Brandi Jones is the Organizing Director for Secure Families Initiative. She’s the wife of a United States Marine for nearly two decades, and has been volunteering in the community for over the last 17 years. Her work brings military spouses, military family members, veterans, and non-military supporters to SFI in support of advocating on behalf of those who serve. This is part of a series of interviews in which you can get to know the grants given under the 2022 Equity Rises Request for Proposals and the people behind all the work.
Question 1: Tell us about your work! What kind of goals do you have? What are you excited about?
As Organizing Director at Secure Families Initiative, a role I couldn’t be more excited about, I bring military spouses, military family members, veterans, and non-military supporters to SFI in support of advocating on behalf of those who serve! I’m the wife of a United States Marine for nearly two decades, and have been volunteering in the community for over the last 17 years. I’ve been recognized as AFI Naval Postgraduate School Monterey Military Spouse of the Year, A Hero at Home, as well as a recipient of the Opening Doors Award from the Girl Scouts. The business I created in 2010 in support of military families was recognized by then Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.
I volunteered my time to create time-tested programs that served thousands of military families that are still in place almost a decade later to foster inclusion and diversity in schools. I’ve worked as a Transitional Kindergarten teacher, community organizer, advocate, publisher, and writer. I hold a Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, as well as a certificate from Cornell University in Diversity and Inclusion. Advocacy within the peace and security space is an issue that is important to me as a family member of those who have served in the military. I have witnessed first-hand the effects the cost of war has on service members and their families.
Question 2: Secure Families Initiative often highlights stories from the military community that are centered around voting, organizing, and politicking. Why is sharing these stories so important?
Sharing the stories of those who serve is a vital part of SFI’s mission! Elevating military spouses and family members as uniquely qualified advocates and organizers on matters of foreign policy is very important to SFI. As we expand our organization’s base of military family advocates, we want to make sure that our membership accurately represents the broad racial and ethnic diversity of the military-wide community. I spearhead outreach and engagement efforts, with a specific eye toward elevating BIPOC voices. My new community-based program aims to diversify our movements.
The cornerstone activity of this program is a 4-part Roundtable Series where different BIPOC communities each convene as a group, share their lived experiences with each other, and take collective action in support of demilitarism and nonproliferation. Each roundtable will feature speakers with expertise in nuclear nonproliferation, demilitarism, historical story-telling, and/or community organizing. Importantly, these events are “closed door” conversations entirely facilitated by members of the featured group.
For 2-3 weeks preceding each event, SFF produces a series of social media content geared to educating the broader public on the intersectionality between anti-racism and demilitarism.
Question 3: Who or what motivates you?
My grandfather, Corporal Fred B. McGee, Sr. legacy is what motivates me. He was a comic book superhero, a highly-decorated Korean War combat veteran, and an amazing person! Born on Memorial Day, he was always proud of serving his country, loved his family, and never met a stranger. All my life my Pap will forever be my hero. Throughout his life, my grandfather continued to help others in a variety of ways, including speaking on the cost of war through his experience. Always humble, it wasn’t until later in life that McGee even shared his impressive military story with others. He finally told his story as a way to teach others about the value of service, and the history of Black service members. It is my honor to keep his memory alive.
Question 4: How do you measure progress?
As we expand our organization’s base of military family advocates, we want to ensure that our membership accurately represents the broad racial and ethnic diversity of the military-wide community, and that we make a strategic connection to demilitarization and racial justice. Seeing this growth within our organization has been amazing steps towards progress!
Question 5: What’s the one thing about the military community or defense industry that you wish people knew or would talk about more often?
I wish the military community talked more about the cost of war for those who serve and their families. The isolation & uncertainty our military families experience at times. Also, the importance of having a sense of community while serving.
Question 6: How can someone best support your work?
The best way people can support my work is by attending a Secure Families Initiative Roundtable event! In the new year we will be opening our virtual event to all who would like to discuss issues, share their lived experiences with each other, and take collective action in support of demilitarism and nonproliferation.
Question 7: What is the best book you’ve read recently?
The best book I’ve read recently is “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story Of America’s Great Migration” by author Isabel Wilkerson. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about the history of the United States. This book highlights the story of Black Americans who fled the South to other areas within our nation. My own great grandfather Spanish McGee was one of these Americans. Though Spanish could hardly read or write —he had escaped indentured servitude in Alabama during the Great Migration—& developed and patented the design for the tire chain on July 29th 1924. This book has inspired me to continue the important work of sharing stories, like my grandfathers, as a way to educate & advocate for others.