Inspired by Book ‘Caste,’ Group Works for Social Justice, Awards Scholarships
Caste Action Alliance to raise $50,000 through Community Foundation for Monterey County
How did two professional women with different perspectives, one black and one white, find common ground to form a forward-thinking action group committed to “rising up for social and restorative justice?”
It started during a Soulful Sunday online class called “The Church of Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad Crew.”
Previously unaware of how much they really shared in common, Bry’Andi Brandon and Carie Broecker melded two minds and two hearts to form Caste Action Alliance (CAA) over the course of a few spirited months.
CAA addresses the wide educational disparities experienced by black youth in America resulting from intergenerational systemic inequities and inequalities. While exploring the life, spiritual message and legacy of Tubman, the Civil War-era abolitionist and freedom fighter, Brandon and Broecker landed on the book “Caste,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson.
Believing the word racism does not sufficiently encapsulate the systemic oppression of Black people in America, Wilkerson describes a long-held caste system that helps determine status and respect, assumptions of beauty and competence and who gets access to resources.
For Brandon, who traces her lineage directly to the slave trade that began in America in the early 1600s, it hit particularly hard.
“I had to put it down, I just couldn’t do it by myself,” Brandon said. “Some of us formed an online book club (in November of 2020) and finished it in February (of 2021). Then we decided we needed to do something, a global effort, because everyone needs to be a part of this.”
A retired nurse, Brandon is an avid wellness facilitator, meditation coach and peace seeker who lives in Pittsburg, Ca. Active in nonprofit administration for more than 25 years, Broecker lives on the Monterey Peninsula and is co-founder and executive director of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.
Together, the fast friends and collaborators worked up the goals for Caste Action Alliance:
- To honor our specific enslaved ancestors and their allies with strategically installed memorial plaques.
- To widely distribute the book “Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson (2020), to teachers, libraries, school administrators, and to local organizations and individuals in the fields of education, law enforcement, government, and other positions of power and influence in our respective communities and beyond.
- To provide educational scholarships to black youth.
CAA is well on its way to accomplishing its first two goals.
Brandon is planning a trip to Long View, Texas, to connect with relatives. There she will honor her great-great grandfather Moses Gentry, who landed in Harrison County, West Virginia, on a slave ship in June 1860 before being taken to Texas.
The scholarship program is being conducted through the Community Foundation for Monterey County, with donations accepted here. The goal is to raise $50,000, with various scholarship awards planned between $500 and $5,000.
The scholarships are available to any U.S. resident ages 18-30 of African American and/or mixed ethnicity of African descent. Evidence of being a descendant of an enslaved person in America through documentation or oral history is preferred but not required.
Awards are available for high school, GED, undergraduate or students attending any college, university, career, technical, or vocational school in the U.S. A 300-word essay is required, centering on the applicant’s goals. More information about the scholarship can be found at www.cfmco.org/caascholarship.
“We know this disparity in wealth exists,” Broecker said. “Go back in recent history and it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write. Today we see systemic racism continuing to keep many black people from success. It may not be as blatant today, but it is still widespread and very destructive.”
Brandon calls it a pervasive global issue that requires everyone’s engagement. Currently, Caste Action Alliance members meet twice a month via Zoom.
No excuses, if you can breathe you can do something. We all have gifts we can share. Our vision is to expand nationally, internationally and intergenerationally. It’s our hope that we can inspire others to join us.”