City

City Council’s Kendra Brooks on the Big Change She’d Like to See at City Hall

The Working Families party member and self-described socialist weighs in on who she’d like to see run for president next.


city council member kendra brooks

City Council member Kendra Brooks. Illustration by Andy Friedman

My full name is … Kendra Nicole Brooks. I was named after Angela Davis’s friend Kendra, who was mentioned in the New York Times in June 1972 when my mom was in the hospital having me. Kendra was a socialist, as I am.

I was born in … the Bronx. I came to Philly when I was eight to live with my grandmother and go to a Christian school here. And then I went to Martin Luther King High School.

These days, I live in … Nicetown, one door from where I grew up with my grandmother. ­

Having children has taught me … to never give up. I have five, ranging in age from 11 to 28. And three granddaughters.

My hero is … Ella Baker, an activist in the civil rights movement, but you don’t hear about her so much because she was black and a woman. A lot of time, black women are doing the work, but we are less likely to get the credit.

To people who think socialism is a scary word … I say there’s nothing wrong with caring for the needs of the whole.

One book every Philadelphian should read is … The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. It talks about the systematic oppression that has happened in this country over a long period of time and how capitalism is the result of that.

Republicans are … predictable.

My personal theme song is … “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Throughout my life, I’ve had a resilience that this song reflects. When I put my mind to something, I see it through, and regardless of the outcome, I always see myself as winning.

After high school … I had my first child. I was 18. Then I went to Community College of Philadelphia while working as a certified nursing assistant. Then I got my degree in therapeutic rehabilitation from Temple and, later, my MBA from Eastern.

The last time I was a Democrat was … March of 2018. I had to switch my party in order to run as a Working Families Party candidate.

When Elizabeth Warren endorsed me … I was just amazed she would even be paying attention to a local election.

One person I’d love to see run for president is … AOC. In a few years. I appreciate smart, passionate and charismatic women who use their voice to bring change.

If I could change just one thing during my time in City Hall, it would be … educational funding. We spend more than $40,000 a year to incarcerate someone and less than $10,000 to educate a child.

My relationship status is … ­single, but maybe too busy to mingle.

When I found out I won … I just started screaming.

My salary on City Council is … $130,000, I think. I googled it. This is life-changing for me. I’ve done a lot of independent contract work, which is unstable. I lost my house — I’m actually paying rent right now on the house I purchased early in life, which I lost — and I would like to use some of that money to repurchase this house.

I am deathly afraid of … failure.

Published as “One of Us: Kendra Brooks” in the February 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.