Brandi Grayson: Educating for Empowerment

Brandi Grayson has been a tireless advocate for Black people in the Madison community by first working with Young Gifted and Black and then launching Urban Triage, Inc. She is a major changemaker and even helped organize and spoke at some of the city’s first peaceful protests starting on May 30, 2020, on behalf of Urban Triage. We spoke with her again about the challenges of racial equity work.

By Holly Marley-Henschen and Shelby Rowe Moyer | Photography by Hillary Schave

Madison activist and 2020 BRAVA Woman to Watch Brandi Grayson is a trailblazing force in the local Black Lives Matter movement.

Her organization, Urban Triage, Inc. — which she founded in 2017 — recently raised $900,000 for its COVID relief efforts, newly launched initiatives and to hire additional staff to further their mission. Their mission is to support Black people by working with community resources and educating people about (in order to fundamentally change) racist systems.

On a basic level, that means showing up for the Black community in whatever way is needed, like delivering food to elderly people endangered by the coronavirus. Overall, though, Grayson’s goal is to empower Black people to a place of self-reliance and stability.

The physical work manifests as educational speeches, rallies, letter-writing campaigns and other actions to pressure local leaders to end discriminatory regulations and policies.

Grayson regularly speaks at rallies, online roundtables and teaching events, as part of the transformative, educational work Urban Triage does.
But doing this work is hard. Society has been intricately woven with racist ideology — ideology that was designed to uplift white people and suppress Black people.

The deaths of George Floyd and many, many others created a social resurgence around the Black Lives Matter movement. And now, the challenge is in educating everybody about how they’re embodying and contributing to white supremacy and systematic racism, and how they can help create equality.
“The challenge is getting people on board and switching the paradigm for how we support Black people,” Grayson says. “We pride ourselves in moving Black people to become fully self-actualizing. We want to create a world where we [Urban Triage] is no longer needed.”

This new era of advocacy is personally “traumatic as hell,” Grayson says. “Not only do we have to carry the trauma of watching Black people continuously die — along with that, it’s the compounded trauma of interacting in these [racist] systems. And then standing on the front line and having our bodies be at risk, and our lives and our children — and our whole lives turned upside down.”

Nonetheless, Grayson carries on with Urban Triage’s mission, because, as she once told us, “Who else is gonna do the work?”

The way forward, Grayson says, is bringing Black lives from the margins of society toward the center — a place historically held by whites.

“If we’re going to have a paradigm shift, then we have to put Black people at the center of it. Because when we do that, it breaks down all the narratives that we’ve been regurgitating and practicing, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional … If you are really about Black lives, then in all the work you do, you have to center Black lives.”

Read more from our Solidarity in the City article here.

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