Byron Brooks recruited by Biden-Harris Inaugural Committee for MLK Day of Service
“With so many scams and spam calls going on, I try to be cautious about answering unknown numbers,” said Brooks, a Detroit native currently living in Big Rapids.
Why did he take the call? Brooks said it was divine intervention.
“Honestly, the only answer I can give is God. He continually opens doors for me, and I believe that it was his intervention that moved me to answer the call,” he said.
Leading a community service initiative on MLK Day
The Inaugural Committee asked Brooks to lead a national service initiative on Jan. 18 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Brooks had already planned to conduct a community service project on MLK Day called “Hoods United through Service” through his nonprofit organization, From the Hood for the Hood (FTHFTH), at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Detroit, where he would donate meals, toiletries, toys, and PPE kits to needy families, homeless people, and women's shelters.
Hearing from the Inaugural Committee garnered Brooks media attention from FOX 2 and the Detroit Free Press. It also allowed him to expand his idea as more than 50 people volunteered at “Hoods United through Service” and handed out more than 3,000 face masks.
“I'm honored and humbled to have been chosen to go from being a child born in prison to an activist leading an initiative for the President of the United States,” said Brooks. “The Inaugural Committee learned of the work I’ve been doing to bring forth change. That includes leading more than a dozen peaceful protests, speaking out for social justice across the United States, and the work we've done at FTHFTH. When they found out about my personal history, they told me I was truly an inspiration and what I've done for countless others was amazing. They said that it was an honor to have me help in starting a new chapter within our country.”
Impact makes it worthwhile
Brooks was awed by the turnout at “Hoods United through Service.”
“Seeing the difference and the impact we made on our fellow brothers and sisters whom we were able to serve made it all worthwhile, especially since more people were aware of what we were doing this year,” he said.
Among the volunteers was a prison guard who was present at Brooks’ birth. This was a full circle moment for Brooks.
“It was truly a heartfelt moment when he pulled me to the side and explained who he was,” he said.
Born in prison, rising through adversity
No stranger to adversity, Brooks was born while his mother was in prison and was raised by his great-grandparents. When Brooks attended Cody High School in Detroit, he was living with his mother who’d been released from prison. Upon graduating from Cody in 2013, he enrolled at HFC. However, his mother was opposed to him pursuing higher education, feeling he was better suited to working in a factory.
When he refused to drop out of HFC, his mother kicked him out of the house. Brooks was homeless for two years, staying in parks, bus stations, and abandoned buildings. He worked several odd jobs to make ends meet. The HFC faculty and staff learned about this and helped him wherever they could. They referred him to the counseling office and even helped him purchase a car. Eventually, he moved into an apartment in Detroit.
Brooks ran for president of the HFC Student Council, winning the election. One of his proudest accomplishments during his presidency was implementing the Diversity Taskforce Constitution. When he graduated from HFC in 2018, earning his associate degree in telecommunication, Brooks had been accepted at Harvard University, Howard University, Southern Illinois University, Columbia University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. Regional media interviewed Brooks about where he would transfer.
In the end, Brooks decided to attend Ferris State University in Big Rapids. He will graduate this spring, earning his bachelor’s degree in music and entertainment business. Brooks plans to attend graduate school in the fall. He is looking into graduate programs at Harvard, Howard, U-M, and the University of Colorado. He will make a final decision in March about where he will attend.
Helping the homeless
Knowing what it is like to be homeless, Brooks his made it his mission in life to help the homeless and the disadvantaged. He founded FTHFTH via the Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship, sponsored by U-M. Most notably, last year Brooks went on a 15-state “For the Hood Tour.” He partnered with rapper Eminem (who has Detroit roots) to pass out groceries, diapers, toys, and more than 60,000 PPE kits.
“I want to say something to every young boy or girl across our nation: You may have been counted out and ostracized time and time again, even by your own family. Society may have labeled you a statistic. You may feel like just giving up. Listen… you are more than a statistic! You are an agent of change! Don't give up! Continue to walk through life with a heart to serve and better our communities, so that you too may find the joy of having a purpose. I am living proof of that, having somehow risen from the gutters!” said Brooks.
Since HFC and FSU have given so much to Brooks, he looks forward to giving back.
“HFC helped give birth to the agent of change, and FSU helped give birth to the activist,” he said. “Without my experience at both educational institutions, I would not be the person I am today. I can't wait till I'm able to contribute to the lives of both future Hawks and Bulldogs!”