By Tia Lynn Ivey
Demarius Brinkley is a political activist for Fair Fight Action in Atlanta, but his heart never left his hometown of Madison.
Brinkley graduated from Morgan County High School in 2013 and went on to study political science and philosophy at Morehouse College. Now at age 25, Brinkley is using his voice and savvy skills to advocate for voting rights throughout Georgia. But he hasn’t forgotten Morgan County, returning often to take part in local events and programs to advocate for transparency in law enforcement, education efforts, criminal justice reform, and combating systemic racism.
“My aim is to manage, within any space I am a part of, a balanced relationship between the position to service communities, capacity to explore new universes of information, and latitude to resolve challenges,” said Brinkley.
With a keen eye set on molding the future toward a more just and fair society, Brinkley draws inspiration and guidance from the past and the lessons from the Black community’s struggle for equality and justice in America and across the globe.
“In terms of history of my people, whether it be to reflect and be inspired or to become more impressive at issuing quick facts, you will encounter testimonies that connect you with the world deeper and you might find through the traces of our survival, faith, and truth that we are all closer than we commit to not being,” said Brinkley.
For Brinkley, Black History Month provides an opportunity for people to broaden their historical horizons and to enlighten their perspective on the present.
“Hardships today reveal to us that stories from the past can reveal answers in its wisdom, and to understand that some stories are not traceable, motivates me to discover as many as possible including the history I was directly born into and how I can identify my family within the ancestral root tracing from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade,” shared Brinkley. “I become curious about the stories that did not survive to be documented or that were abbreviated – legacies disassembled by what are traditionally named America’s most sinful habits. From Jim Crow ruling to the violent impulses appearing in forms of burning mob attacks forged on communities that are landmarked by unprecedented economic progress under a racial caste system. I imagine what economic development would be like for communities original to the self-fertilizing Black economic centers such as Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Greenwood District in Tulsa, Okla., The Fourth Avenue District in Birmingham, Ala.
Brinkley is undertaking new facets of history from a global perspective without abandoning his local roots.
“I am currently in discovery of how languages and tribes in West Africa are broken down on account of colonization, implications of Black migration to the Soviet Union during depression-era hardship and other international places throughout time, and just the overall past and present relationships with Black communities and land ownership/distribution across the globe. Realizing how interconnected burdens are abroad, home, and among us all; however, I hold a specific interest in rural geographies like Madison,” said Brinkley.
Brinkley has transformed his education into direct action, lending his expertise to local issues in Madison throughout the years.
Last summer, Brinkley spoke during the Madison March, in which hundreds of people took to the streets peacefully to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Brinkley also spoke during an NAACP Prayer Vigil in Town Park last June, extolling the role of faith in overcoming racism.
Brinkley shared publicly at the vigil that he was raised in Madison by his great-grandmother who instilled prayer and faith into him that he still clings to today.
“There is something about faith that will continue to get us through,” said Brinkley last summer. Brinkley said he longs for the day that society can “funeralize” racism, poverty, and injustice. “We are standing in the work of Jesus when we are standing in the work of justice,” said Brinkley. “When you uproot structures that do harm to other people, you are doing the work of God. Jesus has shown us He was for the disinherited and the dispossessed.”
In October 2019, Brinkley helped facilitate a community meeting with law enforcement, after the International Keystone Knights (IKK), a chapter of Ku Klux Klan, gathered at a local private residence on Aqua Lane in Morgan County for a two-day event. Brinkley pushed for a community liaison effort to advise law enforcement on issues of racism. Brinkley also served as a special guest speaker in 2016 with a local mentoring program for sixth-grade boys called “M-Powered.”
As Brinkley looks ahead, his work with Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is a top priority to ensure all citizens’ voting rights are protected.
“I recently transitioned into the role as Political Manager where I oversee local elected-involvement strategies, assist in PAC political priorities, and support in engaging all voting-related issues in regards to elected officials and legislation,” explained Brinkley.
Brinkley encourages everyone to heed the lessons of history to create a better future.
“Black History Month is an invitation to interact with the stories and expressions of the world beyond the definitions we have marked to fit easily within our default views. Leaning into the experiences of others helps to expand our humanity as we open ourselves to value journeys that are not like our own. We all have more learning to do,” said Brinkley.