LaTosha Brown Is Betting On the South

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Hey y’all, it’s Brittany… So, I’ve easily been on the 1000 election-related calls this year. These calls are all the same—a lot of work, a lot of talking fast, a lot of assigning tasks and planning action. But this weekend, the calls were DIFFERENT. I heard from Black women who had been blazing trails for actual decades. They started their careers before I was born. A lot of them, and they are, pure and complete legends. LEGENDS. One of them actually shared that she never thought—in almost 90 years on this Earth—that she’d live to see this—a Black, South Asian woman, elected vice president.

It is so easy to get caught up in the cynicism of the moment, in the constant sniping of Twitter and the woker-than-thou contests. Look, folks are allowed to feel however they feel. And I’m not gonna tell you how to move…But Y’ALL. There are women still walking this Earth who drank from colored fountains. Who integrated all-white schools. Who…who had milkshakes doused on them at segregated lunch counter…elders who had to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar, or get their heads bashed in just to cast a ballot.

There is so, so, so much work to do, but let’s take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant and we drink from wells we did not dig. 

Y’all just because there are many more victories that need to be won and barriers that need to be broken doesn’t mean this was a small task. Getting 75 MILLION people to the ballot box, all while overcoming massive voter suppression and disenfranchisement and disinformation, IN THE MIDDLE OF A DAMN PANDEMIC IS NOT A SMALL THING. We DID that.

And the beautiful thing-is that if we did this…we can do ANYTHING. We are UNDISTRACTED.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham On the show today…Miss LaTosha Brown!

I’ll be talking to the voting rights organizer about the Black women who helped fuel this election, and why it’s important that we set the narrative straight. 

LaTosha Brown When people just see what they think is this Blue wave, what they really are seeing is a “people wave.” What they’re really seeing in Georgia…is you’re seeing a Black and Brown wave, what you’re seeing is white wave, what you’re seeing is a wave of people in the South rising up.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham That’s coming up, but first, it’s your “UNtrending News.”


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Well, Four Seasons Total Landscaping was really the gift that kept on giving this week. 

But there were other gifts too… 

Over in Brooklyn, Spike Lee took to the streets to celebrate the Biden-Harris election win. The Oscar-winning writer and director was partying in Fort Greene Park on Saturday. Uncle Spike was pouring champagne directly into people’s mouths—guess that was his own version of driving the boat. He was, of course, wearing his mask and, of course, recording the entire turn up. 

Only in Brooklyn can you party in the streets while making it into a Spike Lee joint-and I, for one-am all the way jealous.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Shout out to The Navajo nation for helping flip Arizona and overcoming massive voter suppression along the way.

There are 67,000 eligible Navajo voters in Arizona, but many live miles from their nearest polls.  So one 30-year-old woman, Allie Young, started a Ride to the Polls initiative where she led groups on 10-mile horseback rides to go vote. Allie said: “It’s important to me that my community and Native communities across the country get out to vote, because we weren’t always afforded this right.”

Our communities shouldn’t have to get this creative just to participate in democracy, but Allie, we’re certainly glad you did.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Over in LA, they’ve elected their first all-women panel to the city’s Board of Supervisors.

That’s a big one, because the Board is the highest governmental body in LA’s local politics. It’s been around for 168 years, and has typically been run by a majority of men—referred to as the “five little kings.” But now, five “little queens” will manage a $35 billion budget for public safety and social services in the city. 

Of course representation matters, but I for one hope that this Board of Supervisors will do more barrier breaking. They can start with moving the 54% of the budget currently given to the Los Angeles Police Department over to the services that actually keep people safe. Shoutout to the team at People’s Budget LA.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Jill Biden will be the first First Lady to hold a full-time job outside of the White House. 

She’s a long-standing English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, and holds several degrees, including her doctorate.

Dr. Biden plans to continue teaching while serving this country as First Lady. Now y’all know I stan teachers. We love to see it, Dr. Biden.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Meanwhile, Jill’s husband gave a little speech on Saturday night. 

President-elect Joe Biden was the first to ever mention transgender people in a victory address.

Joe Biden I’m proud of a coalition we put together… Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives; young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American…

Biden has acknowledged trans people—and the unique struggles they face—throughout his campaign, including the disproportionately high murder rate for trans women of color.  He’s promised to reverse Trump’s policies that threaten the rights of LGBTQ folks.

