by Mia McKenzie
Black Girl Dangerous’ Crush of the Month is a new feature from BGD, where we choose one bold, brilliant, badass QTPoC who has inspired us with the amazing things they’ve been up to in their work and life. We’ll interview said crush-worthy individual so that you, faithful BGD readers, can share in our swooning!
Our Crush of the Month for May is community organizer and educator Cherrell Brown. I became acquainted with Cherrell on Twitter last August when Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson, MO and so many smart, sharp black activists came together in that social media space (and on the streets) to push back against police violence.
The short on Cherrell:
Cherrell Brown is a community organizer and educator living in NYC. She currently serves as a National Organizer for Equal Justice USA, a national non-profit organization working towards repealing the death penalty. Cherrell is also involved with several grassroots organizations working towards ending police and economic violence and teaches direct action trainings and community organizing 101. She recently traveled to Palestine on a solidarity trip with the Dream Defenders where US activists form Ferguson, LA, Chicago, and NYC met with Palestinian activists to share, build, and learn.
I quickly became a fan, not only of her politics, but of her warm, funny, sexy self! Read my questions and Cherrell’s crush-worthy answers below!
Mia: Are you single? If so, are you currently looking for a boo? What’s your type (if any)?
Cherrell: I am single! I’m not actively looking for any serious relationship—especially since I’ll be moving to London this fall, but I am not closed off to the possibility. I would love a consistent summer thing—someone to watch movies with, hold hands, and help me part my hair for the perfect bantu knot. I don’t have any physical type, but I’m really attracted to funny people.
Mia: What does romantic love look like in the midst of revolution? When you dream of a love that will get you through, that will help you not only survive but thrive, what does that love look like?
Cherrell: Wow, what a great question. Like many folks in the social justice world, I’ve found myself extremely busy this past year. At one point I found it hard to juggle being accountable to someone, romantically, while being all over the place with work. However romantic love does feed me. I believe love and sex can be a safe and therapeutic space, so I’m more intentional about allowing myself the revolutionary act of love these days. The sort of love I dream about getting me through is the sort of love that knows when to encourage me to pull out of work mode, when to turn off, reminds me that prioritizing myself isn’t self indulgence. That sort of love doesn’t have to know the social justice lexicon, or even call themselves feminist—but they believe in the value and liberation of all black people.
Mia: If someone wanted to get with Cherrell, what would be the most effective approach to take?
Cherrell: Humor. I’m extremely silly—and find funny people super attractive. Some see what I do and think they have to have the blue print for liberation written out in a haiku for some attention—I just simply want to laugh and feel goodness reflected back at me.
Mia: Are you crushing on anyone right now? Do they know?
Cherrell: Several people! And most know. It’s hard not to fall in love every other week in this work. There’s so many amazing souls. My people are beautiful and I have to fight with myself not to tell someone every week “Can I just lick your face? And maybe share my netflix password with you?” Sigh. *looks into the distance fondly*
Mia: What do you find most sexy about yourself?
Cherrell: My body positivity/confidence—I absolutely adore my size 12/14 175 lb 5’4 (5’5 on a good hair day) frame, and the mole on the left side of my nose.
Mia: What are you most afraid of when it comes to romantic relationships?
Cherrell: I’m afraid of losing out on really great friendships/relationships because we can’t/don’t simply communicate our wants clearly. And aggressive ear licking. Seriously—who is spreading this around?
Mia: (*sets Miguel up for failure in 3…2…*) Make Out With, Date, or Banish from QTPoC Island: (A Twist on Fuck, Marry, Kill): Miguel, Janet Mock, Rihanna.
Cherrell: Make out with Janet Mock, date Rihanna, and banish Miguel. The Lord delivered me from neon beige cishet men in 2008.
Mia: How did you first become socially/politically conscious? Do you remember a moment?
Cherrell: Around 15, or 16. After witnessing loved ones experience police violence. I didn’t have the language for it, but I knew I was angry and wanted to do something about it. It wasn’t until college that I’d be more formally trained as an organizer with Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, NC. I was attending NC A&T at the time, and started doing student organizing work around police accountability and environmental racism.
Mia: What inspires you most as an activist? What keeps you doing the work when it gets hard?
Cherrell: What inspires me are my students, youth way more brilliant than I ever was at 17, 18. And sisters keep me going. Black women are just life savers. They have sustained me, checked in on me, loved me, challenged me, fed me—the bond of sisterhood is so affirming. I literally wouldn’t be here today without it.
Mia: What’s next for you?
Cherrell: I’ll probably teach a bit this summer before moving to London to pursue my Master’s in Human Rights: Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity. I want to focus specifically on how state violence impacts women across the Diaspora. I’ll probably continue on afterwards as a human rights educator.
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Mia McKenzie is an award-winning writer, a speaker, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous. Bring her to speak at your college or community event.