Oakland Voices discussion with organizer, performer, and activist Cat Brooks as part of bi-monthly broadcast, “Oakland Voices Tonight”

An African American woman is on a Zoom webinar with earth and outer space as the background.
Cat Brooks spoke to an audience of thousands during a live broadcast for Oakland Voices Tonight, a bi-monthly broadcast hosted by Oakland Voices Coordinator Rasheed Shabazz.

As civil unrest continued worldwide, Oakland Voices’ Coordinator Rasheed Shabazz moderated an online conversation about COVID-19, policing, and inequality in Oakland with Cat Brooks last Tuesday, June 16.

Cat Brooks is KPFA co-host of UpFront airing Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. She is a long-time performer, organizer, and activist. Brooks is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) and the Executive Director of The Justice Teams Network. She was also a mayoral candidate in Oakland’s 2018 election, facing incumbent Libby Schaaf. 

What I think is important for people to understand is the streets may get quieter, but they are never silent. … The organizing never stops. The only reason why we’re able to be in this moment right now is because of the work that’s been happening every single day the last 10 years.

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project

The conversation with Oakland Voices centered on “direct action,” which Cat defines as a strategy as a form of escalation in a longer term campaign and defining “police terror,” which has led to mass protests amid the COVID-19 pandemic and over 4.7 million unemployed Californians. “What I think is important for people to understand is the streets may get quieter, but they are never silent,” Brooks said during the conversation. “The organizing never stops. The only reason why we’re able to be in this moment right now is because of the work that’s been happening every single day the last 10 years.” 

“There’s two pandemics that we’re in right now: the pandemic of COVID-19 and there’s the pandemic of police terror, and I think you’re seeing those things meet and explode in a particular kind of way.”

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project

When asked about the Justice for Oscar Grant Movement and the parallels to events surrounding the protests for George Floyd, Brooks expressed, “I’m excited about the movement in the streets. I’m excited about the possible wins.” Brooks played a central role in the struggle for Justice for Oscar Grant and defined Oscar Grant as her “enough moment.” For her, this was the moment where nothing will be the same, she explained. Since 2010, Brooks has spent the last decade working with impacted communities and families to rapidly respond to police violence and radically transform the ways our communities are policed and incarcerated, including Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP).

Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) is a coalition that emerged in the aftermath of Oscar Grant. The Defund Oakland Police Department (OPD) campaign is one of many campaigns and strategies that have been in the works for five years. Over the past few years, Brooks has participated in and organized countless protests and actions throughout the Bay Area. From marches on OPD headquarters or the sheriff’s office to the Black Friday BART shutdown to marching with a Black Santa Claus in Alameda, the years have changed names of the actions but the fight has remained the same. APTP is in collaboration with Community Ready Corps (CRC) working on “The Black New Deal,” a campaign to demand the city of Oakland to respond to how the Black community is impacted by COVID-19.

Brooks explained: “There’s two pandemics that we’re in right now: the pandemic of COVID-19 and there’s the pandemic of police terror, and I think you’re seeing those things meet and explode in a particular kind of way.” Subsequently, she points out, curfews were imposed in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area after the looting, which gained much of the media focus. 

“Collectively as organizers, it means we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is raise up the next generation. I’m quite ready to get out of the streets but I know it’s okay. That gives me hope because that means the work is going to continue to the next place.”

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project

“People are going to protest in different ways. But we have a common enemy,” Brooks said. Brooks continued the discussion by listing resources for assisting the community and how to provide support where they can. Watching how much movement has happened over the past 10 years means that progress is being made and there is more involvement, particularly from the younger generation. “Collectively as organizers, it means we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is raise up the next generation. I’m quite ready to get out of the streets but I know it’s okay. That gives me hope because that means the work is going to continue to the next place.”

WATCH THE CONVERSATION

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