LaTosha Brown Inspires, Challenges Advancing Racial Equity Viewers
If the voting rights movement needs a fight song and vocalist, it should enlist LaTosha Brown. The lyrics, melody and tempo of the song don’t matter. Just allow Brown, the Atlanta-based social justice activist and accomplished jazz singer, to select the tune, then render it with her own fusion of fire, brimstone and soulfulness.
“Well, the first thing I did right, was the day I started to fight, keep your eyes on the prize and hold on, hold on,” sang Brown, co-founder of the civic engagement organization Black Voters Matter, during United Way of King County’s recent installment of its Advancing Racial Equity series.
Already, the voting rights movement is grateful for Brown’s contribution to its cause—and her penchant to invoke carpe diem with a captivating southern drawl. Seeking to listen and learn from people with lived experiences in the quest for racial justice, United Way enlisted Brown for its second Advancing Racial Equity event of the year. And between serenading the virtual audience with the folk song, “Keep Your Eyes On the Prize,” and the gospel tune, “This Little Light of Mine,” Brown delivered a 40-minute oration with the passion and command of a Southern Baptist preacher.
Delving into topics such as voting rights, democracy and equity, Brown inspired and challenged her listeners to imagine an inclusive, anti-racist society, then work to make it possible.
“This should be a moment where we are literally taking the time to get clarity, to radically reimagine the kind of democracy we want going forward,” said Brown, who was scheduled to speak at Seattle University during the event but was prevented from traveling due to an ailment. Nevertheless, she did not disappoint from cyberspace.
Said Brown, “What will it take for us to actually have a system so that we [can] shift what the Senate looks like? Or that we shift what the court looks like, that we shift what representation all around the nation looks like?”
It marked another engaging evening for the Advancing Racial Equity series, which makes space for thought-provoking conversations while encouraging people to join United Way in realizing a racially just community. All proceeds from these events support the Black Community Building Collective and the Indigenous Communities Fund.
United Way also enlisted Brown for the event as voters prepare for the 2022 midterm elections, the second nationwide balloting since the 2020 summer uprisings and the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the nation’s racial inequality and polarization.
Black Voters Matter is an Atlanta-based, civic engagement organization that played an instrumental role in the 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate race and Georgia’s 2021 U.S. Senate race. Black Voters Matter recently launched its campaign and bus tour, “We Won’t Black Down,” which makes stops in 12 states in the South and Midwest to engage with Black voters, policymakers, faith-based leaders, Black influencers and students at historically Black colleges and universities.
“What will it take for us to actually have a system so that we [can] shift what the Senate looks like? Or that we shift what the court looks like, that we shift what representation all around the nation looks like?”LaTosha Brown, co-founder, Black Voters Matter
Brown implored people of all backgrounds to build coalitions to bring about racial equity. “As we reflect on the  George Floyd uprisings, we saw the largest uprisings in the history of this country,” Brown said. “But when you look at the faces [of the uprisings], they were diverse, intergenerational, multi-racial—it was a beautiful sight. That is the America that I desire to see in places of power, and that we [should] have an electoral system and a democracy that respects all of those people, whether you agree with me or not.”
Brown lastly encouraged listeners to employ what she termed the “V Strategy” to racial justice and civic engagement:
- Vision: Envision the nation we seek, not out of response to opposition but by focusing and helping communities gain what they deserve.
- Voice: Understand that now is not the time to be silent, for our voices are needed to strengthen democracy and diversity.
- Victory: Avoid a zero-sum, winners-and-losers approach to the electoral process and create a nation replete with diverse ideas—and a political system that’s open to everyone.
- Vote: “Vote,” Brown said, “like we’ve never voted before.” Then encourage others to do the same.
“This isn’t about one election, this isn’t about one person winning or one party being in power,” Brown said. “We are fundamentally making a decision with our vote—if we’re going to have a stronger democracy going forward or are we going to go backward. I have the audacity to believe that there are far, far more of us that want an inclusive, representative democracy than those who seek to undermine and destroy it.”
United Way is eager and excited to bring the Advancing Racial Equity series to our communities. Please check our website for future events.