This interview is part of an ongoing series profiling young resisters taking actions in their communities and sharing their ideas for countering “protest fatigue” with sustainable ways to keep resisting the Trump agenda for the long-haul.
Brittany Carmelle is a 30-year-old activist and CEO of Brittany Carmelle Services, Inc., the communications and events execution firm she owns in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from Albany State University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a concentration in electronic media. Today, she has incorporated resistance into her everyday life, working with organizations such as the Young League of Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Color of Change, MoveOn.org, and Generation Progress to champion progressive solutions to issues plaguing Atlanta and this country. Throughout this interview, we discuss some of the work Brittany is involved in and what inspires her to fight for progressive change.
Generation Progress (GP): Your full-time job as CEO of your own communications firm isn’t at first glance directly related to the resistance movement; however, you have been able to incorporate activism into your everyday life—from working with the Young League of Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia to working on campaigns with Color of Change, and even creating your own campaign called “Edu Yourself 1st: Voting & Public Policy.” How did you manage to infuse resistance into your daily life while maintaining a balance between activism and other demands that life throws at you?
Brittany Carmelle (BC): This is a really great question because life can become so overwhelming if you stretch yourself too thin. I’m honestly able to balance the activism in my life when I prioritize what’s important for me to at the moment and remind myself I cannot be everywhere at the same time or do everything for everyone when they request it. I also recognize that all opportunity is not good opportunity. This helps me discern what business or advocacy work I’ll get involved in. Finally, and most importantly, I learned the hard way not to feel “guilty” for saying no; sometimes “no” can be a complete sentence. At times I have to turn down work-related and personal opportunities that are presented to me to keep my life in order. This has allowed me to healthily balance my professional career, activism, and even maintain my social life.
I am currently working with Color of Change on their Text-A-Thon campaign regarding Tom Price’s seat up for grabs in the U.S. House of Representatives for the sixth district in Georiga [Price vacated the seat to become Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services]. As much of America knows, the special election that just took place on April 18th almost put a Democrat, Jon Ossoff, in that seat, potentially turning Georgia’s 6th district, a red suburb in Atlanta, blue. He was 1.9 percent away from reaching the 50 percent needed to place him in office which has caused a lot of controversy at the White House and with our current president. The runoff is June 20, and we are currently doing our second grassroots virtual and field campaign in the district to get ready for the June 20 election. There will be two Public Text-A-Thons held here in GA to get voters back out to the polls and also reach more active registered voters in that district to help bring this win home against his opponent.
GP: Where does your passion to fight for justice stem from, and what motivates you to continue to fight every day, especially during disheartening times where regressive political agendas are the norm?
BC: I am motivated to continue to fight every day because I know we have a long way to go before every human has tangible equal rights. I have always had a big heart when it comes to the common good of our world and I will always push for unity and justice for mankind as a whole. Nevertheless, the more and more I see people who are afforded the opportunity to lead our country stand on a platform greater than themselves and abuse that very same platform to continue uplift a broken system of racism and prejudice–I know that I must fight every day to rid our systems of injustice.
GP: What are a few tips you have for young people who are looking for ways to actively resist the current regressive agenda and ways they can sustain momentum throughout the long fight?
BC: First, get out in your community and get to know who is in the fight with you, so you guys can stand together. Gather your communities and execute economic resistance by signing pledges and having people actively participate in economic blackouts. This includes boycotting stores, especially on national holidays such as Christmas and Black Friday, that profit off of exploitation.
Also, surrounding yourself with a supportive community is so helpful, especially when all the odds seemed stacked against you. That leads to my next point, never give up on the movement and keep resisting oppression and inequality. Progress comes from maintaining that willingness to fight even when all odds are against you.
Third, it’s important to understand the power of executing your right to vote in every election and teaching voters accountability and education, so learn when your local and state elections are taking place and get out and utilize your power to vote.
Fourth, if you are religious or spiritual, you should turn to God or higher power to motivate your movement so your energy can help motivate the community who supports you and those scared to follow due to defeats. Finally, attend town halls, marches, roundtables and call not only conservative representatives, but anyone who isn’t doing their job ethically. Let them know that you demand change by making sure they do not get re-elected ever again in life.
GP: You recently attended Generation Progress’s annual gun violence prevention and criminal justice #Fight4AFuture summit. How does attending summits, similar to this one, that are directly related to issues that you personally care about help your activism? What is one major takeaway you had from that summit that you will utilize within your own resistance?
BC: Activism never stops. So for me, this type of summit creates a lot of opportunities for activists such as myself. We learn positive educational and issue-specific tools, and get to go back home and utilize them to fight injustices in our communities. Lastly, it afforded me the rare opportunity to listen to other activists’ stories and connect with people who live all over the U.S. that are fighting the same fight, and have similar goals.
During the summit we did mock lobby visits to prepare for our meetings with the offices of members of Congress. Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, and Bruce Franks Jr., a Missouri State House Rep. and member of the #Fight4AFuture network, gave me feedback on my individual performance.
That one practice lobby visit made me realize that I have the ability to take charge and resist and I should not be afraid to hold my representatives accountable. Learning the importance of turning my passion and anger into practical action and words is how promising change is reached. I now have the knowledge and skills to lobby for change–whether it be at a town hall or showing up to my elected official’s office. It’s important to know that as constituents we have the right and duty to hold elected officials accountable, and we also have the power to vote them out.
GP: You spoke to the fact that you recently tapped into your leadership skills to fight for progressive change, especially when advocating for issues that are important to you. Why do you think this country needs more progressive leadership and Millennial representation within local, state, and federal government?
BC: I’d rather not use the word think–I know we need more young progressive leaders. In our country’s history and the current leadership, we see majority older white men. These leaders have failed to acknowledge the truth about the travesties we continue to face; they seem so disconnected from the real life struggles of their constituents. These struggles are rooted in the lack of resources provided to many Americans in general.
The United States of America absolutely needs progressive leadership and Millennial representation within all levels of local, state and federal government because our generation is the most progressive and diverse generation in history–the majority of us are not stuck in outdated racist and prejudice ways.
Millennials are trying to understand the injustices of the world rather than turning a blind eye to them. At the rate our American politics have been going, greedy politicians and corporations are failing us all. They have given themselves an unworthy sticker of entitlement when it comes to money. Corporate greed has taken precedence over the livelihood of many Americans.