Joe Brooks was a revolutionary, a mentor, and a friend to many of us at Urban Habitat, where he served as Board Chair for 15 years. So many of us were personally and professionally touched by Joe’s kindness, support, and dedication to advancing racial equity.
Joe was committed to Black land liberation and housing justice – at the risk of his personal safety and career. As a citizen of the Republic of New Africa as a young man, Joe organized among Black residents of the Mississippi Delta for reparations, independence, and land sovereignty across the Black Belt South. Later, he returned to the South as President of the Emergency Land Fund to save Black-owned land. In his hometown of Berkeley, he led the Anti-Poverty Agency and was Executive Director of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. He would proudly tell the story of how he was fired from that position when a landlord-friendly majority took control of the Board.
Joe also instilled in Urban Habitat an understanding of the importance of leadership development. Throughout his life, Joe mentored countless movement leaders, especially in his roles at the San Francisco Foundation, PolicyLink, and the Brotherhood of Elders Network. He believed strongly in the importance of intergenerational relationships based on mutual respect and teaching others how to think, not what to think. He committed himself to the success of others and the broader movement.
For more on Joe and his legacy, watch this interview by the Brotherhood of Elders Network, and read this reflection by former Urban Habitat board member Dwayne Marsh.
Joe is missed, but his life and legacy are not forgotten. We carry our work forward in his memory. A luta continua.