By Taroue Brooks
Tell us about your career and responsibilities.
I began my career in broadcasting, later moved into Government Affairs as the Chief of Staff for Senator George Fleming in Washington State legislature. I was blessed to have a mentor like him, who as a result of his tutelage, prepared me for my career in corporate America. Currently, I serve as a part of Eli Lilly’s State Government Affairs team. Some of my duties include working with advocacy organizations important to the company. This is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done, especially dealing with the Faith based community.
Having survived a brain tumor, how do you see life now?
Having survived a near-death experience, really has made me truly more appreciative of life every day. I never did take life for granted, but now every day when I wake up, I have a new sense of appreciation for seeing the sunshine, my children and all of the blessings God has bestowed upon me. It takes far more to get me upset than it used to, and I hold onto the things that do get under my skin, for a lot shorter time. I also have a greater desire to help bring about a healthcare system that is open and affordable to more people, as it is clear to me that having a comprehensive healthcare plan was essential to my recovery. I am convinced, especially as an African-American, that were we to have more adequate healthcare in our community, the life expectancy of Communities of Color would dramatically increase.
What do you feel that can be done to get more African American men to go to the doctor?
The solution to get more Black men to go to the doctor is simple…EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION! it’s going to take a massive education campaign to about how much longer they can live. I think we’re going to have to have a heart-to-heart discussion about issues like The Tuskegee Experiment, in order to get that travesty behind us. I believe running a comprehensive, culturally-sensitive ad campaign that highlights the benefits of going to the doctor should be done. This campaign should feature a bunch of prominent African-American males who have survived brushes with death, women who talk about life without their husbands, and children who talk about the pain of losing a father.
I believe that we could partner with churches and create some sort of a faith based programs. We should have ministers preach from the pulpit the value of having the men of the church get regular check up’s. They can even have health fairs at the church, so that these men can get some of the basic health checks done without even having to go to the doctor. These tests being done in a church removes much of the uneasiness that many men have about going to a doctor’s office if it’s done in the comfort of their own churches.
How have you managing through Covid-19?
COVID-19 has changed the whole game. Not just in the United States, but it has had a big impact on the world. As a result it has had a dramatic impact on me as well. From the amount of travel that I used to do, (which was about 30% of my job to zero today) to the amount of time I spend with ALL my kids. I live in the same house and I get to see them every day, ALL day which is a mixed blessing, as I probably get on their nerves sometime. However, I think the most difficult part of coping with Covid-19 is psychologically dealing with how disproportionately this illness has hit the communities that could least afford to handle it. African Americans and Hispanics are dying at a rate of 4 to 1. So when I see the numbers go up on the tv screen, it dawns on me that for every 10 deaths, 4-6 are Black lives some of the brightest minds (doctors, nurses, family members etc.) in our community.
How are you processing the overt racism today?
As I look at the overt racism of today, it is frustrating. One would think that as a nation, we would be further along than we are, 400 years since slavery started, 157 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and nearly 60 years since the March on Washington. It is now clear that some of the progress of the past was not buried deep enough to contain the vestiges of systemic racism. I am now thoroughly convinced that it will be at least 2-3 more generations before we see the type of unity in this country that Dr. King wanted and of which he dreamed.
As a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. like the late Congressman John Lewis, how does it influence your community service?
When I was considering which fraternity to pledge, I found it was Phi Beta Sigma who presented the most compelling reasons to join. Their biggest selling points were: the amount of service they did in the community and how dedicated they were to scholarship. Some of the older brothers in the chapter took me under their wings and we went out into the community, helping feed families and tutor young students. Seeing these kids’ eyes light up when we walked into their classrooms and talked about going to college made a real impact on me. In addition, we were the best “steppers” on campus, we always stole the show!. Nobody “stomped the yard” like “The Boys in Blue & White”!
What does success look like to you?
To me, success looks like being in the place where God wanted us to be, treating one another as each other’s brother and/or sister, with the respect and dignity due to each and every human being. Having the resources of such a wealthy and blessed planet, we would divide those resources in such a way that everyone could enjoy a better standard of living.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years I would see myself in an elevated position on a national level still fighting the “good fight” and “speaking truth to power”, wherever that may be. I don’t see the issues of racism and inequalities being eliminated by any stretch of the imagination, so as someone who has dedicated his life to that, something tells me I will still be in the thick of it. I will probably just be working a lot smarter and bringing up another generation or two of young warriors, kings and queens to prepare them for the fight ahead.
Nate’s work has been recognized on over 300 occasions, receiving a variety of honors and awards including the Edward “Eddie” Carlson Award for Seattle’s Leadership Tomorrow program; “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Central Area Motivation Program, a “Friends of JACL” (The Japanese American Citizen’s League) Award, and being selected as one of “ 30 Leaders of the Future” by Ebony Magazine.
Born and raised in Washington State, he is a distinguished graduate of the University of Washington, who resides in the Seattle area and is a married father of three.