Chandra Brooks: The Social-Preneur

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by Linda Castillo

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Chandra Brooks speak at the Latina Success Network’s Latina Empowerment Action Night (LEAN) where she shared her experience in civic engagement spanning over twenty years. Chandra is the Northern California Staff Director for SEIU-USWW, one of the largest and most active unions in the country representing some of the most vulnerable workers in California. She is the President of Building Peaceful Families. Chandra also serves as the Vice Chair of Santa Clara County’s Commission on the Status of Women and Girls; in that role, she works on human trafficking, equal pay issues and the oversight of local women’s correctional facilities.

In a time where many feel like we have no control over what is happening in the world right now or even fearful and anxious about what President Trump means for America, hearing Chandra speak was empowering and hopeful. She shared how our power as a community is in working together and sharing resources. She also provided examples of how we can impact in our communities at all levels.

Modern Latina caught up with Chandra to learn more about how she has taken her passion community, civil rights, and social justice issues, and civic engagement for the underserved and disenfranchised has prepared her for her new role as The Social-Preneur.

1) Tell me about how you became involved in community activism?

At a young age I always knew I wanted to help people, whether it was the homeless, disadvantaged kids, or people who were discriminated against. I always gravitated towards social movement music like Public Enemy’s Fight the Power and music that had a meaning. At 17 I became pregnant and had my daughter at 18. Right after graduating high school, I worked a few odd and end jobs but I wanted to use my experience to help people. Through a friend heard about an organization that had a teen pregnancy prevention program and I asked for a meeting  with the Director. I think I was maybe 21 or 22. She took my meeting and I tried convincing her that I was the perfect example and candidate to work in her Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. Long story short, she hired me. The program was funded by grants so I taught myself how to write grants and fundraise and I was the Director of the Program within a few years. From there I’ve been a Development Director, Community, Political Relations Director and now a Union Director. In between all these community and political roles, I volunteered on several boards including Vice President of NAACP and Vice Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. As you see I stay very busy!

2) How has being a mom and woman shaped your community activism?

Oh this is what drives me to do this work everyday! As a mother, I want to ensure our communities are safe, we have quality education, and things are fair and just for my beautiful mixed children. I dare someone to discriminate against them or call them a racial slur! They will and have regretted testing my children. I teach my kids to never turn their cheek. If you see something wrong or unfair, say something or tell me and I will take care of it, and they do. They know Mama will take care of it. I want to be an example to my children and teach them that unless we speak up, things will never change.

We must stand up for what is right if we want things to get better. As a woman, I believe we are the backbone and logical piece to any movement. Women do the work with our heart and soul and usually with no ego. Usually! Although you can see through many past social movements, the face of the movement would usually be a man. But if you look behind closed doors or in the pictures, the women are usually doing the behind the scenes work and making sure everything goes smoothly. The Movement would be non-existent without women!

3) Do you have any advice for those who don’t know where to begin to become involved in the community?

Yes, find out what your most passionate about and do your research on organizations that do that work in your community. See if they have a board of directors and apply to be on their board. If you’re more hands-on, just volunteer at the organization. You can also apply for any board or commission through any city or county. These are governing boards that advise the decision-making bodies (City Council or Board of Supervisors) of your city or county. There are commissions on parks and recreation, planning, human relations, juvenile justice and the list goes on. There are so many ways to get active.

4) Who has been an inspiration to you in the community?

Oh so many. My first mentor was a man named Tommy Fulcher. He was the Executive Director of the organization where I got started in Teen Pregnancy Prevention. He seen the fire in me early on and gave me the opportunity to lead at a very young age and within a very short amount of time. He was a very generous man but a man that handled his business at the same time. Another one my mentors is Walter Wilson, former Black Panther and local civil rights leader here in San Jose. Also, women like Teresa Castellanos, a long time leading activist on immigrant rights, who gives her time and energy selflessly everyday. Ruth Silver-Taube, another women activist lawyer that fights for some of the most vulnerable workers in Santa Clara County. These women never get tired and give their all to others everyday.

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5) What inspired you to start The Social-Preneur? 

I want to say the Women’s Marches across the country. I just had jaw surgery, ran for CA State Delegate and won and the Women’s March happened. I seen so many new activist women want to step and do something but most just didn’t know how or where to start. So the Social-Preneur was born.

6) Why the name The Social-Preneur?

A word for a “social entrepreneur” is one who creates a business to remedy some of society’s problems while still making a profit. A socially conscious individual who generates social value from his/her efforts. I would get so many request to pick my brain. Can I sit down with you Chandra, can you help me file for my nonprofit status, can you help me write a grant and the list goes on. People wanted my time and expertise but did not want to pay for it. Although I work with many charities, I am not a charity. I started to realize my value.

7) Tell me about the vision of The Social-Preneur?

My vision is to use all my years of experience and expertise in activism, community and empowerment to create a business out of it. Stop under valuing my time, energy, and expertise and own it. I also wanted to create a platform where I can highlight women in activism, business and politics and this is where “The Future is Female Radio” was born. I wanted this platform to be a place women would get inspired to get active, run for politics or start their own business.

8) Congratulations on launching  “The Future Is Female Radio Show”.  Tell us what we can expect to hear in the program?

Thank you! I am so excited about this show. I have some amazing women from across the country lined up to be interviewed. From lawyers to high profile politicians and CEOs! I will always bring an exciting interview with interesting and motivating women! The purpose is to inspire and educate and I will not let you down!

9) Why is the work that you are doing even more important now?

Women want to do something and they want to do it now. I teach women how to get the influence and positions they need to create change quickly. The things that took me over 20 plus years to learn and figure out myself, I’ll teach in just a few sessions. We need community leaders and activist now, our cities, counties, schools and neighborhoods need us. We don’t have time to waste trying to figure it out. I’ll give women the tools to get active now!

10) Is there anything you want to let our readers know?

Yes, that we must not turn our cheek to injustice or hate. We must do something to make this country a better place for all of us. It’s not hard or too complicated. I can teach you how! You can visit my website at www.social-prenuer.com and my Facebook Page at The Social-Preneur to catch my shows live and replays on my Youtube Channel, Chandra Brooks, The Social-Preneur.♦

Linda Castillo is the Founder and Executive Editor of www.ModernLatina.com. She writes on topics that empower and inspire Latinas including art, motherhood, green living, culture, travel, and issues transforming the Latino community. Linda has earned a B.S. in Business and a M.S. in Mass Communications from San Jose State University.