Photo provided by Michael Bizik
Al Brooks is a name that has become well known in Prince William County.
Throughout the years, he served as a civil rights activist and supported many who ran for office.
Elected officials and community members remembered him in a memorial video produced by What’s Up Prince William.
The African American Democratic Club – PWC and the Brooks family are holding the Albert E. Brooks Sr. Commemorative at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 13020 Telegraph Road in Woodbridge. It begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Anyone who would like to attend should register on eventbrite.
The memorial video can be viewed here:
This is the transcription:
Deshundra Jefferson: Al Brooks is a real treasure for Prince William County. I first met him when I moved to the county about six years ago. He was always someone who was very passionate about making sure that African- Americans and other marginalized communities were represent it in the community politically. But he’s also a great mentor. He was willing to take young people under his wing, take them out to meet new people in the community, to meet people who’ve been in the community who’ve been established.
Deshundra Jefferson: He was just a good person to know. He brought passion and enthusiasm to everything that he did. And it was hard to lose him. It was hard to lose such a community gem like him. I remember he would tell me stories about working for people like A. Philip Randolph, the work that he did labor organizing in New York. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. And I feel like, again, we’ve just lost somebody who had so much to offer. He never let anything keep him down. Al believed what he believed. He was strong in his convictions, and he knew what was right. And we was never afraid to stand up for what he believed was right.
Richard Jessie: Hi, I’m Richard Jesse. Before I turn it over to my wife, the elected official, I just want to say a few words about Al. I met Al probably in 2011, when we started into politics.
Richard Jessie: The one thing that Al and I did in common was that we worked at the DMV. And Al would get to the DMV at four or five in the morning to get his signs up before the Republican did. And Al would stay there basically the whole day. And after a while I realized Al needed some help. And so, eventually, we worked together. And Al would be there and I would help sign up people to be there, let him know when people was going to be there so he could take a break and so forth. But Al was a constant supporter of the DMV. He was dependable, reliable, and just a great person to work at the DMV.
Lillie Jessie: My word for Al Brooks is unapologetic. He was unapologetic about his dedication to the Democratic party and to the African-American community. He would just say up front, “This is my goal. My goal is to get our people in positions of power.” And he was from that Civil Rights movement. He and I had that in common, to be honest with you, because when he talked about A. Philip and how important it was, he was old school. He believed in the non-violence approach, but you could do a lot of things better than Al, but you could not work him. His work ethic was insurmountable.
Lillie Jessie: And his willingness, just to help people that he didn’t know. He would drive to my house, he always had a white shirt. He would roll up the sleeves of his white shirt and we would walk through those communities. And he taught me politics because I knew nothing. I’d laugh and we say that I came in, I knew a lot about education, I knew nothing about politics. Politicians will understand this, but I thought a van was a truck. I had no idea that it meant anything else.
Lillie Jessie: He taught me how to canvas. He taught me how to interact. He taught me little things that people think are not important, but they’re very important if you want to succeed. He said, “Do you know these people over here? Do you know these people over here? And do they know you?” And I said, “No.” A lot of people knew me, but he said, “These are the people in your district.” He knew that district. He knew who in that district would help me win that seat, and he made sure that I got to that place.
Rod Hall: I have to admit that going through this most recent election cycle without Al Brooks was rather depressing. Al Brooks has been a staple of not only our community, but voting sites across the county for a number of years, ensuring that folks were fully informed before they hit the voting booth. And so, it’s weird. I miss my friend and I know he lived a great life, a life well lived.
Rod Hall: I first met Al Brooks a host of years, a number of years ago. I was considering running for office and a host of folks indicated Al Brooks is someone you need to know, you need to sit down with. And so, we ultimately sat down for coffee at the Panera Bread off of Prince William Parkway. And to say that encounter was anything less than interesting would be an understatement.
