Speaking Truth to Power: The Cherene Briggs Interview

With everything going on in our community, it’s extremely important that we use our time and resources towards the betterment of the collective, not just individual gratification.
That’s why when we see someone in the community exhibiting that behavior its a must we acknowledge them and bring awareness to there positive actions. For our next interview, we had the opportunity to do just that with Sacramento, CA Journalist, and Activist Cherene Briggs!!
During our interview, we spoke about her relationship with her father, the importance of education, what inspired her to be so involved in the community & much more!

 

 

Cherene, talk to me about the dynamics of your household growing up?

I don’t want to sound cliché, but I grew up in a single-parent household. I was raised by my mother, in Meadowview, the south side of Sacramento, Ca. In the 1960’s Meadowview was considered a thriving Suburban community. That’s one of the reasons my mother bought her house there.

At the time, Meadowview was about 70% White, 20% Asian, and 10% Hispanic. However, that changed when the government approved low-income housing. Within three years, Meadowview was populated by 80% lower-class Black, hardworking families. Of course, most of the white residents moved out of the neighborhood, to newer communities that did not allow Blacks to purchase homes.

By the mid-1980s, the robbing and killing [Gang and drug violence] started. I was born in 1973. My mother was a Social Worker, and she sheltered me in a way. I hung out with my family a lot. I have a twin brother, and I have two aunties that moved to California from Texarkana, Texas, as well, so we all were very close and remained family-oriented up until the day my mother passed in 2003. My mother and father divorced when I was five.

I don’t have any real memories of my father being in the home from birth to 5-years-old, however, I do have fond memories of him coming to get me and my twin, and taking us places, like the State Fair. My father was a daredevil. He would jump off the roof of his apartment complex into the pool. I remember he always had “Trix” cereal at his house, and he loved playing pool.

My dad was present in my life as much as he could be until he died when I was just 10-years-old. I can still remember getting the news. When I really think about my mom calling my brother and me, in the room, and telling us, “Your dad is dead”, I realize that it was a numbing experience. I recognized that I really have been numb ever since. As I grew older, I realized I had to do my best to figure myself out.

Who is Cherene? However, growing up my mother was a great inspiration. She obtained her master’s degree in social work, and made sure we traveled the world. We went to places like Canada, and Mexico. I was one of the only kids in the neighborhood that actually traveled outside of Meadowview. My mother even traveled back and forth to Africa maybe four times before I was 12-years-old, and up until this day, I plan to walk on the same soil as she did in the Motherland.

 

That’s amazing. I’m sure experiencing different cultures at such a young age had a profound effect on you. How did your mother’s love for traveling and pursuing a higher level of education effect you?

Well, from the time I was old enough to understand the importance of education, it has always been a focal point in my life. I stopped and started college my whole life. I never really completed anything effectively until my mother passed away. I finally decided to complete college, and I obtained my Bachelors of Science in social work when I was 30-years-old.

I completed my degree while raising my only child. He [My sun], was about 7-years-old at the time. I was also working a full-time job. So, my mother played a robust role in how I raised my sun. I made sure to travel with him, and always expressed the importance of education. Everything I do today is in honor of my mother and her legacy of service.

 

Okay, so it seems like the unfortunate passing of your mother propelled you to begin your path of doing great things. Now, you mention your father passed away when you were 10-years-old. Can you talk to us about the circumstances surrounding his death?

Yes, my father had a full-blown heart attack. The arteries in his heart that are responsible for pumping blood, all clogged at once. He was also in the Vietnam War, so we feel like Agent Orange had something to do with his death as well. Agent Orange was a chemical the U.S sprayed in the air to negatively affect the Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. It was harmful, and it killed a lot of innocent people and caused deadly diseases.

To this day, people are still suffering from the effects of the chemicals wrath. During the war, Black men fought on the front lines, so a lot of soldiers, especially black and brown soldiers, suffered some type of disease, or worse, untimely deaths (like my father, who died at just 39-years-old), after returning home to the states.

 

Wow. I wasn’t aware of that transpiring in Vietnam. It’s unfortunate what our military personnel must deal with in this country. Okay, so after your father died. Did you connect with any other masculine energy? Maybe an uncle, cousin or some other male figure in your life that stepped up?

Yes, my uncle Haynes, who is like my father. From birth until now he’s been a father figure in my life. He is now 84-years-old. He took me and my twin brother under his wing. He was my mother’s older sister’s husband and he taught us everything we needed to know. Even to this day, he still calls us his children.

However, as I got older, I came to the realization that as a young woman, you just need your father. My uncle did everything, just like he was my dad. We spent the night at his house, traveled cross-country, and he was known for cooking pancakes and eggs in the morning. He checked on my mom almost every day, and this was her brother-in-law.

