This interview was released on June 26, 2020.
Disclaimer: Byron D. Brooks also goes by MoSoul.
What were some early signals in your life that inspired you to pursue activism on behalf of black people?
I am a firm believer of Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. From being born in prison, being raised by my great-grandparents, to going from failing the 9th and 10th grade to graduating on time at Cody APL in 2013. Being Homeless while obtaining my associate’s degree in Music and Recording Arts certification from Henry Ford College, to being accepted to prestigious universities and founding From The Hood For The Hood. Everything that occurred within my life; the good, bad, and the ugly, were all apart of the process. It was God molding me into the Agent of Change that I am today.
As time would tell, I’ve now picked up the baton, and I now stand before you as a leader within the movement #BlackLivesMatter in Big Rapids, MI. Initially, a few residents of Big Rapids got together and put together a peaceful protest: Big Rapids Supports The Black Community. Sadly, due to negative feedback and even death threats, they canceled the protest, so I decided to pick up the baton and lead the movement. Despite also receiving death threats and negative feedback myself, I refused to back down, and we successfully had a peaceful protest in Big Rapids. I pull motivation from this following scripture, Psalms 118:6: The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
Explain your emotions when you were informed about the recent unjust murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.
Let me start by saying this; My emotions didn’t just emerge from the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. My emotions began with John Punch and Emmet Till. My feelings of anger, rage, and sadness run deeply through 400 years of oppression. Through this, I still have joy in knowing that a change is truly going to come, as we as a people come together and fight for justice.
How did your non-profit, From The Hood For The Hood, formulate?
After graduating from Henry Ford College, one of the institutions I was accepted to was the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While I declined the admittance, I accepted a fellowship that was also offered to me: Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship. I used the resources, knowledge, and financial stipend I received as a fellow to register and start From The Hood For The Hood and apply for 501c3 status of which we did receive. I believe that I owed it to people like my great-grandparents: Roscoe and Joesther Corner, Deacon Josh and Ura Mobley, Minister Eddie Cooper Jr, Darius Jones, Vinita Parekh, and so many others who poured into me, love. I owe it to not only them but to myself to pour that love back into my community
Talk about your movement-fundraiser Enough is Enough: Standing Against Racism.
Our goal is to raise one million dollars and use those funds to fight systemic racism — Heres just one of many of our Strategic Phases to fight systematic racism:
1. We will be working with the Diversity and Inclusion Office and The Office of Multicultural Student Services at Ferris State University to establish an academic fellowship that focuses on mentorship, financial support, guidance, and equity to students of color on Ferris State’s Campus. I’m currently drafting the proposal as we speak.
2. We will be bailing out individuals who have been arrested due to protesting through our network alliance with Forbes, Forbes The Culture, and some legal rights organizations.
3. We will be assisting seniors within our various communities that have been affected by COVID-19 with their bills.
4. We’re organizing several protests and events across the State of Michigan concerning racism. We will be working with several cities to help create and establish self-care and creative engagement programs within urban neighborhoods. We’ve reached out to and look forward to working with the ACLU to assist in the field of policy work and creating social based initiatives.
5. We’ve also reached out to and will be working with The Innocence Project. The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
Being that you’re on the front-lines of the protests, what are some of the objectives that you’ve been privy to with each one you’ve attended?
Turning air into action. Now, what does that mean? It means holding the organizations, cities, and communities that come in support of our protests, accountable. Accountable to not leave the protest and do nothing but to leave the protest and begin strategizing how we can implement action that supports and uplifts what we chant. It’s time for public policy, community projects, and other catalysts to be formulated and used to bring justice and equity to Black America.
Do you feel as if racism will ever be eradicated from the landscape of America?
Yes, but it’s going to take those of us who are waiting for the next MLK or Malcolm X and realize that it is time for them to decide to be the best, them, and become the change of which we seek. Rosa Parks once said it like this: To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try. Something that truly gives me hope is seeing that America is not the only country protesting but, the World, together, is standing against injustice and racism.