Pro­lific ac­tivist on Trump and is­sues fac­ing LGBT peo­ple, work­ing class, peo­ple of color

GA Voice - - Outspoken -


When it comes to iconic At­lanta-based so­cial jus­tice lead­ers, names like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in­stantly come to mind. Some­what lesser known, how­ever, are their mod­ern coun­ter­parts, who con­tinue to carry the torch of so­cial jus­tice for a wide and grow­ing cross-sec­tion of marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties. Among those prog­eny one name rings out loud and of­ten: Mary Hooks.

Hooks, co-direc­tor of South­ern­ers on New Ground, is eas­ily rec­og­nized as one of the city’s most pas­sion­ate and pro­lific so­cial jus­tice ag­i­ta­tors, found shout­ing through a bull­horn or hoist­ing a sign on be­half of black Amer­i­cans, the poor, the LGBT com­mu­nity and more. In fact, in less than a decade of ac­tivism, Hooks has built an im­pres­sive ré­sumé that in­cludes proac­tive roles in stunt­ing po­lice vi­o­lence in com­mu­ni­ties of color and im­prov­ing the treat­ment of fe­male pris­on­ers.

It’s a sur­pris­ing twist for Hooks, a for­mer hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sional who hadn’t much con­sid­ered leav­ing her tra­di­tional job un­til a chance 2009 meet­ing with an ac­tivist in, of all places, a bar.

These days Hooks is a full-time ac­tivist who has spent a lit­tle over a year in her lat­est role with SONG, a grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion that works at the in­ter­sec­tions of race, class, sex­u­al­ity and gen­der. She’s also an or­ga­nizer of the At­lanta chap­ter of Black Lives Mat­ter. When she’s not rais­ing hell with ei­ther or­ga­ni­za­tion, Hooks is most likely to be found on the porch of her home in the Syl­van Hills neigh­bor­hood of At­lanta, en­joy­ing a brandy and day­dream­ing about a world in which her 4-year-old daugh­ter, Porter, can en­joy the fruits of her ac­tivist la­bor.

Fe­bru­ary 3, 2017

You’re in­volved in all things ac­tivist. What do you boil your life mis­sion down to?

My life mis­sion is to ful­fill our an­ces­tors’ wildest dreams, of get­ting our peo­ple free, of al­low­ing our peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the move­ment. To get op­pressed peo­ple lib­er­ated. That in­volves build­ing lo­cal power and com­mu­nity – or­ga­niz­ing in­di­vid­u­als to en­gage in their lo­cal com­mu­nity. Creat­ing a world with­out cages and jails, where peo­ple have safety and dig­nity. Also fight­ing those that are in power to get the power back into the hands of the peo­ple and to shift the cul­ture we live in – the cul­ture of vi­o­lence and the cul­ture of iso­la­tion. Or­ga­niz­ing is a ve­hi­cle for that.

You’ve been ac­tive in so­cial jus­tice since 2009. What have been some of the changes in the way you ap­proach this work since then?

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