Words alone are never enough, but political rhetoric does indicate people power. Now, it’s time to use it and turn power into policy. And fellow cisgender folks, it’s WAY past time for us to have our trans family’s back on this.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Coming up! I’ll be talking to Georgia-based activist and freedom fighter LaTosha Brown.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham Well, y’all, as we do. While Black women were working to save ourselves, we pretty much saved democracy too. Oh yes…Black women fueled this election win. Not only did 91% of Black women vote for the Biden-Harris ticket, we’ve been on the frontlines fighting against voter suppression, and helping to increase voter participation. Black women also helped turn Georgia Blue for the first time since 1992. My guest today says:  “A new South is rising, and Georgia is the beacon.”

LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. Over the past few years, she’s been working tirelessly on the ground to increase Black voter turnout—especially in deep Red states. 

LaTosha and I go way back—we have spent some time and overlapped at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and every time I’m able to catch a glimpse of her light, she brings me joy and love and so much inspiration. She’s passionate, she’s spirited, and a beautiful singer. And I thought she was the perfect person to hear from at this precise moment.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham LaTosha Brown! How are you doing today? 

LaTosha Brown I am doing well. I’m happy to be here. And thank you for having me on the show. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So paint the scene for me. Where were you on Saturday when this election got called? 

LaTosha Brown I was in my home. You know, what was interesting is the previous 72 hours, I had been waiting patiently for one of the networks to call the race and they didn’t. And so I was sitting in front of the TV, obviously not paying attention, because April Albright called me and she said, they called it and I was like, they called what? She was like they called the race. I was like, what does that mean? Like it was almost like my mind, I just like lost everything. What are you talking about? I don’t know what you’re talking about. And then she was like, we won. And so I remember in that moment is really interesting. I got off the phone, and because I was by myself, I was very reflective. Like I could see, like flashbacks, I could see my grandmother, I could see my mother, folks in my family, I was thinking about all of the Black women who were denied their humanity that were denied the opportunity to vote that had been working in this country being marginalized, and their voices being marginalized. And now here it was a Black woman that was going to be the Vice President in the White House. All of that I went through that process. And I went through the process of thinking about all of the millions, the 75 million people who literally said no to fascism, you know, and I thought about that, and all of the energy and the young people. I could literally see their faces in my mind. And it really was, you know, will this moment be just a moment? Or will this moment continue to be a movement? 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I mean, that’s real. And it’s hard to think about momentum, toward the end of what has felt like one of the hardest years, you know, I think in a lot of our lifetimes, right? Between the pandemic, killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery…So many folks, the killing of Black trans women, this national reckoning over systemic racism and police violence, there’s a lot on our hearts and minds in this moment. Are you feeling a sense of relief? Or are you ready for the fight? 

LaTosha Brown We have to ask the question around what is life asking of us right now? What is this life asking of us right now? It cannot be okay that this nation has supported children being placed in cages because they’ve got a different passport. We are calling human beings aliens, like they are not of this Earth. We are literally creating dynamics every day out of our overconsumption and our greed, that is literally killing the very planet that is nurturing us, the very planet that is taking care of us, the very planet that is our foundation for our very lives. And so when I think about that, I am hoping that this moment is a reflective moment for us that goes far beyond politics. But it really goes around for the love of humanity, that we have to demand that power is given to the people and recognize the people, not necessarily political parties or candidates. They are there only in service of the people. And so that’s what we’ve got a right side, some things we’ve got to we’ve got to flip some things. We’ve got to change some things, we’ve got to end some things, and we’ve got to create some things.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham You said the politicians and political parties are only there in service of the people. And I couldn’t agree with you more and—not but—we are in a moment where the leadership of the party now in charge in this country looks very different than it once did. Kamala Harris will be the first woman, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman to become vice president of these United States. Just how momentous is that for you?

