Oral Histories

Interview of Brenda Marsh-Mitchell

Co-founder and president of Mothers in Action.
Twenty-Five Years of Community Organizing and Institution Building in the Aftermath of Watts: 1965-1990
Social Movements
African American History
Community Activism
Biographical Note:
Co-founder and president of Mothers in Action.
Stevenson, Alva Moore
Marsh-Mitchell, Brenda
Persons Present:
Marsh-Mitchell and Stevenson.
Place Conducted:
Office of the Los Angeles Sentinel in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alva Moore Stevenson, Series Coordinator, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., English, UCLA; M.A., African American Studies (Latin American Concentration).Stevenson prepared for the interview by perusing the files of Congress member Alfred S. Moore and various primary and secondary sources related to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and urban unrest in the United States.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Marsh-Mitchell did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names may remain unverified.
2.75 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents community organizations and institutions that arose in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion to address issues such as education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and police harassment. The first phase of the series involved interviews with key organizers of the Black Congress, an umbrella organization of Black activist groups whose purpose was to reconstruct the community.
Marsh-Mitchell’s family background—Parents’ education and occupations—Mixed racial composition of local neighborhood—Mother’s values—Central role of religion in Marsh-Mitchell’s upbringing.
Bible used as history lessons and as home schooling—Elementary and secondary education—Teachers who took an interest—Attending alternative school in downtown Los Angeles—Attending Los Angeles City College—Jobs as a young adult—Attending Centennial High School—Motherhood at twenty-one—Political awakening as result of participation in Headstart—Traveling to Sacramento as parent advocate—Jim Brown’s assistance—Assisting women in position at Employment Development Department (EDD)—Taking job at Brotherhood Crusade—Beginning to work for Danny Bakewell—Position as president of Headstart—Facilitating student graduation—Working various political campaigns—Beginnings of political consciousness and involvement as a “drug”—First contact with Black Panthers—Crusade joins campaign against apartheid—Boycotting South African consulate—Facilitating protocol for Nelson Mandela’s visit to Los Angeles—His demeanor—Marsh-Mitchell’s emotional reaction to the visit—Mother’s views on Martin Luther King, Jr.—Social activities during Marsh-Mitchell’s youth—Dancing at local clubs—Mother forbade her to cross Main Street for reasons of class—Participation in local political campaigns—WIN Program—Colorism at Centennial High School—Determination to obtain job at Crusade— Her impressions of Bakewell upon taking position at Crusade—Lesson taught through encounter with homeless man—Philosophy of Danny Bakewell—His dealings with investment bankers—Exposing community members to finer things of life—Beginnings of Crusade.
Early fundraising activities—Early locations—Soliciting donations in the community—Pioneering services to the homeless and other social service programs—Political campaigning part of working for Crusade—Anger at outcome of Jesse Jackson presidential run—How Jackson facilitated careers of many.
Colorism at Centennial High School—Presidential campaign of Reverend Jesse Jackson—Most significant role in the Brotherhood Crusade—Watts Rebellion of 1965—How Marsh-Mitchell became involved in Mothers in Action and Minority AIDS Project—The Brotherhood’s support of other minority organizations—Starting working at the Sentinel.
The differences between the ’92 rebellion and the ’65 rebellion—Brotherhood Crusade's response to '92 rebellion—Likelihood of another rebellion—A gang treaty—The local chapter of the Black Panthers—Media portrayal of the community.