Meet Travis Brooks
Twenty-two years ago as the new Youth Program Coordinator at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), Travis says his life found new meaning, responsibility, and awareness. He felt blessed to be in a position to serve and give back to the community. His goal was to create a space for individuals to have second, third, fourth and so on chances to become who they were meant to be. More importantly, Travis felt that he could now be at the table, build the table, and bring people to the table to better the lives of the entire Greater Ithaca Community.
With more than 30 years of living in this community, and 22 of those years devoted to serving the District 1 community, Travis looks forward to tackling the challenges the district faces regarding affordable housing, living wage, access to community programs to support strong families, accessible & affordable child care, and opportunities for solid employment & growth.
He has gained valuable experience in bringing diverse stakeholders to collaborate to solve the problems in his work as Deputy Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Director of My Brother’s Keeper, and as member of Ithaca’s Municipal Drug Policy Committee. He played a key role in securing a grant that will enable Ithaca to employ progressive solutions to the problems of crime and addiction. “I pledge to focus my efforts on economic recovery (helping small businesses to rebuild), improving the quality of life for marginalized West Hill residents, building coalitions dedicated to social justice, and improving the lives of all our citizens but particularly those that have been underrepresented.”
Brooks lives on 5th St and raised his five children right here in Ithaca. “As a father, I raised six kids into adulthood. I have been a single dad, a married dad, and a single divorced dad. I have begged, borrowed, and have utilized system support to help get to the next day. I lived in public housing before eventually becoming a homeowner. I bought my home across the street from my old home in the housing projects so my community could see there is hope after all.
In the Room with Travis Brooks & George Ferrari.
Get a more intimate perspective of Travis’ background and political view.
“The voices of the community I serve need to be heard because I’ve lived their experiences. Their stories are my stories, my voice is their voice, and their struggle is my purpose.”
Travis was born into a situation of chaos and struggle — from abuse and neglect to adoption into generational trauma.
“At 9, I saw the image of my funeral…there were thousands of people there. I knew I wasn’t a famous athlete or something. But all those people were there. And I knew that I was someone special, that I had impacted my community. At that moment I knew that it wasn’t me who was wrong, it was the people around me, the bad stuff I was living in…it wasn’t on me.”
Growing up in the Binghamton area, his mom worked at Binghamton University and his dad at IBM. His dad could be night and day, struggling with sobriety after work into the late hours of the night. Nevertheless, the lessons he learned in the midst of it all stuck with him.
“My dad taught me that my history didn’t start with slavery. We started as kings and queens in our lands. Systemic this or that didn’t matter, what mattered is what you’re going to do with it. Will it be your excuse or your motivation?”
For Travis, complicated origins became the motivation. He took all those odds stacked against him — abandoned, abused, alone without a sense of belonging, being a black man in a predominantly white and racist school — and used it all to climb out, knowing there had to be a family and a path for himself somewhere.
“The first summer I worked at Sky Lake camp, I knew I wanted to work with underprivileged kids. I was really moved by Jackson, he was the coolest man. It was his mission to get as many kids to that camp as he could. I wanted to help, I wanted that to be me. The kids he brought called him uncle and grandfather. The significance of his impact came in those titles of respect. Coming from a place of not knowing my family, my roots, I wanted to create a family through helping people. I wanted to earn that respect.”
Travis left home at 19 and headed down the wrong path, but it was family that re-centered him.
“I became a dad; when I realized what I had done to my community, it was when I started working at GIAC.”
He took a job at George Jr. For five years, he was a direct service worker for troubled young men. He then transitioned to working at GIAC as a Youth Program Coordinator
“When my oldest daughter was small, I was a single dad. GIAC became to her what camp had been to me; a family, elders and aunties that kept her safe.
GIAC was my life. Its mission became my obligation. It was my chance to undo the damage I had done in my community.
Over the next 22 years my family grew and evolved. I was fortunate to raise 5 beautiful kids. I was a single dad, a husband of 18 yrs and now a single divorced dad.
Over all those seasons of my journey I prepared myself, I did the work mentally and emotionally to become a good father, a family man, a leader and mentor.”
Travis is always asking: what’s next? What challenges will we face? He began his “what’s next?” approach with various initiatives and programs at GIAC. Emerging needs were constant. With multiple organizations fighting for the same pot of money to serve kids and their families, it became collaboration not competition. Who can deal with the most immediate needs? How can we look ahead to what’s next? As always with Travis, he looked inside, evolved, shifted, and grew to meet the challenges.
“As I grew into my role in the community I began to step more into who I was meant to be. The work was done surrounded by my GIAC family. That was my therapy. The people who grounded me were within those walls and within my community. I won’t ever lose sight of why I do the work and who I truly serve; and that’s not meant to bolster what I’ve done, it’s a fundamental part of me.”
Your vote doesn’t put Travis Brooks on the County Legislature, it puts everyone he has worked with and for on the legislature. Being a legislator isn’t just votes and meetings.
“I’m not here for the meetings, I’m here for the people, the conversations, the results. I’m here to listen.”