LaTosha Brown You know, I always talk about what has happened with vice president-elect Kamala Harris is that she’s put a crack in the ceiling. And whenever there is a crack in glass, the light enters the room, it enters darkness. And so it illuminates and so I believe that what she has done, you know, has been created in a path that millions of women who have been marginalized and have been rejected and have gone through all that we have endured in this country that has been rooted in both racism and sexism; that her being placed in this position, actually creates space for the rest of us that it creates space for us—for the rest of us—to push through. You got to get in that crack. You’ve got to get even if you just give me a little crack, we got to get in that crack and bust this thing wide open. So I am hoping that we will start seeing more women run for office, that we will see more progressive women take the reins of leadership and really be able to lead this country in a new direction. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Whoo, okay, I’m about to pass the collection plate. I’m not even in half my questions for you. And I’m just already feeling like we are getting a whole word right now, which, frankly, you know, LaTosha, as I’ve gotten to know you over the years is always how you come because you come with so much love. And that kind of love is what fuels you it is what has fueled so many Black women to do this work. So I want to get into that a little bit. According to exit polls, 91% of us Black women voted for the Biden-Harris ticket, and very clearly against Trump. Black women have for a very long time been the often unsung and very loyal backbone, not just of the Democratic Party, but really, of electoral justice work. So let’s get specific. How was this victory fueled by Black women and Black people more broadly? 

LaTosha Brown You know, Black women have always, as you say it, been on the vanguard, but I think people sometimes try to figure out well, why is that?  That’s a question for myself oftentimes, but you know, what I really believe, Brittany, is that we sit at this unique intersection in this country of both race and gender. And we’ve had to navigate those things ever since we came to the shores of this nation. And so there are certainly some pieces, you know, that we deal with that oppression is traumatic, but it’s also created a particular kind of resiliency in us that literally we’re able to have, I think, a deep, deep sense of empathy. I think we have a deep, deep connection to survivorship. I think we have a deep, deep sense of, of protection and being and being protectors and nurtures. And so what I think happened in this election cycle is I think Black women brought all of their gifts to bear that we came to this process. Some of us were political strategists that were working within the campaign, like Symone Sanders and Karine Pierre, that there was some of us that were actually working as political operatives that had a political background from Ayanna Pressley to Stacey Abrams, then there were those of us that were organizing on the ground from Deborah Scott in Georgia to when I think about Melanie Campbell, and Helen Butler, and Nsé Ufot  in Georgia and Alicia Garza. And all of the amazing women that work in media from Joy Reid to Tiffany Cross to Sunny Hostin to Angela Rye, that we all brought our gifts to bear. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So you brought some of the names into this conversation of the modern day fight who deserved to be shined upon. What are some of the names that we need to bring into this conversation from days before that built the foundation for us to stand on? 


LaTosha Brown Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom over me. And before I’d be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free. 


There were sisters that were singing that song that I don’t even know their names. That were sisters that was singing that song that had just gotten raped, that their children had just gotten sold, that the husband was murdered or maimed or taken away from them, that their own sense of self and identity was being attacked on a daily basis. But they continue to sing that song. And they continue to nurture those babies. They continue to feed folks from their feet, others’ folks, children from their breasts, they develop a deep sense of humanity, that we are all still feeding and nursing of what those sisters brought to offer. And so I can call out the names of Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Boynton, and Shirley Chisholm, and others, I can go on and on and on with the names that we know. But I’m also calling the ancestors and the spirits that we don’t know their names, but we feel their power, their contribution is just as important as those names of the sisters like Fannie Lou Hamer, that not only brought her voice, and put her body on the line, but literally by her spirit to this fight. I’m raising this because we have to know that mighty river is a field drop by drop, and there are so many women that, sister, I will never know that name, to even be able to thank them or to either call them out. So just in this moment, what I’m going to say is those Black women, those women who stood in the space of righteousness, of faith and belief and power, that those sisters are the reason why I’m here today. Those are the sisters why you are here today. And we are still hundreds of years later, still pulling and nursing from their breast, we are still pulling from the strength of them and what they lay down. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham Yes, yes, yes, whoo. Yes, I am. Feeling the spirit right there with you. Because these stories have to get told. Black women, we get written out of our own stories far too often. And we have to know that we deserve our names to be called. And for our stories to be told. Black women are finally getting the acknowledgement that we deserve, frankly, because we are making sure of it, because you are making sure of it. Tell me why—to kind of shift back to the political landscape gain—why it is important, not just spiritually, but politically, to make sure that the story is told and that the narrative is set straight about who won this election.   

