Meet Susan Hooks-Brown, CLP Southeast Michigan Community engagement Coordinator

Susan Hooks-Brown has extensive experience in community organizing and a strong passion for social justice. We are honored to have her share her social-justice origin story that has continued to make her an influential leader in her local community:

“I was born in Philadelphia by older parents who migrated from the South in search of job opportunities. From a young age I witnessed the Civil Rights Movement, and saw as my parents make our home a resource to the community. It was the go to place if you needed bus fare, food, or assistance with the local police. My parents organized book club meetings, assisted in cleaning up the community, and led local field trips.

I consider myself as a Birth to Career Advocate – My first formal organizing experience was in the Early Childhood Community for 25 years. In Southwest Detroit, at a Head Start Program I worked with a team to help a majority of immigrant families navigate the challenges of various social systems. I then became the Early Care Organizer where I assisted in organizing Early Childcare Providers in Wayne County Michigan to keep the Great Start Readiness Program – a state preschool program in the State of Michigan’s Budget.

In addition to my current work at CLP, I am a first generation college graduate and involved with Detroit Reconnect which is an initiative with the Detroit Regional Chamber whose focus is to get adults 25 years and older to earn a post-secondary degree or certificate for free. – Thus a Birth To Career Advocate.

I am inspired by the work that my parents did to connect to the community and assist in giving a piece of quality of life to our neighbors. Additional inspiration comes from the work of my ancestors from slavery, to the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and my spiritual foundation – the biblical verse that we are “To Do Justly, Have Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God!

I have been able to prepare community organizers from a mentoring perspective, assisting in finding internship placements, needed resources, and or talking about tactics. In my local community and statewide communities, I sit at tables that influence policy. I understand it is important to march in the streets, but you also have to be in a position of influence to create policy changes – i.e  Board of Directors, City Council, Board of Education.

This work is important to me because it creates future leaders who want a better world,  especially in BIPOC communities! It is critical that high school and college students understand that they have a voice and the power to create systemic change. They have an arsenal of tools at their disposal with this new digital world that was not available when I was their age.

“As a first-generation college student, I had a unique journey toward discovering my passion for social justice. It wasn’t a single moment or issue that sparked my interest, but rather a series of experiences that shaped my perspective. Growing up, my parents instilled in me the value of higher education and community service. My mother’s business ownership and my father’s teachings motivated me to blend into various educational and social fields. This allowed me to explore different paths and gain new insights into the world. 

After working in legal and political fields, I found that teaching at a small college near my hometown brought me the most fulfillment. It was there that I was approached by a student who urged me to help establish an LGBTQ+ Human Rights club. This eventually led me to volunteer for a local LGBTQ+ film festival, where I now serve as the Festival Director and Board President. Through this role, I am able to advocate for underrepresented and historically marginalized LGBTQ+ youth in our community.

As a professor of Political Science for over 15 years, I am motivated by the natural curiosity of my students and their willingness to engage in the local and state political systems. It is encouraging to see a new generation of protest and social justice mindsets emerge. As an organizer, I draw inspiration from a quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” My social justice journey is a continuation of other stories, and my goal is to pass pieces of myself forward through strength, determination, and perseverance of community.”