When an Oakland family is experiencing the trauma of police violence, when young people of color need encouragement, when elder neighbors are in pain, Cat Brooks has been a force for change as she engages in the work of accompaniment and struggle. Inspired by her own lived experience, she has spent her life organizing to bring an end to unjust systems which were built to sustain the privileges of the status quo. Whether she’s serving the People in their fight for justice, collaborating with State Assembly members to pass AB931 or raising her daughter in West Oakland, she brings with her the combined forces of compassionate grace, resilient tenacity, and laser-focused vision which are rooted in and nurtured by the fierce love of her activist mother who raised her and energized by the injustice of a system that incarcerated her father instead of providing him with healthcare support to fight his addiction.
Born into a mixed-race, working class, union family in segregated Las Vegas, NV, Cat learned about what it means to fight from her mother, who was on the forefront of the domestic violence movement and from her father was the first Black stagehand with IATSE Local 720 on the strip. She was only 8 years old when her father’s struggle with substance abuse landed him in a Nevada Correctional Facility. But she learned how to stay strong from her mother who raised her on very little income in their one bedroom apartment in the deserts of Las Vegas. Her eighth year was important in another way - it was the year she found and fell in love with the theater. Theater would be a grounding force for Cat. The training and performances sustained her throughout her school years and led her toward a Bachelor’s Degree in theater from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. After graduation, she studied briefly with the National Royal Studio in London before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her dream to become an actress.
What happened next would change her life forever. Instead of finding full time work as an actor, she was hired as communications coordinator for Community Coalition, an organization founded by now Congresswoman Karen Bass. In many ways, this role prepared her for everything that would follow. Not only did she build her skills as a communications professional, she gained vital “on the ground” political training as an organizer and advocate around community concerns such as: educational equity, land use, foster care, re-entry for ex-offenders, and Black-Brown solidarity. One of her early successes came as part of a citywide coalition that fought for and passed a resolution that required the Los Angeles Unified School District to adopt the “A-G” curriculum which is required by the University of California system to ensure that students have acquired sufficient general subject matter knowledge prior to entering college. Following that success, Cat was asked to come to Oakland as Media Outreach Manager for the Education Trust-West to support the passage of a similar resolution in the Oakland Unified School District. Cat played a leadership role in fostering a grassroots partnership with the community to pass the “A-G” resolution in Oakland. In her work at ETW, together with parents, she developed a curriculum to empower families to advocate for quality education for their youth.
Whether honing her skills as a consummate performer and passionate speaker or serving as the Communications Director for Coaching Corps, as Executive Director of Youth Together or as Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Cat’s leadership has always been informed by and in collaboration with impacted communities. She played a central role in the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant and is the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) whose mission is to rapidly respond to and ultimately eradicate state violence in communities of color. With APTP she shepherded the development of a “First Responders” process which provides resources and training for a rapid community-based response to police violence. This model is currently being replicated across the state of California and the country.
While Cat’s energies have been centered on activism and community engagement, she also successfully navigates the “halls of power” offering her considerable skills to the work of negotiating the passage of AB931 and SB 1421. In addition, she has organized with local housing advocates to bring Proposition 10 (Repeal Costa Hawkins) to the ballot in November. Cat currently serves as the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network, a network of grassroots activists providing rapid response and healing justice in response to all forms of State violence across California. In addition, she is touring her one-woman show, Tasha, about the in-custody murder of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County Jail.
She lives in West Oakland with her husband and daughter.