Originally Printed on Ozy.com
Written by: Nick Fouriezos
She comes from a family of farmers who worked the soil of the Black Belt in Alabama, growing vegetables and, yes, cotton, although her grandfather’s real cash crop was probably moonshine. She grew up in Selma, with history that could not be forgotten, and her activism started in an everyday setting: Working at a clothing store as a young college dropout mother, she turned her gig into a soapbox when customers asked her what she was reading behind the counter. Through it all, she sang: spirituals and freedom songs, gospel and Americana, with that “dirty voice” — raspy, soulful — her Auburn University teachers had tried to clean up. “There is a heaviness to my voice,” she says, and to her work too.
LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a social welfare nonprofit formed in 2016 to, among other things, expand African American voter engagement. At a time when people of color face a pandemic that disproportionately claims their lives and a criminal justice system in dire need of reform as protests following the killing of George Floyd continue to ripple across the United States, Brown makes an unusual admission for the leader of a group whose explicit mission, at least on paper, revolves around registering voters and boosting turnout. “I don’t believe voting is the end-all, be-all,” she says, adding, “The goal is never participation. The goal is power.”
Brown has been obsessed with power since she was a child. At a McDonald’s or a Kmart or any other business, she pestered her mom with the same question: Who is the owner?