Alfred “Shivy” Brooks
Occupation: Teaches economics, personal finance, and government at Charles Drew High School in Clayton County.
Residence: East Atlanta
Community work: Founded Teachers for Good Trouble. Member of NAACP Atlanta and The People’s Uprising, a nonprofit organization of elected officials, community residents, and college students.
Don’t call Alfred Brooks a community organizer.
“I’m a community change agent,” said the 37-year father of two who got involved in community and civic activism in Atlanta as a child in the early 1990s.“It’s a responsibility. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for change. We’ve been dealing with decades and decades [of social injustice].”
Fighting that injustice runs in Brooks’ family. His grandfather was a minister who was active in the Bridgeton, N.J. community. Brooks’ earliest memories include participating in demonstrations in Atlanta with his father, a graduate of Morehouse College.
When Brooks is not in the streets calling for socioeconomic change, he is in the classroom teaching about it. Brooks, better known by his high-school nickname “Shivy”, teaches economics, personal finance, and government at Charles Drew High School in Riverdale.
His activism ramped up last year soon after the killing of George Floyd. Floyd’s death “ignited a lot of energy here,” Brooks remembers.
Some of his students were out protesting during the summer, many of them telling him how he inspired them to take action. Brooks got deeply involved soon after seeing a video the students made the first day of protests.
“The students were actually marching the first day after the murder of George Floyd,” Brooks recalled of the students’ video. “I went out and marched with them the very next day.”
That led to 150 straight days of demonstrating for Brooks who often participated a few hours a day during his school planning periods.
On Tuesday afternoon, Brooks watched as a Minnesota judge read the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
“It is the beginning of normalizing accountability for police,” Brooks told Atlanta Civic Circle Tuesday. “For me, it’s a little bit of a relief. I don’t see it as an opportunity to celebrate. At this point, it’s just more of a responsibility to make the city of Atlanta a safer place for our kids and our community. Now I’m going to go march.”
Brooks’ activism also placed him on the streets helping to keep the peace the night Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Atlanta father of three, was fatally shot by a police officer at a now-demolished Wendy’s fast food restaurant in Atlanta.
He also participated in a national teacher sick-out last December protesting the requirement that teachers return to the classroom for standardized testing during the pandemic. That protest came a month after Brooks founded Teachers for Good Trouble.
But Brooks’ activism doesn’t always take the form of racial protest. It has been philanthropic too. Since the pandemic began, he has helped feed more than 1,000 families through a partnership with basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal and Papa John’s Pizza.
Additionally, he and Atlanta comedian Desi Banks hosted a virtual prom which raised $30,000. The proceeds will go to help students around the country.
Through it all, Brooks has watched voting rights in Georgia come under fire.
“The voting rights suppression that’s been transpiring here has been a big issue,” he said. “I have two sons, if I’m not effective in stopping a lot of these issues which have been going on for decades and generations, then I’m going to be leaving those fights for them to have to battle. I don’t want to have to do that.”
Brooks hopes to take his activism to the halls of government. He says he plans to run for Atlanta City Council.
“I was really prompted to run by the people with who I was marching shoulder-to-shoulder all summer,” he said. “A lot of the conversations we had were around policy and steps forward for our city. We want more accountability for our police departments, more opportunity for our people. We want an Atlanta that grows but does not outpace the people who love and have worked to build this city. We want this to be a place everyone can call home and feel safe. We don’t have to wait for someone else to save us.”
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(Header Image: Alfred “Shivy” Brooks)