Rod Hall: I was a political appointee in the Obama administration over at the Department of Transportation. And lo and behold, Mr. Brooks also had served as an appointee to the Department of Transportation. And so, one of the first questions he asked me when we sat down, it was clear he had already done his homework about me. It was like, “Well, tell me what you know about a man by the name of Bill Coleman.” And lo and behold, Bill Coleman was the first African-American to ever serve as the United States Secretary of Transportation at the Department of Transportation. And lo and behold, Secretary Coleman was a brilliant legal mind. He was also a coauthor of the legal brief to the Brown vs Board of Education, a legal brief filed by the NAACP. He worked alongside Thurgood Marshall.
Rod Hall: And to now know, looking back in hindsight, that Al Brooks was a disciple of not only A. Phillip Randolph, who a lot of people connect Mr. Brooks to. He was also a disciple of former Secretary William Coleman, the first African-American to serve as the Secretary of Transportation. And why that’s important is because Secretary Coleman brought a lot of that Civil Rights fervor to the Department of Transportation. He then tapped Al Brooks to handle a host of Civil Rights issues across the country during his tenure as secretary.
Rod Hall: So, in many respects, I owe my positioning as an appointee with the Department of Transportation to folks like Mr. Brooks. And I made it clear in showing all due deference at the time that I considered him a forerunner to my position and other African-Americans like me that had the opportunity to serve at the Department of Transportation.
Loree Williams: Al was an extraordinary man. It was such an honor and pleasure to be able to know him, and to spend time with him. He was a living, breathing, walking historical legend right here in Prince William County. It was an honor to be able to spend time with him, grow, and get to know him. And be considered, by him, one of his second daughters.
Loree Williams: Al was instrumental for me in my life in teaching me how to campaign, how to talk to constituents, how to advocate for human and civil rights, not only for my own magisterial district, but for all of the constituents in Prince William County for school purposes. It was amazing to see him and be able to spare… Excuse me, to be able to spend time with him and have him interact with my children to see the way that he dressed, carried himself and mannerisms is exactly what I’d like my young boys to embody as they grow up.
Loree Williams: Al was just a living legend and it was really an honor and a pleasure to be able to know and spend time with him. And for that, and the lessons that he shared with me of his life experience, I will be eternally grateful.
Cydny Neville: Cydny A. Neville, I serve on the Dumfries Town Council and I’m chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
Cydny Neville: To know Mr. Al Brooks is to know how incredible of a storyteller he was. His stories were absolutely phenomenal and would captivate any listener. Hearing his stories from working with A. Phillip Randolph in Harlem with the Pullman porters. If you know anything about A. Phillip Randolph you know the significance of his work. Fighting and organizing for laborers, planning the March on Washington, he was a champion for his people, and for the people, and was of the people. And Mr. Brooks was a champion too. His legacy lives on. And everyone, every elected official in Prince William County owes him a magnitude of gratitude.
Cydny Neville: I’m blessed to have known Mr. Brooks. And I hope that myself and others continue to make him proud, and live his legacy out loud.
Margie Oden: My name is Margie Oden.
Margie Oden: I am so honored and privileged to speak about my friend, Al Brooks, also known as Al to our community. I met Al about 12 years ago, during election time. And we came together, and we talked, and we found that we were kind of similar. We had the same backgrounds. Al worked in investigation, I worked in investigation. And then a friend Mike Bizik worked in investigations. So, together, Al, and I, and Mike, we formed a team and we started supporting different candidates.
Margie Oden: Al always worked the DMV every day, every day. Al was a permanent fixture at the DMV, while Mike worked the neighborhoods, the communities, the houses. And I worked the businesses. And together, we formed a team putting out flyers, talking to people, and getting out candidates elected.
Margie Oden: We were so successful, but I knew from being around Al that Al had a vision. Al was so good to work with, I just can’t say enough about him. Al knew how to do things. And things that we never knew, he already knew it. Al was good in everything he did because of his vision.
Margie Oden: He talked to us many times about his past, about him being a Temptation, one of the original Temptations. And he showed us the pictures. And he also talked about his work with A. Phillip Randolph. Al was so proud. He was a proud person, even dressed the part. Every day you saw him in a suit and tie, every day.
Margie Oden: Al was my friend, my partner, and my mentor. I will always remember the things that he has taught me and others. He will be sorely missed. And we must try to carry on with the things that he left us with. I miss you, Al.
