The Fort Worth City Council now has as an idea of how the director of the new Diversity and Inclusion Department will move forward in her new role.
Christina Brooks was hired as the result of a task force that looked at the issues of race and culture in several areas including but not limited to economic development to health care to law enforcement.
In her first appearance at City Hall recently, Brooks told council about the diversity training she wants for city staff. The legal department went through a pilot session.
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"It was very well received," she told council. "They walked away learning something not only about themselves but how we can engage with each other in a more inclusive and equitable way and with some practical information."
Brooks was hired back in November from Indiana where she served as the first diversity and inclusion officer and LGBTQ liaison for the city of South Bend.
The job in Fort Worth was a chance to bring her family to her home state of Texas.
In her first TV interview, Brooks talked to NBC 5 about growing up in San Antonio as the youngest of eight children where family conversations about diversity and inclusion sowed the seeds of her interest in social justice.
"My mother and father have different ethnically diverse backgrounds. My father is biracial. They both grew up in the Deep South and so, their experiences really shaped our opinion of how we need to engage in the world and how important it is for us, when we have an opportunity, to speak up for those who may not have an opportunity to do it," she said.
"Being raised in the Catholic faith, social justice was a huge part of my faith formation. So all of those things, my grandfather being Cuban did not learn how to read until I taught him as a second grader. He stopped with a 2nd grade education but was full of wisdom. So those conversations with my granddad and him talking about growing up in the Deep South, all of that played a part in where I am today."
Today, Brooks is a mother of five with the youngest two still living at home. The girls are in the 3rd and 10th grades.
"They are absolutely loving being in this area; just being around family again is really important, " she said. "The years we were in Indiana, they didn't have cousins around them. So this is a great experience for them. And of course, they love the weather."
It's been years since Brooks herself left the agreeable weather of the Lone Star State. College and career took her to Indiana, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.
Indiana is also where Brooks met the man who would become her husband, Reggie Brooks. He, too, is ready to embrace their new life.
"I met my husband at Notre Dame, and I was actually his tutor which is how we met," she said with a smile, "and, he played professionally for a while with the Washington Redskins and was literally one pick away from being a Dallas Cowboy. The Redskins picked him right before the Cowboys' pick. So, he became a Redskin instead of a Cowboy but he is a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan."
While Brooks shares the joys of her life, she is also candid about the sorrows.
One of her sons was sentenced to prison back in Indiana in 2018 for his role in a double shooting. The experience has added to her commitment to social justice and deepened her desire to include, "those voices that typically don't get shown on the news or don't show up at council but have an important part to play in the progress of Fort Worth are involved in the conversation."
Brooks saw opportunity in Fort Worth and is ready to guide change.
"This has been an amazing experience, so far. One of the things that really stood out to me and was part of the decision to come here was the passion of the people who live here for these initiatives, the programming, really at the heart of the shared vision everyone has is to make Fort Worth a more inclusive city," she said. "And I don't think anyone has any blinders on about how difficult the responsibility of that it is, but everybody that I've met with seems to be on board with working together to make that happen."
Brooks says part of that difficulty will come in tough conversations about diversity and inclusion. Not everyone has the same idea of what they mean, so education and learning will need to take place.
"There's a lot of things, tough conversations that need to take place, where people may learn things they never knew. and, have to grapple with why that's important now about what's taken place in a historical sense but bringing it forward and understanding how that's played," she said. "And when you're thinking about the things that have happened in Fort Worth, particularly when you're talking about law enforcement and community relationships, this is not an easy or neat or clean conversation. It's gonna get messy. It's gonna be maybe unwieldy at times, but I promise if we stay the course and continue to work through it, just like with any family, I think we'll come out on top."
Brooks is well aware the conversations and actions that initiate from her department will shape the nation's 13th largest city. She pledges to make sure the community is involved in discussions and is clear on data that supports a specific direction or decision.
Her first and perhaps most important task, she says, will be to listen.
"My heart is in this. That, this isn't a stepping stone for me," she said. "When I take on a responsibility or task, I try to understand the full weight of it and how it impacts everybody in the community that is kind of depending on seeing some type of change. And so, that's at the heart of what I'm doing."