Brendan O'Connor is originally from a small town in Virginia, where he grew up as one of five kids in the blue mountains of the Shenandoah Valley. He has a deep-running love for American and Irish folk music, solidarity politics, breakfasts of all kinds, and culture (including his ongoing effort to learn about all things Irish). As he lived in Nashville, TN and built relationships with other Southerners, he increasingly felt a sense of place and purpose in the South--in part by spending time at historic places of Southern movement work, like the Highlander Research and Education Center, in part from learning that the history of his home state of Virginia is largely Southern history. In recent years he has made a home in Selma, AL, where he believes there are good folks and there's good work to be done.
He has worked in various jobs over the years, from a locally-owned paint store to national non-profits, federal government, social science research, restaurants and community organizing. He has had the opportunity to be trained in nonviolent direct action via the James Lawson Institute and Kingian Nonviolence trainings, community organizing through the Gamaliel Network and other groups, and as a racial equity facilitator via Everyday Democracy and Dismantling Racism Works. Some of his deepest interests are around food, dialogue, race, and civil society, with the goal of building action-oriented solidarity across diverse groups, while still dealing with our country's oppressive past and present (and avoiding pretending like we're all the same in all ways, feeling that kind of surface-level diversity is not what we need at this point in history); his hope is that these efforts contribute in some way to turning back racial and other inequities in U.S. society, from health and education to mass incarceration, wealth/income inequality, etc.
He has been looking at ways new, pluralistic institutions--such as hybrid community centers/restaurants--might support this work, so he has been developing related skills in restaurant work, urban farming, and cooperative economics.