Michael Bizik: Al Brooks, Margie Oden, and I worked very closely together to turn Prince William County blue. We were the two people who were in the trenches on a regular basis with Al. Al didn’t particularly care for the bench warmers who showed up at the victory parties and everything else. He preferred to work with people who actually fought the good fight. And he taught us how to fight the good fight. Al Brooks had an incredible commitment to honor and integrity, and he never sacrificed his principles. He was a man of his word. And when he said he was going to do something, he did it.
Michael Bizik: Al Brooks was very proud. And I didn’t know his past as leader of the JCs, but Al Brooks knew that my hope and almost 3000 disabled, elderly wounded vets and children was very dear to his heart. He always inspired me, always encouraged me that I was fighting the good fight. And this is something to be proud of, no matter how many people objected to what we were doing in fighting the good fight I was doing the right thing. And I was shocked to find out that Al had done this back in the ’70s. This has been his whole life. He was such an inspiring, just a good guy. And he was a great friend. And, like I said, I miss him dearly.
Nichii Namaha-Ono: I met Al Brooks at a Neabsco [inaudible 00:13:20] district meeting on Saturday. And I continuously started going to those meetings and I learned more about Neabsco. But then, I started going out and learning a little bit more about Neabsco by following Al Brooks. And he was telling me about how Neabsco was looking like the landscape, the geographical setup, the people here and what it looked like before I moved here in 2003.
Nichii Namaha-Ono: And, at that time, just raising three children, I only had so much time to commit. So, occasionally I would volunteer as a assistant captain precinct at the Kerrydale Elementary School. And I learned a little bit more about the voting process here in Virginia at that time. And then, I would knock on doors with him for different candidates at that time. And what I found is that he was educating the people that were not fully aware of the voting process, and the candidates. And that was door-to-door canvassing. That was also just at the DMV.
Nichii Namaha-Ono: And how that impacted me was that I was learning through that process. It was an organic relationship that I was learning more about him because doing that, I was just like, “Well, how do we really know about these people?” And it was really getting out there with the candidates, going door-to-door, listening to their stories, and doing that with the candidate, and Al Brooks, I could see how those relationships will build over time.
Nichii Namaha-Ono: So, just being in the county for about 16 or 17 years, I consider him as family. He will definitely be missed. And I can just remember just having conversations about just life and raising children, and being a grandparent. I have four grandchildren of my own. And, of course, he was a grandfather and great- grandfather. And then, just not having him that will definitely impact our community.
Nichii Namaha-Ono: However, with that being said, there are a few of us in the community that can educate the others and let them know how impactful he was in the community. And dedicate that, and pass that torch on to others, so they can inspire the next generation to carry that on.
Victor Angry: One thing I want to mention about Mr. Al Brooks is he was a man of many slogans. And one of the phrases that I vividly recall him using all the time was, “I’m going to help free up your future.” And that’s probably the first time I met Mr. Brooks was at my firehouse campaign caucus there that I had to run the special election, where he took all of his time to actually work, to help, to get me an office. And so, I’m extremely honored and proud that he did that for me. And will be forever grateful.
Victor Angry: One of the biggest things he taught me is door knocking. You can pass all the literature you want. You can put everything in the mail you want, but he said, “The one way you meet the constituents, the one way to get to truly know you is by knocking on their doors.” And I cannot agree with him any more than that, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Victor Angry: He told me the story about how he got into politics here in Prince William County, when he was at home and he got a knock on his door. And standing in front of his door was Mr. Jenkins, Mr. [inaudible 00:17:28] and Mr. [Mc-Court 00:17:28] . And they were canvassing the neighborhood to help get John in office. And he said since that day, he had been knocking doors of Prince William County ever since.
Victor Angry: His passion for what he did, Al Brooks was a lifelong professional people person. And when I say that, I mean, he was Mr. Civil Rights. And any civil rights of African-Americans, it was to bridge the gap, and to bring society to the whole of the people. I truly believe that. He was really good at that. He meant every word of what he said. And he meant everything that he did.
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