Spotlight: Community Organizing with Brittany Packnett

Brittany Packnett’s activism took off on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, MI, and has dedicated her life to fighting for racial and social justice. As an educator, she is the vice president of national community alliances for Teach for America. As an activist, she is the co-founder of Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform to end police violence in America, and a member of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.

We’re excited to announce that Brittany will be joining us on December 3rd for the #UnitedDayofWomen! The United Day of Women is a nationwide day of action where activists across the country can host their own strategy sessions while receiving tools, resources, and grassroots organizing tactics from movement leaders. Brittany, along with other influencers, will be leading a kicking it off with a conference call! Join the movement here → http://bit.ly/UnitedDayofWomen

Can you tell us about the thought process behind Campaign Zero and how it came to be?

Brittany: The four of us who co-founded it are all protestors from Ferguson and around the country. What we knew was that we protest not because we want to, but because we have to. The point of protest is to create such a crisis, as Dr. King talked about, it forces systems to change. But change how? Change into what? So, Campaign Zero is the “what.” Campaign zero set forth local and state policy demands in an easy to digest and easy to use form for anyone who desires to seek change in their community and end police violence in america. We wanted to create a platform that everyone could use and everyone can understand, and that would help turn the pressure that we were amounting on the streets into policy change around the country.

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Activism can often be an exhausting line of work. What keeps you motivated and inspired to continue this fight on the front lines?

Brittany: I read a quote somewhere that said, “You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion,” and I think about that often when I get tired, or distressed, or am frustrated by all of the people who want to attack us and our cause. I think that for me, this work is bigger than just police violence. I’m an educator by trade, I care deeply about young people and the promise of their future. I want them to be alive to see it and I want the future they are able to access to be one of choice, one of excellence, and one where they can unapologetically be themselves. So, that means I care about issues of race and social justice, immigration, education, police violence, gun violence. There’s no single issue that affects our lives because we’re not single issue people, as Audre Lorde said. I find myself continuing to be inspired by the young people that I work for and work with, and continuing to remember that my purpose is where my passion, my skills, and my talent meet. In that place I find a sense of worth and tenacity to keep fighting no matter what comes.

Taking what you learned from your involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement and your experience as an educator, what advice would you give to the next generation of activists?

Brittany: Seize your power and remain creative. I think that there are moments in history that call for each of us to stand up, and to stand up in way that we were uniquely designed for. You don’t have to be on the front lines, you don’t have to be an organizer. You might be an artist, or a poet, you might be a teacher, a pastor, or a chef; there is a way for every single one of us to use our skills and talent towards the things we care about. And in order to win, it will take absolutely every single one of us. So, my advice is to not be seduced by an archetype of activism, but rather to think critically about how you can contribute uniquely to the cause that you care about and to do so in a way that is creative and stands in the gap for people.

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What do you want the state of women to look like?

Brittany: I want the state of women to be empowered, I want it to be diverse, I want the state of women to be such that Black women, Native women, Latina women, Trans women, White women, Asian women, and Pacific Islander women are all standing on equal footing and receiving the kind of support, power, access and amplification that we deserve. One in which we are working together to pursue those things that are common to all of us and to pursue those things that may even affect one more than the other. Because as women, we need to remember that if one of us isn’t free, then all of us are not free. What is happening to my Muslim sisters is happening to me, what happens to me is happening to my white sisters, and what is happening to my Native sisters is happening to all of us. I hope that the state of women is one that is truly united and truly empowers all women, not just some.