Where you at, Cherrell??
Cherrell Brown is a community organizer and educator living in North Carolina. She is involved with several grassroots organizations working towards ending police and economic violence, and she teaches direct action trainings and community organizing 101. Y’all may know her best from Twitter where she takes control of the social media space the same way she does the streets—to push back against police violence and gender inequality, destroy respectability politics and celebrate Blackness in all its complexities.
#WeBuiltThis: How did you get involved in Black liberation work?
Cherrell Brown: I got involved in Black liberation work through the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s really a historical place, and a radicalizing space for many of the students. They found me, as a young, angry, college student popping off at city council meetings, affirmed that my anger was righteous and had a place, and then they taught me how to make use of it. They taught me how to organize. We worked on GOTV campaigns, police accountability, and environmental racism.
“How can I not have joy when I’m being so loved and so cared for in a community so leaderful?”
WBT: How do you engage the electoral process in your work, and why do you find it important?
CB: I understand the frustrations of those who have disengaged with the entire political process, those who are tired of being told to defer in their anguish to voting. I believe elections are a way for us to collectively decide under which conditions we organize. The inside/outside game is important. I know what Black liberation looks like, and it’s a long journey we’ve been on for quite some time. As an organizer, I’m interested in the question of how we survive that journey. It means keeping in mind our transformation goals beyond our current political system, while making a way for our people to live while we’re still here. I think, pragmatically, those elected closest to us are most important to engage with.
WBT: #WeBuiltThis believes in the idea of “payday” espoused by Malcolm X—a day in which Black folk can truly live free in a nation literally built on our backs. What does this day look like to you?
CB: This looks like a day where capitalism has tumbled; where ALL black lives are valued and affirmed; where what has been gained off the backs of Black folks has been given back; and land goes back to the indigenous people to whom it belongs. Most of all—where all of us can feel safe.
WBT: Every day, we’re inundated with grisly footage and callous rhetoric reflecting that our lives and our bodies are detested by our country. How do you find joy amidst this?
CB: In those I organize with—I look at them, and am reminded how much I need them to survive; how lucky I am to exist in a world where there is Alicia, Kim, Thenjiwe, Charlene, Elle Hearns, Brittney, Ashley, Patrisse, Merv, Ash-Lee, Opal, Aja, Ciara, Darnell, Marc, April, and so on, and so on, and so many I can’t name them all. And that brings me joy. To know that these brilliant people are fighting for my life, how can I not have joy when I’m being so loved and so cared for in a community so leaderful?
WBT: What is something you want to express to people who criticize Black youth and our enthusiasm about or engagement of the election?
CB: That Black anger is righteous. That abstaining, however you feel about it, is a political statement and we have to engage with it as such. We must continue to build ways to hold those we elected accountable, and remember that wherever we fall on the spectrum of political engagement, it is our duty to hold all of our people.