The Sani Sisters Present: Maisie Brown
By Praveena Somasundaram
Incoming North Carolina A&T student Maisie Brown’s journey as an activist started in an algebra class in middle school. The class had been given an assignment to create a new state flag using different equations. When Brown researched the Mississippi state flag, she learned of its history and the Confederate emblem on it. Since then, she’s played a crucial role in social justice movements, state and country-wide, including the removal of the Mississippi state flag last month.
Brown spoke with Sani’s co-founders, Niki and Ritika Shamdasani, in a “Sani Sisters Present” Instagram Live session about activism, Black history education, and future steps to create social change.
When she was 14, Brown wrote a piece for the Jackson Free Press about the Mississippi state flag titled, “The ‘Cloth on the Stick’ Represents Hatred Toward Me.” She is featured in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” gallery.
“That was a boom moment,” Brown said. “I was like ‘Me? Me? I get to say something?’”
Brown said her history classes in school did not go as in depth into Black history as they could have.
“A lot of what I learned, I had to learn on my own, as far as going beyond the textbook and really basic stuff,” she said.
In recent months, Brown has been active in Mississippi’s protests against police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
“It’s no longer a difference of opinion, it’s just like are you going to be on the right side or the wrong side?”
Brown also spoke about the commonly known portrait of Mississippi, though as a state, it has the highest percentage of Black residents in the U.S.
“We have to stop acting like the South is a monolith of just country white people or just rural white people,” Brown said. “That’s not the South. That’s not Mississippi. We’re the Blackest state in the nation.”
She encouraged non-Black allies to stay involved in the current social justice movement, particularly within their communities.
“Really an ally’s biggest thing is going to be of course providing support and a foundation for the people or the group that’s protesting, but also just ensuring education of their own groups,” Brown said. “It’s working to support us, but most of the work happens within your own community.”
Brown will begin college at NC A&T this fall as a history major. She will continue her activism work and remains hopeful seeing the work of other young activists alongside her.
“It gives me a sense of security because I know I’m not doing this by myself,” Brown said. “Because there are plenty of young people across the country who want the exact same thing that I want. Some of them look like me and some of them don’t.”