We’re so excited to welcome Brooke Harris to the ioby team as our new Detroit Action Strategist alongside Joe! Brooke is a lifelong doer, and has been making waves in a host of different ways.
“I was born and raised in metro Detroit, and for most of my professional career I was a teacher. I went to the University of Michigan for my undergrad and took this amazing course with an woman that worked with homeless youth in Washtenaw County, and just fell in love with working with kids.”
Working in schools, she quickly became renowned as a fighter for social justice. “We started an after-school social justice league, trying to make positive change in our school–getting things like textbooks, and things like that.” That commitment drives her everyday work, and it’s gotten her in a bit of (good) trouble, too.
“My first teaching job I was actually very publicly fired from, it was on CNN and everything. One of my students in my journalism class, this one kid who really didn’t want to do homework, or classwork usually, had asked if he could write about Trayvon Martin.” Then, along with his classmates, they asked if they could hold a fundraiser in honor of Trayvon Martin. The Superintendent was not into the idea, to say the least, and it ended with Brooke losing her teaching job. “Even when the students walked back the fundraiser, and just asked [the Superintendent] to read their essays it didn’t go well. And I got fired for it. That’s what kicked off my movement journey.”
In one way or another, Brooke has been a fighter for justice since. “I blame my mom,” she jokes. “She gave me a strong sense of right and wrong. It’s just the right thing to do.”
A few years ago, after having been introduced to ioby in her Masters program, she decided to start her own ioby project to bring Hollaback! to Detroit. “Hollaback! Detroit started when I returned into the service industry, I was a barista and that was an interesting intersection of identities.” Her project sought to tackle pervasive street harassment by creating street art that stands in solidarity with women, trans and gender nonconforming people, and other people who are harassed in public, and also reminds people who catcall and harass people on the street that their behavior is not ok.
“The ‘smile’ comments, the ‘sweetheart,’ the ‘honey,’ ‘baby you look good today,’ I think a lot of people are still conditioned to think that is a compliment, that that is okay, that that is how you’re supposed to interact with women,” Brooke said at the time. “We’re trying to point out that no, just because a woman’s walking down the street doesn’t mean she has to stop and talk to you, and just because she doesn’t stop and talk to you doesn’t mean she’s a bitch.”
That project also surfaced for her the intersections of identity, and how important it is to work to address injustice in the different ways that it shows up alongside and on top different identities. “For me as a Black woman sometimes, there’s this tension behind gender justice and racial justice. There’s a tendency to want to separate those two things among different people. That’s why my sister and I were really intentional about Hollaback! being about all identities, and you know, sometimes you don’t even know which identity is the target of harassment! But it needs to be tackled in an intersectional way.”
Having led her own ioby project, Brooke is keenly aware of just what it takes to get good done in your neighborhood.
“I totally get the anxiety of asking people in person. Our crowdfunding team wasn’t as big as it should’ve been, too, so we stumbled. But what was exciting to me about ioby was that even though we had a small team, it wasn’t just us. We had back up to lean on.”
And maybe more than anything else, she’s excited to dig into work with ioby to make big waves through projects large and small. “My own project was $250, small change in the grand scheme of things. But to be able to really see results, and see people interact, it’s inspiring. You can still make waves. It’s like people in politics say, local actually matters because it impacts your day to day life. Even if it’s just cleaning up that lot on the corner, that impacts you on a daily basis.”
When she’s not on the ground across Detroit helping neighbors get good done, Brooke loves spending time with her pups. She has a BIG heart for rescue dogs, and already has three of her own.
She is also a board member of Girls Rock Detroit, a two week summer camp for girls, gender nonconforming youth, and trans youth who get together to learn a new instrument in the span of a week, and grow immensely as young people along the way. “Gosh, I was just a volunteer counselor, but now I’m a board member and can play three chords on the guitar!”
Brooke might not be quite ready yet to serenade Detroiters with her guitar skills, but she is ready to hit the ground running and help you get good done on your block. Want to get started? Share your idea, and we’ll help you get started crowdfunding to get good done.