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It takes a village.

That quote is often used when it comes to kids growing up and being properly raised. It can also be applied when it comes to being a beacon of hope and a source of change in your community. Educator and community activist Cherrell Brown is based in Atlanta but is also responsible for unity folks around the country—including New York to fight for their rights because there’s power in numbers.

In her own words, community organizing is “about showing people they are the leaders that they need and getting them actively engaged in fights.”

Being from the South, Brown has recognized how the prison has affected her– even as a child.

“I remember growing up in Laurinburg, North Carolina, which is a very small town,” she says of her roots. “There weren’t jobs because all the factories had closed down, and those places became prisons and jails. And my brother was impacted, and my father was impacted. I remember being angry and speaking to the experience of having loved ones that I’ve lost to state violence.”

She also remembers her activist beginnings, when she wouldn’t hesitate to let officials like council members know that she wasn’t a fan of their policies directly to their face. But it wasn’t until Reverend Nelson Johnson and his wife Joyce saw her passion and anger that she truly learned what it took to become a community organizer under their tutelage.

With that redirected passion, she also identifies herself as an abolitionist for prisons and jails — but she also recognizes that everyone has different methods to improve the country.

“I don’t think any movement is new. We’ve been doing this for so long. But I do think that we’re not a monolithic people, and we all have different ideas about how we’re going to get to freedom,” she added.

But with that passion, she understands it’s important to know when to rest and let others with that same fight continue.

“Sometimes ego and heroism tell us that we have to be the one. That we have to be on. I thought I had to be at these meetings and rallies,” she says, explaining the importance of unity. “But really, there’s a community full of activists, organizers, and leaders who are ready to step in and step up so we can rest and sit back. This isn’t the work of individuals, charismatic leaders, solo artists. This is the collective work of communities coming together deciding to fight for their liberation.”

Watch Brown’s entire inspiring story in the video above and check out the rest of our Young Black Icons project here.