Our World, One Vote at a Time
The Satya Interview with Adrienne
Photo courtesy of Adrienne
Adrienne Maree Brown, 25, is a writer, activist, and
singer living in Brooklyn. She is co-editor of How to Get Stupid
White Men Out of
Office, the anti-politics, un-boring guide to power. Previously the
Program Manager of the Harm Reduction Training Institute of New York
and co-founder/director of the Conscious Movements Collective, she
currently runs a national training program focusing on electoral basics,
electoral reform, and issue-based and campus organizing as Program
Director of the League of Young Voters. How to Get Stupid White
Men Out Of Office (Soft Skull Press) is the tipping point for an unprecedented
historical time when the developing youth-led political movement, from
Seattle to peace to sweatshops to immigrant rights to hip-hop, has
awakened and begun to flex its cultural influence. Kymberlie
Adams Matthews had a chance to talk with Adrienne
Maree Brown about the book,
her roll in the League of Young Voters and the upcoming election.
Have you always been an activist?
As long as I have been an adult I have been—I haven’t been
a voter organizer the whole time, I started only a year ago. I got
pulled in through creating the book; my long-term work has been working
with HIV and AIDS with young people and drug use education. Teaching
people safe ways to avoid overdose and things like that.
That’s tough work. Made even tougher
under the Bush administration. It all ties in with the election…
Absolutely. Basically any issue that people have been working on for
the past couple of years has a space at this election. We have all
faced budget cuts and have seen funds heading down the drain. And we
have all seen just how little this administration cares about young
people. I think that we are not going to get a different outcome until
we start pushing for a different outcome, whether it be more funding
for AIDS awareness, or revamping our education system. Being a much
more vocal presence is extremely important.
How did you become involved with How
to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office?
I was in the right place at the right time. The harm reduction community
had been hit hard by this faltering economy and I was really upset
by that. The wars on Afghanistan and Iraq took a lot of faith out of
me, I was angry at my country—how could we let this happen? Since
Bush “took” office it’s literally like watching some
weird 1984 disaster reel unfurl. I was diatribing all the time and
feeling powerless. Then Billy Wimsatt (a journalist and activist, and
representative of the League of Pissed Off Voters) came up to me with
a survey. I started getting his emails and editing them and sending
them back. In the process I became convinced that since it didn’t
look like the people were gonna rise up in revolution against the madness
soon, we had to try to reclaim electoral politics for representative
I have seen the book How to Get Stupid
White Men Out of Office linked
with several different organizations. How is everyone related?
Basically, we are all sister organizations rooted in the same set of
values. We just take those values and use them to serve different functions.
For example, the League of Young Voters is considered the training
organization. Their primary focus is to train people under the age
of 35, all across the country, with different voter organizer skills.
They base the training on models that young people have already been
using, as well as community organizing models. The League of Independent
Voters, basically the next step, coordinates field campaigns—they
work to establish people on the ground as field organizers. Then you
have the League of Pissed Off Voters, who serves as the political action
committee of the ‘sisterhood’ and concentrates on endorsement
That’s quite a groundbreaking activist
network. Do you see How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office as the
official how-to manual
for changing the world?
No, it’s not really a manual for changing the world; it’s
examples of how individuals have changed their world. And from reading
about it, people will immediately be able to start bringing about change.
As young people, people of color, we have to come to realize just how
much the odds are stacked against our families and ourselves. It is
increasingly harder to pay for school as students; the issues we deal
with as a result of being minorities are increasingly more evident
and it is increasingly more difficult to be taken seriously as a young
person. All of these challenges stacked against us give us more reason
to speak out. If we don’t do it, no one will do it for us.
How are you currently working to get people involved?
We have tons of ways for people to tap in and get educated, plus the
brunch curriculum, which is nothing more than simple briefs on a variety
of political subjects that you can shoot the shit with your friends
about over brunch or dinner. Then there’s the tour de force:
progressive voter guides. These are guides written by League individuals
to give some peer-to-peer knowledge about the candidates and issues
up for vote. So many folks never make it to the voting booth ‘cause
they don’t even know what’s being voted on, or once they
get in there, it’s all a confusing mess. We’re making it
all common knowledge.
Why do you think youth are apathetic about political involvement?
I don’t want to point fingers, but media giveth and media taketh
away. This past year media has really tapped youth away from politics.
It was already such a blow when Bush the Lesser ended up president,
and before we could catch our breath there was 9/11, and before we
could heal there was war, and now it’s like, well what the hell
can I do, throw my nubile young soul in front of that right radical?
For the majority of young folk the answer is No! So instead, young
people turn to TV and magazines and movies and video games and celebrities
and all that. The Patriot Act passed under the veil of NBA Finals.
Joe Millionaire’s battling ladies were engaged in the only ‘war’ given
fair coverage. Hey, people need entertainment, I am not against reality
shows, I watch them sometimes. But what about reality news? That would
be so cool. And what about entertaining politics?
What is your personal desired goal?
My objective is to simply engage young people more deeply in the electoral
process—bring power and responsibility back into the realm of
the average American; it’s been locked up in the white halls
of the White House for too long.
For more information, visit www.IndyVoter.org.