Activist Spotlight: Talamieka Brice
Talamieka Brice had given birth to a baby boy less than 24 hours before she heard that the city of Ferguson was in turmoil; protestors had gathered in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer. Brice and her newborn were miles away from the unrest, but its cause still felt unbearably close to home.
“The reality of being a Black American kind of sucked the whole joy out of having a baby to begin with,” she said in a phone interview with Supermajority News. “Every day, every nap brings them closer to being a black man. You become this whole different animal when it comes to being a mom.”
After the birth of her son in 2014, Brice began writing about her experiences online and showing up to local activist events in her community. She organized for a host of justice-centered groups, including the ACLU, Migrant and Immigrant Rights Association, and Indivisible Jackson.
Of course, Brice had been well aware of racism in Mississippi well before Ferguson. It was a fact of life in her hometown of Kilmichael, Mississippi. The town had a population of just a few hundred people, but public spaces were still racially segregated. Brice recalled white parents forbidding their children to play with black children on the playground. “I learned a lot about people, connections, and environment — and art and pain, honestly,” she said.
Brice’s activism took on a new urgency when, the day after Trump’s presidential inauguration, she stood among the millions of women in the 2017 Women’s March while pregnant with her second child — a girl. The year after, she was a key organizer of the national event and spoke on the steps of the Capitol.
In 2019, Brice co-founded the Womanist Alliance, a sister organization to the Women’s March movement, which centers women of color. The initiative was born out of a need to recognize the productive differences among women in their shared fight for equal rights. Some black women felt “invisible, and like the march didn’t represent them,” so Brice created a space dedicated to elevating their voices.
“If we want to lead, we need to listen to black women and treasure them, and their voices,” Brice told Supermajority News. “Not so much being colorblind. I need you to see color. I need you to see how beautiful that color is. I need you to protect that color. Because you know, red’s beauty doesn’t take away from green. It complements it.”
This year, Brice helped form the Mississippi Prison Reform Coalition, which focuses on bringing justice and accountability to incarcerated people. Mississippi’s prison system is the third-largest in the world. Prisons in the state are overcrowded, understaffed, and often lack proper sanitation or medical care access. Since December, 18 prisoners have died under carceral supervision in the state. The group is pushing back against SB 2459, a bill designed to further penalize people suspected to have been involved in criminal gang activity by increasing prison sentences, revoking parole eligibility, and automatically categorizing such offences as violent. Critics of the bill have said that it would lead to racial profiling and add to Mississippi’s already overrun prison system.
Brice’s activism takes forms other than traditional organizing, too; she often draws on her artistic background and skill. Brice studied graphic design at Jackson State University, a historically black college to which she earned a full-ride academic scholarship. In 2009, Brice and her husband Charles started their own graphic design and photography business when he returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. And in 2018, she painted a 20 x 25 foot mural of Barack Obama to celebrate the renaming of a majority-black elementary school from Jefferson Davis Elementary to Barack Obama Elementary — a change voted on and passed by the school’s students. The project was as much a spatial demonstration of community solidarity as it was a project of artistic creation. “To see the children and the community, to see the little black kids see faces that look like theirs…that was so huge.”
The history of Jackson, too, is fundamental to Brice’s creative energies. “There’s rich soil here out on my side of the delta plains,” she said with an unmistakable Mississippi drawl. “You may run across a legend in the civil rights movement, may bump into [them] in the grocery store.”
Most of all, Brice draws inspiration from her kids, now five and two years old, especially “their future. Their wonder at a new day. My husband and I always say they are the greatest art that we’ve ever created—they help color us.”