LaTosha Brown Whenever we stand in our power, it also opens up the space for others to stand in their power. And whenever we’re telling the story of how it happens, it gives permission for other folks to really be able to see what is possible. And so I think that’s why it is so critical, that we tell the story, my grandmother used to sing by him by until the morning comes, we will stand together as one we will tell the story, how we overcome. And we’ll understand it better by and by. And so if we’re telling the stories of how we overcome, it helps people understand their own power, oh, I can do, I can do this, if they were able to do this, I’m able to do that.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham On top of every brilliant thing that you’re saying. It helps remind us of our own power, and it helps policymakers remember just how powerful we are. So that they’re actually turning that gratitude to us into real policy change. So what do we need to turn that acknowledgement into? 

LaTosha Brown Let me say two things. I think human beings just deserve to be treated with humanity and respect. I think that every single person, whether they voted or not, actually deserves to be treated as if their lives matter. And so fundamentally, I think that the policy that Black women want, what we want for ourselves, is what we want for our neighbors is what we want for all of America. What I want to see is policies that actually reflect that human life is important and valuable, that when people are working, that they should get paid a fair wage, that they’re able to pay their bills, that they have access to affordable housing, that they have quality daycare for their children, that they have assistance, so that what they need for their household, their medicine, that there’s assistance for that that, there is comprehensive health care that I think that in this moment—this can’t be just a transactional moment about acknowledging what Black women have done. That’s one component of it. Right? But what as you said earlier, Brittany, we are acknowledging ourselves. We can’t even wait no more. But guess what we’re lifting up, well, we got that we got that we are acknowledging ourselves. But what is important in this moment, is that we see the VALUE, that we see policies that say, not only I’m acknowledging you, but I actually value you and I value your LIFE. And I value the lives around you. I’m hoping that this administration is LISTENING, that President-elect Biden actually recognizes that his role, even as president, is to serve the people, that his role as president is not just to say what his agenda is, but that his agenda is actually the people’s agenda. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham So in 2016, you and your incredible partner, our friend, Cliff Albright—we love you, Cliff—you all co founded the Black Voters Matter fund, and you alongside so many others have been working tirelessly to increase Black turnout across the nation, but especially in the South, and in deep Red states. So that brings us of course, to the beautiful state that is Georgia, Georgia, Georgia, on my mind, even with the recount, it looks like Biden will continue to hold Georgia, it’s your home state, and it’s been reliably Republican for decades. How significant is this Blue win? 

LaTosha Brown We’ve been saying this for the longest that the South is Red until it ain’t. You know, and we’ve been saying that the South for years, that the South is that Red, the South is under-invested. And then the possibility and the potential was here, that what we have seen fundamentally, when you’re looking at the demographic shifts, and from Texas all the way over to Florida, up to North Carolina, that the South has increasingly become more diverse, and it’s becoming younger. And that’s what we were seeing and people in positions like from Lindsey Graham to Mitch McConnell, they’re not reflective of the people who actually make up the South. And so I think Georgia has this unique opportunity that is really making the state more accountable to the people who make up this state. That’s what we saw in this election—we saw deep organizing that works that’s been going on for about 10 years now almost a decade of hard work where people have been doing deep community organizing, we also saw more investment. The way that you actually create change as you strengthen the capacity of the people on the ground. And so this election cycle, we were able to support over six hundred Black led grassroot groups that were doing this work that over the last three years, we have been building with over 40 organizations in Georgia, many of them are in the Black belt in Georgia in places like Savannah and Albany. And what we are continuing to do is to really build on the power that is local. And so we didn’t show up when it was a presidential election. We have been working on local races, that we have been working on statewide races to actually help and support those organizations doing the work. What has happened is when people just see, you know, what they think is this Blue wave—what they’re really seeing is they’re seeing a people wave; what they’re really seeing in Georgia is you’re seeing a Black and Brown wave; and what you’re seeing white wave; what you’re seeing is you’re seeing a wave of people in the South rising up. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham And of course, there’s still work to be done in Georgia, and I know you all are still doing it. And because of these two very closely watched Senate races in Georgia that will head to a run off on January 5th. David Perdue, the incumbent Republican senator, will face off again against Democrat Jon Ossoff and the Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Also an incumbent will face off against Democrat Reverend Warnock. Are you feeling confident?

