The root of the word “activist” is “act,” and Kaché Brooks is certainly one to not only act, but also encourage the actions and empowered unity of others.
The 16th Annual Civil Rights Conference (ACRC) was this past week at the University of Tennessee at Martin and students everywhere felt the impact. Regardless of if these young people were involved in the planning, were just listening to a lecture, or were a performer in one of the events everyone could tell the impact and importance of having the conference on campus.
Brooks is a senior psychology major from Memphis, Tennessee. She is the president of the Black Student Association on campus, the Vice President of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, a member of the Registered Student Organization Advisory Board, and she is on the planning committee for the Annual Civil Rights Conference. Brooks is the youngest of six children and places an importance on tight close-knit communities, which is why she sought out UTM as her college home.
Brooks’ father was born in the 1940s and being young during the Civil Rights Movement gave him opportunities to stand up for his beliefs. He then helped instill those values in his children by recounting stories of his time in marches during Martin Luther King Jr.’s lifetime. An avid reader, L.B. Brooks, constantly told his daughters about books they should be reading and opened their eyes to the struggles that he faced while living in the segregated south. Brooks says her father’s testimony helped open her eyes to the importance of not letting things grow stagnant, “Sometimes people think that they have to be on a certain platform to say or do things for Civil Rights… that’s not true. You can always start out in your community, campus, or with friends to correct people on things that aren’t right.”
Six years older than Kaché, Kayla Brooks graduated from Vanderbilt University and always made sure to tell her little sister about the events their Black Student Association had going on. “She is always a very vocal person about what she thought was right and what wasn’t. Being around her really pushed me and motivated me to do the same things and not remain silent about what I think is right.”
Brooks feels that the campus or surrounding community could be hosting an annual march along with the conference and breakfast, just to allow people to have their voice heard. There was a forum during the ACRC this week that allowed students to speak about racial tensions they have felt whether on campus or not and any other times they may have felt oppressed. This seminar, “To Be Black and Alive” allowed people to understand that, “just because [you] haven’t experienced racism, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
The Black Lives Matter movement means a lot of different things to the black community as well as the world. In Brooks’ eyes the movement is about embracing yourself, “I might not look like everybody else or the majority. I’m black and that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that.” The Black Lives Matter movement has shed light on injustices and the fact that our nation has made great strides and there is still progress left to be made. “It’s a voice for black people. It’s not okay for our lives to be taken. Just because we are black and they may fear us, it doesn’t give them a right to take our lives,” says Brooks on the issue of police brutality.
Brooks has always placed an importance on people coming together and working as a strong unified body. She chose UTM because of the tight-knit community, and the organizations that she has worked to grow have helped her thrive as a leader and an individual. Because Brooks is in leadership positions it’s important that her values shine through her work.
“In my organizations I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, even if others don’t agree with me,” Brooks said.
Black history month is about continuing the legacy to Brooks.
“It’s about giving homage and recognizing the pioneers of black history and American history. It’s also about rededicating ourselves to the movement. It’s making a charge to continue the legacy and movement that those before us have lived,” Brooks says about where society should stand today in regards to Black History month. She has done her part to act as a leader and spokesperson for her beliefs. L.B. raised his children to never let their voices be silenced; his youngest daughter’s is sure to be strong and proud as long as she has an audience. “Be involved. The root word of activist is act so it’s very important to stand up for your beliefs and be knowledgeable about what’s going on in your community.”