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC.


Mrs. Bethune said of the National Council of Negro Women in New York City, which she founded:

Photo by Carl Van Vechten

“It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy.”

Mrs. Bethune is a personal heroine of mine, and I’m excited to share a purely wonderful story of remembrance and discovery.

Mary McLeod Bethune was a living hero for my mother who told me of Mrs. Bethune’s accomplishments in detail from when I was very young. My mother encouraged me to learn and Mrs. Bethune was always at the forefront whenever she told me what I could accomplish. Yet it wasn’t until doing research for this blog series that I discovered the depth of who Mary McLeod Bethune was. Both personally and publicly, I owe a great deal of my strength and determination as a Black woman to the things Mary McLeod Bethune set in motion in education and community.

She challenged conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in education for Black people.

Brandy Brooks challenges conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in community and government. It is this strength in challenging convention to build thriving, powerful, and socially just communities all across Montgomery County that makes a “YES!” vote for Brandy Brooks for County Council At-Large on June 26, 2018 the right thing to do.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Dolores Huerta

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Dolores Huerta

The following is a reflection by Jayme Epstein as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series. Epstein is a resident in Rockville.

“Si se puede!  Si se puede! (Yes, we can!)” rings through the streets of America today ever since Dolores Huerta coined the term almost 50 years ago.  

Those words defined Huerta’s life, as a woman, an organizer, and an advocate for the rights of all people.  She is most famous for co-founding the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, a role that was often downplayed because she was a woman.  Against all odds, not to mention big agribusiness and the government, Huerta built a movement, then devoted her life to raising up the voices and improving the lives of oppressed Americans, breaking race and gender barriers each step of the way.  

She founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002 to build local power and fight for justice in California’s Central Valley. Today, at age 87, Huerta continues to lead the organization and travels the country supporting candidates for political office and civil rights.  Accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, Huerta emphasized the power of organizing communities to fight for economic and social justice:

“The freedom of association means that people can come together in organization to fight for solutions to the problems they confront in their communities. The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action. It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today.”  

Unconventional women have organized their communities to secure economic and social justice for oppressed workers and citizens.  Will you contribute $10, $25 or $50 to Brandy’s campaign to challenge the conventional wisdom about political leadership in Montgomery County?

Get involved today by volunteering or hosting an event build a Montgomery County for all!


By Eric Guo [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Harriet Tubman

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Harriet Tubman

In Preston, MD, there’s a tree that Harriet Tubman and her family passed by on the way to freedom.

The tree stands on one of the many Eastern Shore farms where Tubman and her relatives labored as slaves – not as farmers, but as loggers. While much of the forest shows the signs of having been clear cut more than once, this 200-year-old tree remains standing, a living witness to the courage of Tubman and those who escaped with her on the thirteen trips she made back to Maryland to free family members and friends after she had escaped herself.

Standing in that forest, you get a sense of how terrifying the escape must have been. But you also know that you’re standing in Tubman’s legacy: the farm is now owned by two black women who are partnering with two young black farmers to lead a resurgence of African-American agriculture in Maryland and across the country. Tubman risked doing what no one would have thought possible – and the power of that choice continues to echo through generations.

Tubman rescued “just” 70 people – a number that could easily be dismissed compared to the 4 million people enslaved at that time. Running a grassroots campaign for County Council might seem to be a small thing in the face of global environmental, economic and social challenges. But these seemingly small things have the power to transform our lives, and the lives of those who come after us.

The conventional wisdom about who holds power and makes decisions for our communities is no longer acceptable for our families, our communities, and our children.

When children have to march in the streets to make sure their schools are safe and free from gun violence, it’s time to challenge the status quo and demand effective gun control laws and end the stranglehold of the NRA on our gun policy.

When women are consistently paid less than men in every field, and women are underrepresented in politics at every level, it’s time to make sure we have reforms that create equity in the workplace and in politics.

When hardworking people cannot get affordable housing or ensure that their families are fed, it’s time to move away from a trickle-down housing and economic theory to create policies that benefit the people, not corporate and big money interests.

Unconventional women have won freedom for themselves and their communities. In this final week of March, as we celebrate the leadership of diverse people across our communities will you support Brandy’s campaign to challenge the conventional wisdom about political leadership in Montgomery County?

Brandy Brooks Reaches $20,000 Threshold for Matching Public Funds

Brandy Brooks Reaches $20,000 Threshold for Matching Public Funds

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (March 09, 2018) — Brandy Brooks, at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council and community organizer, has reached the donor and financial thresholds to qualify for matching funds from Montgomery County’s Public Election Fund. The campaign will file for certification next week and is expanding the team to build on recent successes.

“This milestone is a shared victory for the hundreds of supporters who galvanized their networks to support my campaign,” said Brandy Brooks. “When we put people power into action, we are an unstoppable force creating a new vision for Montgomery County politics and policy.”

The Montgomery County Public Election Fund program is the first of its kind in the state of Maryland. Candidates participating in the program commit to accept contributions only from individuals, and the County matches contributions from county residents up to four times for the at-large race. To qualify for matching funds in the at-large contest, candidates must collect at least $20,000 in contributions from at least 250 unique Montgomery County residents. As of the annual campaign finance report filing in January, Brooks’ campaign had collected $9,573 from 212 Montgomery County donors.

Through a committed grassroots effort among the hundreds of supporters in the county and the surrounding area, Brooks raised an additional $11,500 from Montgomery County donors in two months. The campaign has raised $21,038 from a total of 358 county residents to qualify for matching funds and more than $32,800 overall from a total of 623 small-dollar donors. Qualifying enables the campaign to bring on key staff members and expand voter outreach capacity.

While Brooks is excited to file, she recognizes the challenges that some candidates are facing in this new system. “Even as we reach this threshold, we are standing in solidarity with candidates who have been disqualified from using the Public Election Fund,” said Brooks. “I would not be able to run for office without this vital system for shifting political influence from big-money donors to everyday people. We believe that immediate corrective action is necessary so that the Public Election Fund fulfills its promise of providing access for diverse candidates across Montgomery County to successfully run for office.”

Brooks is one of 38 candidates running for four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council. She has received major endorsements from the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America, Progressive Maryland, and the Montgomery County Education Association. The Democratic Primary is June 26, 2018.



Brandy Brooks is a public election fund candidate for Montgomery County Council At-Large. She is an activist, educator, facilitator, and designer who has spent more than 10 years working on social and environmental justice.

To learn more about Brandy Brooks, go to