by Taroue Brooks
Tell us about your education.
I graduated from THEE Jackson State University. I obtained my bachelors in Political Science and my masters in Public Health with a concentration in Policy and Management. Informally, I was a student of social justice in Mississippi. I was guided into public service by several mentors that discussed the challenges that the Black Mississippians faced and how that connected to the larger Black community.
What is your title and responsibilities?
I am currently the Senior Policy Advisor to Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke of the 9th Congressional District of New York. I oversee the Congresswoman’s Energy and Commerce Committee portfolio which includes health, technology and telecommunications. In this role, I try to view issues through a social justice lens.
Although my background is in health, I have found that there is a tremendous need for policy makers of color to focus their sights on the tech and telecom industry. This includes media in which Black and Brown folks are disproportionately underrepresented. We all are aware of the ‘Oscars So White’ conversation and Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTAs speech calling out systemic racism and we need more of this. We need to continue to advocate for diverse storytellers to represent the myriad of American experiences. I also support my Member’s work on the Congressional Multicultural Media Caucus where she is dedicated to issues related to the state of diversity and inclusion in the media, telecom, and tech industries.
What does success look like for you?
Success is not a destination. Success is a journey where I can position myself to help those around me achieve their goals and dreams. For many years, people have asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, I understand how limiting that question is. It boxes you into believing that your worth is limited to a job title. I’ve struggled to identify that dream job, but I now know that it doesn’t exist. I truly believe my version of a dream job is to help connect people to better opportunities. That is success to me.
Working on the Capitol Hill is very competitive. How do you stay on top of your game?
I can honestly say that some people, especially people of color and women, struggle with imposter syndrome. I have also struggled with this; doubting my abilities and work ethic that landed me a position on the Hill. To stay on top of my game, I admit that I lean on the supportive network of my family, friends and mentors. They continue to pour into me and that allows me to walk boldly forward. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
I also understand that being a student of life by taking a lesson from each day will take you far. It is a must that I continue to study my craft because policy and politics is an ever-evolving beast. I also try to have the foresight on things on the horizon to stay multiple steps ahead of what is being discussed today.
What was your experience like at an HBCU?
Culture. Many of my mentors in high school were HBCU graduates, including my band director Otis P. Carter, III who attended Tennessee State University. He painted the picture of what the experience would be, but my experience did not meet that expectations – it exceeded it.
There was so much going on around campus at Jackson State that I did not know where to begin. I am a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, so Greek Life was a staple of my experience. I created personal and professional relationships with my fraternity brothers that I cherish to this day. Kappa Alpha Psi helped me to become a better man and leader on campus and throughout the state.
As I was ingratiated into the campus, I finally understood how diverse Black people really were. We were far away from a monolith. The ideological differences in the Black community challenged my thoughts and helped refine my world view. I also was blessed to have a Lodge on campus that I joined which launched my work in the surrounding community. My only regret was that I did not march in the Sonic Boom of the South. Again, if you don’t know, you should.
How important is it for more people to get involved in the political process?
I can’t begin to describe how important it is for everyone to become involved in the political process enough. My career in politics started when I was and intern for Mississippi’s former Attorney General Jim Hood and continued to work on Democratic gubernatorial campaigns during my matriculation through college. I encourage all young people to get political experience at least once – especially youth of color.
The bare minimum participation in the political process is informed voting. Please vote. I’m not talking about just voting in presidential elections. We need to make the greatest impact in elections that will directly impact our day-to-day. That would be our local and state elections. Those type of elections have the greatest impact our daily lives. We are quick to complain about that impact via social media, but ass President Obama said, “don’t boo, vote.”
What can people do to support our members of House and Senate?
Each of us have access to our Members of Congress. Stay engaged with them on the Federal issues you care about. We have several tools in our toolbelt to use: write letters to your Member, visit their district offices, attend their district events. There are many ways for you to be heard, so be loud, educated and diligent.
Where do you see your career in the next five years?
I see myself as a connector. I want to position myself to push others forward. That may be in public service or in a different capacity in the health, media or tech industries. These three industries are so vital to giving voice to those who have historically been silenced. There are many people of color and women who are educated and experienced, but they just need the opportunity and equitable resources. I want to be their voice and connector.
I’m thankful that a man like myself from Moss Point, Mississippi secured a job as a senior staffer on the Hill and can help advise others on how to make it here or beyond. I hope to become the man who demolishes discriminating barriers in industries and make them a stronger representation of the mosaic that is America.