by C.C. Campbell-Rock
Donna Brazile’s seat at the table of America politics gives her an eagle’s eye view of the state of Black America. Over the past five decades, she has been a sentinel for civil rights, equal rights and an advocate for justice. A New Orleans native at the epicenter of political activity in Washington, D.C. Brazile is a renowned political strategist, political analyst, consultant, adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, and the first African-American woman to manage a major presidential campaign.
She is the founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates, LLC, a firm that assists corporate clients with diversity training, media strategies, crisis management and message development. And she blogs regularly.
Brazile is the third child of nine children born to Lionel and Jean Marie Brazile. She is New Orleans to the bone, as documented in her 2004 bestseller, Cooking with Grease: Stirring the American Pots. On Feb. 11, Brazile was back home in New Orleans to deliver the Charles Frye Memorial Lecture at Southern University of New Orleans. The event was sponsored by SUNO’s Center for African and African American Studies, which Frye founded and is now lead by Dr. Clyde Robertson, professor and director. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Amistad Research Center and SUNO’s College of Arts & Humanities and Social Science.
And Brazile talked about a topic she knows well—politics. More specifically, her lecture focused on the Democratic Party and Black voters.
“I think for African-Americans and people of color this is a time of reckoning,” Brazile says, adding that African-Americans and people of color in the U.S. must confront numerous challenge. “Many Black women are dying in childbirth. Structural and institutional racism are still with us. Chronic homelessness. Mental health issues. Affordable housing. Low wages.”
The state of Black America is a state of worry about equal justice, the economy, about Blacks in higher education, Black economics, and political affairs.” In other words, African Americans and people of color have to get on the front lines of politics, run for office, and fight to retain their rights.
“We have to be present in the moment,” Brazile says. “Our democracy is broken. Every institution is underwater. We have to reengage and re-imagine democracy and capitalism so everyone can prosper. Whether you vote or not vote, politicians will continue to enact laws that affect our lives. Your tax dollars go to the government. Elections have consequences,” Brazile says. “We must hold them (elected officials) accountable. I’m an avid supporter of African-American institutions and I’m an advocate of how my money is spent.”
Brazile’s trajectory into the mainstream of all things political started at age nine, when she agreed to pass out flyers for a city council candidate, who promised to put a playground in her neighborhood. The candidate won, she got her playground, and she learned what political power could accomplish.
She has worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2000 and she served as a media surrogate during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. In 2014, Brazile was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the board of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She served twice as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is currently on the board of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
After her keynote address, Brazile signed copies of her latest books, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics, which profiles the four most powerful African American women in politics: Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore.
In her book, Hacks, published in 2017, Brazile drove home the stark reality that many Americans don’t vote.
“We’re a country of more than 320 million people. In 2016, 69 million voted for Hillary, 66 million voted for Donald Trump and 90 million eligible citizens did not vote. To this day, it is astonishing to me that we do not treat this as a national emergency.”
Through Hacks, Brazile attempts “to do a forensic examination of what Democrats did wrong and what they can do better in the future.”
Brazile predicts that in the next few decades the face of the Democratic Party will be increasingly diverse; inclusive of people of color, women, gays, and the disenfranchised.
In one of her blog posts, Brazile speaks directly to Trump, who she calls a huge threat: “Dear Donald Trump. Stop acting like Putin’s puppet. Do your job. Protect our elections.”
The recipient of many awards, O Magazine chose Brazile as one of its 20 “remarkable visionaries” for the magazine’s first-ever O Power List. In addition, she was named among the 100 Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian, Top 50 Women in America by Essence, and received the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s highest award for political achievement.
In addition to her television appearances as a political commentator, Brazile says her secret passion is acting. She recently made two cameo appearances on CBS’s “The Good Wife”. Ask her and she’ll tell you that acting, after all, is the key to success in politics.
Brazile has been an adjunct professor for the past 25 years. She teaches at Georgetown University and Howard University. She holds honorary doctorate degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Louisiana State University, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology.
Never far from the world of politics, Brazile says, “I vow to live long enough to see the first Black woman, Jew, Muslim, or gay; whomever is different, become president. We have the power and the imagination. We just need to fight for it.”