Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a pastor father and a social worker mother, Brittany Packnett-Cunningham had social justice in her blood. She grew up attending rallies and serving her community alongside her parents which cemented her passion for community activism.
It was a foreshadowing to her own activism. In 2014, when police killed Michael Brown in the city of Ferguson, she rose to become a leader in the uprising that followed, and eventually co-founded Campaign Zero, which seeks to end police violence in the United States.
Packnett-Cunningham, who earned a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies from Washington University and a master’s degree in elementary education from American University, was later appointed to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the state’s Ferguson Commission.
She continued her activism on the airwaves as co-host of Pod Save the People from 2017 to 2020, where she tackled overlooked stories and topics that impact people of color. The NBC News and MSNBC contributor then launched Undistracted, her own weekly news and justice podcast.
After receiving the “Shine A Light” award from BET in 2018, Packnett-Cunningham is now vice president of social impact for the network, where she also hosts special programs, including a week-long series in May 2021 to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing.
Almost a decade after President Obama described Packnett-Cunningham as a leader “whose voice is going to be making a difference for years to come,” the woman who last year published “We are Like Those Who Dream,” a collection of speeches by famous Black women, continues to speak out against racism and injustices.
Recently, Packnett-Cunningham pulled Undistracted from Spotify to protest the streaming service’s support for Joe Rogan’s podcast despite what she described as Rogan’s “sexist, racist, transphobic behavior.”
“You don’t invest $100 million dollars if you don’t expect to make that money back. Spotify didn’t ignore the hate. They invested in it,” she wrote.