OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — This year’s Black History Month celebration comes in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ tragic death following a traffic stop by Memphis police.
Nichols’ death will be added to the long history of unarmed black people killed by law enforcement in this country. Cat Brooks has a history of standing up against police brutality in the Bay Area, but who exactly is she?
“That’s a very complicated question. I am a mother. I’m an artist, playwriter, actress, director, poet and I’m a freedom fighter,” said Cat Brooks, Anti-Police Terror Project executive director.
For more than a decade, she has been and continues to be the most consistent voice against police brutality in the Bay Area. “We want to provide a safe place for people to scream, vent, yell. But also, to show the power of the people,” said Brooks.
Brooks’ mom was on the front line of the domestic violence movement in Las Vegas. “A town founded by cowboys, Mormons and the mob. She would take me out there and she would get arrested. I’d watch her cross over the line that they set and off she’d go to jail,” said Brooks.
She said seeing her dad, a Vietnam veteran, struggling with substance abuse and on the wrong side of the law, also had a profound effect on her as a child. “I also knew that place where he was going, wasn’t going to make him better,” said Brooks.
A job opportunity led her to Oakland in the late 2000’s. It was a time when cop shootings and police misconduct were frequent in the media.
Brooks and a team of activists and organizers started the Anti Police-Terror Project. It notably was before Black Lives Matter movement emerged on the scene.
“We have proved time and time again; you cannot stop us from mobilizing. You cannot stop us from organizing. We will not sit down. We will not shut up. We will not forget,” said Brooks.
Not everyone is a big fan of the group’s tactics which includes interrupting the daily lives of others. “I would just say to people who want to disrupt our system to please think about the other people who are just trying to get where they need to go,” said Jim Allison, BART spokesperson.
As time passed, Brooks would become celebrated and recognized in the media for her relentless effort to end police violence. She even got a shoutout from Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong for helping to deescalate a potentially deadly situation.
“I appreciate Cat Brook’s effort. That was very helpful,” said Chief Armstrong.
Over the many years of Brooks’ struggle to achieve justice for others, there are some notable achievements. “Nine consecutive years of being the organization that celebrates the radical legacy of Dr. King. Thousands of folks engage. The birth of Mental Health First,” said Brooks.
An anonymous donor gave the group over three million dollars to use for people who need it the most, something she said she still can’t believe.
Cat Brooks said one of the group’s proudest achievements is establishing the People’s House in the same West Oakland neighborhood where the Black Panther Party was formed.
Brooks said a month is not long enough to celebrate Black history. “First of all, 28 days or 29 days is nowhere near long enough to celebrate Black history. It’s almost offensive,” said Brooks. “I am not that kind of Negro”.