Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks Cites Racism in Contracts

Daniel Connolly, The Commercial Appeal, March 13, 2012

At County Commission meetings over the past several years, Commissioner Henri E. Brooks has often asked about the race of the people administering county contracts to fight social ills such as infant mortality.

Brooks, who is black, has expressed concerns that white leaders of social service organizations are making large salaries when their mission is to help poor African-Americans.

“We keep doing the same old thing giving money to the same folk and getting the same results, which is what? Absolutely nothing.”


The same pattern repeated itself Monday. Dottie Jones, the county’s head of community services, is white, and Brooks questioned her about the use of outside grant funds for the Just Care Family Network Project, a program meant to help children with serious mental illness.

Brooks drew murmurs from the audience when she called Jones “Sweetheart.” She wasn’t being friendly.

Commissioner Chris Thomas said, “Could we ask commissioners to show respect to the staff and not call them ‘sweetheart?’ ”

Several clients of the program, including young girls and mothers of children with bipolar disorder, came to the podium to speak in favor of the grant. All were African-American.

Brooks said she was sympathetic with the people who spoke, but that she hadn’t received sufficient information from the administration about the leadership of the program. She also expressed concern about “the parasitic social justice network that swarms around poor people.”


In an interview after the meeting, Brooks said she believes old, established social service agencies are winning contracts based on relationships and that new organizations are shut out.


She said she needed to know who was going to run the programs. “It could be a branch of the KKK,” she said. {snip}

During a debate on a different topic at Monday’s meeting, Thomas, who is white, said he was “pretty sick and tired of the continual racist comments coming from certain commissioners here.”

Brooks said. “I can’t be a racist. I may be prejudiced.”

She went on to reference historical facts about slavery and segregation, at one point saying, “Number Two, the Civil War’s over. Y’all lost.”


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