They talked on the phone every day. It was almost like he was her husband, that’s how close they were. My uncle loved my mother and my twin brother and me. I would be a lost soul without him.

 

You mentioned the need for a young girl to have her father, as well as other male figures in the family. Can you elaborate on that?

At the time, I didn’t really notice that there was a hole in my heart. As I got older and began going through different relationships, I realized I just really needed my father’s love and protection. It’s not like the love I was getting wasn’t enough, I just needed my father.

Ok. I can understand that. A father’s contribution to their child’s life is definitely irreplaceable.  Now, on a different note. I noticed that you’re highly active in your community, what inspired you to be so involved?

My son. Just raising my sun. I also feel like it’s my God-given purpose to be a servant of the people, with a special emphasis on my people. The passion came from the spirit that’s in me. I also witnessed my mother do some incredible things. My mom took in several foster kids throughout my childhood and she did this as a single parent. Eventually, she adopted two little girls named Triana and Mayowa, my sisters. This happen when me and my twin brother were 17-years-old.

At the time, the girls were only 3 and 5-years-old. Watching my mother do that was definitely an inspiration for me. When I finally got older and had my son, I watched him go through things that I had only heard about, situations my mother had educated me on. The discrimination against young black men and women in the school system is real. The over excessive suspensions they receive while dealing with being diagnosed with every behavioral problem in the world has to stop. So, the blatant mistreatment of my sun, and other young “Black” males motivated me to be a voice for the voiceless.

My son who is brilliant, was diagnosed with ADHD. They suspended him and tried to depict him as this horrible person, but that wasn’t the case, he was just bored. He would finish his work and sit in the back of the class, and talk a lot. He would speak up, and challenge things when he felt he was being done wrong, and they didn’t like that. When I saw him going through these struggles, I found myself constantly fighting the school system. I said to myself, I have to make a difference in the community. I have to reach these young people and try to get them to love themselves. Teach them their history. Teach them about self-love and self-worth, as well as the institutionalized racism and systemic oppression that the will suffer in this world. We need to teach them about these things so they can say you know what, I don’t want to be a part of this game. I am powerful beyond measure.

 

Talk to us about your organization A.C.T.I.O.N (Advocating Change Today Inspiring Others Nationwide)?

That’s my organization that I founded, and it’s really been growing and growing for years. It was first called A.C.T(Advocating Change Today), however, I realized it was important to make more of an impact nationwide by taking ACTION. Initially, I wanted to focus on just my community, but the issues that black people face are everywhere.

So, the focus of my organization is to really look deep into systemic oppression and institutionalized racism, because this is what white supremacy is all about. I wanted to empower the youth, so they would know about things like mass incarceration and Jim Crow. I wanted to focus on education as well. A lot of us now, make it seem like education isn’t the best option, and you should just work for yourself. I’m not against owning a business that’s a wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, education is still key to me. Everyone should seek knowledge regardless of your social economic status. So, like I said the organization focuses on institutionalized oppression and systemic racism, but we focus on education as well.

We also place a high emphasis on the well-being of women and young girls. That’s important to me because we have so many organizations right now that focus on young men based on the events that took place with Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. Unfortunately, you don’t hear too much about Sandra Bland or other black women that have been murdered. It’s important that we empower the women the same way we do men. It’s not a competition, but our lives are just as important.

I understand what you’re saying. We should focus equally on the struggles of both black men and women. You have another organization called “Power Moves Presents” talk to us about that?

Power moves present is a way to reach the people via mass media, which is really the way of the world. It also focuses on entrepreneurship and business whereas A.C.T.I.O.N is more based on the youth and empowering young girls. Power moves presents will deal with white supremacy and how it works. My main goal is to interview people who are going to tell the truth about what’s going on in our world today. As an example, I did an interview with Fred Hampton Jr. His father was revolutionary activist Fred Hampton. It’s unfortunate but a lot of people don’t know who he is.

I can tell you, I didn’t know who Fred Hampton was neither before I interviewed his son. So that’s what power moves presents is all about. This world is about power, and we must understand that power moves. If you really want to make a change, you’ll need to acquire power. The reason why I added presents to the name is because I’m going to go into different fractions. Whether it’s a documentary or my book I will use that platform to introduce different projects.  However, the main goal is to address institutionalized oppression and systemic racism.

I keep repeating that for a reason. Hitler did this in Nazi Germany. He kept repeating things over and over again, which created propaganda. If you keep repeating something long enough, eventually it will sink in. I want to do that same thing but in a much more positive way. I want people to really understand how institutionalized oppression and systemic racism works. We will also create our version of the S.T.E.M(Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program for our youth. My goal is to promote service and I won’t stop until I can no longer do it.       

 

Connect with Cherene:

Facebook:

@Cherenebriggs

Instagram:

@cherene4c

E-mail:

cherene.briggs1@gmail.com

 

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