Brenda has dedicated her career to understanding the history and structure of contemporary American society–and working to make it more just, equitable, and democratic. In over two decades spanning work as an organizer, strategist, and scholar of American culture and politics, she has fought for greater equality and power for groups usually denied it: women, people of color, and working people.
As the director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, Brenda leads a national project to change the demographics of political power. She has led the Campaign since its inception in 2014, building it into a nationally recognized catalyst for change. The Campaign’s research arm is a go-to resource for data and analysis on race, gender, and political power, and its organizing and grant-making arm develops and supports innovative work to tackle the barriers built into the political system that keep women and people of color from power. The Campaign’s work has been covered by the media from coast to coast and internationally.
Previously, Brenda worked as an organizer and strategist in the labor movement, leading organizing, electoral, and legislative campaigns. She held several key roles with UNITE HERE, the union of workers in the hospitality industry, including Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director. Brenda began her organizing work at Yale University, where she helped to lead an organizing drive among her fellow teaching and research assistants, and went on to lead other campaigns for a more equitable and inclusive vision of higher education. In an earlier role as an investigator at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, she was the lead investigator on a case that resulted in what was then the second-largest sexual harassment settlement in the history of the agency.
Brenda holds a Ph.D in American Studies from Yale University and a B.A. in English and Government from Georgetown University. She has taught at Yale, Brown University, and the Wesleyan University Center for Prison Education.
Brenda serves on the board of directors of FairVote and the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, and on the advisory boards of the Community Justice Exchange and the Harvard Institute to End Mass Incarceration.