Prolific activist on Trump and issues facing LGBT people, working class, people of color
By DIONNE WALKER
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?