LaTosha Brown Oh, we are going to bring this home. We are going to continue what we have been doing. We are I mean, everybody’s saying all right, we are ready to work. It’s like poetic justice. I’ve been saying this. But here, Georgia in 2018 was the epicenter. It was ground zero for voter suppression. We all saw it with this nation, saw an election essentially be stolen in front of our eyes. Would it not just be so poetic, that the very place that voter suppression where Black voters were marginalized in this state would be the very voters that would deliver the kind of win for this nation literally for these two Senate seats? So there is a real chance for progressive policies to be able to get moved in this country. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham It is going to take the work of Black women to win Georgia justice. It was necessary for the entire country. But Black men have also been doing this work. And I know that a few influential voices really caused some very real worry about the Black male vote this time around. But in the end, what is the story of how they showed up? 

LaTosha Brown Let me tell you the story. I’m just gonna even start with the co-founder of Black Voters Matter—Cliff Albright. I don’t know a single person that worked more than he worked for the last three years. He and other brothers that I know who have been putting it down when I think of Phil Agnew; when I think about Maurice Mitchell; I can call the roll Bakari Sellers. When I think about those brothers, who have been doing the work, Black women have been leading, but our brothers have been right with us. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham I love you so much, Latasha, you give me so much hope and fuel for the fight. And I know you do that for so many others. There is so much work left to do as we get back to work and fight this good fight, what is keeping you going? 

LaTosha Brown You know, the thing that is keeping me going is the belief that when you’re able to really ignite the hearts, the minds, and spirits of people, nothing is impossible. And so I am hoping that this is a moment that all of the pressure and the pain that we felt this year, actually help transform us—that is not just about transforming the outside environment. While that is important, right, while the politics and the policies are important, but what I can tell you, Brittany, is when the people rise up and say,“enough is enough,”what will happen when we say that it is not acceptable to use our resources to spend money on war and warfare. Right? But also you have to send that to the people when we collectively decide to do that in this country. It SHALL happen when we decide that racism is harmful, and that we want to live in a space of harmony and peace that actually affirms that every single human being has a right to life, liberty and happiness. It will HAPPEN. The decision is not up to the political parties. It’s not even up to the president. The real decision is up to US. When we change, everything around us will change. And so I just want people to know that the answer is not outside of us. The answer is us. And when we show up, we show up in our agency and our power. We’re going to see this entire country, this entire nation changed, including the politics.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham My, my, my…that’s all that needs to be said. LaTosha, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for giving us a dose of inspiration we need. 

LaTosha Brown Thank you for being who you are. You inspire me. I just love you and keep noble.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham We love you too.


Brittany Packnett Cunningham LaTosha’s organization Black Voters Matter drove a megabus and 32 vans across 12 states to reach 10 million voters this election cycle. They called it “the love and power bus.” I loved that concept so much that a few years back I named my organization Love & Power Works after it. The idea comes from and MLK quote about just how impactful love and power can be if they are used together. The kind of power we fought across this country is reckless and abusive. That’s not love and power. That’s love of power. But the kind of power we showed? The kind that overcomes obstacles with creativity and joy? That’s power informed by love.

So here’s to us being our best selves and using all that power to set a loving agenda for justice. 

That starts with securing these two senate seats in Georgia, turning those seats Blue will take power back from Republicans in the senate—making equitable policy much easier to pass.

Support the organizers in Georgia with your time, donations, talents and voice from wherever you are. Sign up at Black Voters Matter, The New Georgia Project, or Fair Fight.

You’ve seen what we can do. Let’s go win another one…or two.


That’s it for today ya’ll… which also happens to be my birthday!

Thanks for evicting the occupants. It turns out it  was the perfect gift.


UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our Lead Producer is Rachel Matlow.

Our Associate Producer is Taylor Hosking. 

Thanks also to Treasure Brooks, Grace Chen, and Hannis Brown. 

Our Executive Producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself. 

And our Executive Producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

You can follow me at @MsPackyetti on all social media, and our team @TheMeteor.

Subscribe to UNDISTRACTED—and rate us!—on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. 

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being. Thanks for doing.

I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Let’s go get free.