Lecia Brooks, Chief of Staff of SPLC, appointed 2022 Rockwood Fellow | Southern Poverty Law Center

Advancing fairness and racial justice has been the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center for the past 50 years, and one of the leaders who has been at the forefront of this effort is the Chief of Staff of the SPLC , Lecia Brooks, who was recently named a 2022 Fellow for the Rockwood Leadership Institute.

The selection places her on a prestigious list of pioneers of social change across the country working for justice in American society.

As part of the fellowship, Brooks will work alongside other accomplished leaders to create and maintain a powerful vision for the work the SPLC is doing to advance civil rights for all in the Deep South and beyond.

“It is a tremendous honor to have been selected to join the Rockwood Institute’s 2022 National Program for the Inside Out Yearlong Fellowship,” said Brooks. “I look forward to seeing Rockwood’s transformative leadership development work and connecting and learning from engaged social change leaders across the country. “

Being selected as a leader among Inside Out Fellows requires a rigorous nomination and application process. It takes nationally recognized leaders through an intensive, transformative and advanced learning program designed to create a radical change in their ability to lead organizations effectively. It trains them to collaborate across the boundaries of problem areas, political and organizational orientation, geography and context.

Since its inception in 2003, this Executive Leadership Program has grown into one of the nation’s premier learning centers for seasoned social change pioneers like Brooks.

Lecia Brooks, then director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center at the SPLC, addresses members of the Kenyan Children’s Choir at the Civil Rights Memorial in 2010. (SPLC)

Prior to becoming Chief of Staff, Brooks served as SPLC’s Workplace Transformation Leader, supporting leadership and staff efforts to create a culture of inclusion and ensure an ongoing focus on diversity and l ‘equity. She has also served as the SPLC’s Outreach Director, traveling across the country and abroad to speak out on hate and extremism. She also testified before Congress about the SPLC’s efforts to counter hatred and extremism.

Brooks began her tenure at the SPLC in 2004 as Director of the SPLC’s Mix It Up Project – a learning for justice program designed to break down racial, cultural and social barriers in schools by bringing together school children from diverse backgrounds.

At the SPLC, she conducted diversity advocacy training for businesses and nonprofits including Walmart, Lyft, Pixar, Salzburg Seminary, and Newark Public Library.

She has appeared in numerous news programs to discuss race and civil rights in the United States. On MSNBC in August 2013, for example, she compared the civil rights movement from the past to today.

She was also the director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center, an interpretive center run by the SPLC that includes interactive exhibits on civil rights martyrs.

Previously, she worked for 12 years in various positions for the National Conference on Community and Justice in her Los Angeles office.

“Lecia has a wealth of experience that makes her an ideal fit for Rockwood,” said Margaret Huang, President and CEO of SPLC. “At the SPLC, his work has been defined by educating communities, students, civil rights leaders and government officials to promote racial justice and advance human rights for all. As Chief of Staff of the SPLC, she provides invaluable advice in the pursuit of our mission. I just can’t overstate how thrilled we are to see Lecia named a Rockwood Fellow at this critical moment in our country’s history.

The Rockwood Fellowship 2022 program brings together 30 human rights leaders to catalyze deeper partnerships within and between social justice movements by training individuals to be successful agents of change at a time when the nation is deeply divided.

Brooks and the other fellows – from organizations as diverse as the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Economic Security Project, Law for Black Lives, the Texas Civil Rights Project and Greenpeace USA – will participate in three weeklong leadership retreats at the over the next year while having access to coaching sessions from experts and peers, daily practices to support learning throughout the year and a variety of other resources and tools to use in their organizations .

American parliament

In recent years, Brooks’ dedication to fighting hate and extremism has taken her to the nation’s capital on several occasions to speak to members of Congress about tackling far-right extremism.

On March 24, Brooks testified before the House Armed Services Committee regarding extremism in the military. His testimony focused on the rise of the white supremacist movement in the United States and how it presents a distinct and current danger to our country and its institutions.

Lecia Brooks, Chief of Staff of the SPLC, testifies before Congress on hate and extremism. (Youtube)

In addition, last February, following the deadly insurgency on the United States Capitol on January 6, Brooks gave testimony in Congress focusing on the white nationalist movement; how far-right extremists are harnessing internet technology to create a larger, more decentralized and more dangerous movement; how the movement finances itself in this decentralized paradigm; and what steps we need to take to deal with the threat.

In his testimony, which draws on the work of investigators and analysts in the SPLC’s intelligence project, Brooks said the insurgency has been brewing for years and came after Donald Trump’s campaign and administration energized the white nationalist movement through its membership of the far right. conspiracy theories and racist disparagement of immigrants.

She told Congress that in 2018, two years after Trump was elected, hate groups reached a record high of 1,020. The SPLC found that white nationalist groups also grew by almost 50% from the previous year, from 100 groups to 148.

Lecia Brooks testifies before Congress

Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the SPLC, testifies before the Congressional committee hearing titled “How to stop white supremacy” on February 11, 2020, in Washington. (Credit: Shutterstock)

“Long before he took office, [Trump] embraced and helped propagate the kind of false conspiracy theories that animated far-right extremists and helped push their radical ideologies into mainstream politics and media, ”Brooks told Congress. “After taking office, Trump continued to use his platform to promote the conspiracy theories and baseless fabrications of the radical right, many of which are laden with racial and anti-Semitic undertones. “

Ultimately, these conspiracy theories and blatant lies took center stage and led to the insurgency, which ultimately claimed the lives of five people and threatened democracy in the United States.

Brooks presented policy recommendations to curb these vitriolic and violent attacks.

Experts from the SPLC intelligence project are now providing information to the House special committee investigating the January 6 insurgency, including how funding for extremist groups was factored into the attack on Capitol Hill.

Reach new heights

At the SPLC, Brooks continued to support senior leaders, assist with strategic planning, and work with people across the organization to ensure the success of the SPLC, whether in meeting its long-term goals or maintaining efficient daily operations and a fair working environment.

“The SPLC’s support for my leadership development is a testament to the inclusive leadership approach taken by Margaret Huang, our President and CEO,” said Brooks. “I look forward to sharing what I am learning with my colleagues to improve and support our important work to advance racial justice in the South and beyond.”

Congressman John Lewis and Lecia Brooks

The late United States Representative John Lewis, left, greets Lecia Brooks during a 2017 Congressional delegation visit to the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama. (Credit: SPLC)

Brooks’ outreach efforts on key initiatives and social justice issues have led the SPLC to advance its promotion of tolerance and diversity, while fostering a better understanding of the civil rights movement.

Huang has full confidence in Brooks’ ability to grow and challenge herself – and in turn, the SPLC – by participating in a fellowship that will take her to new heights.

“As a member of Rockwood, Lecia will only expand the scope of her work dedicated to seeking racial justice and challenging the forces opposing a multicultural and equitable nation. “

Top photo: Lecia Brooks is the Chief of Staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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