Social Justice Game Changer: Brandy Hand

by Josh Cohen

Name: Brandy Hand

Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. New Orleans Pelicans (4/22/21)

The mission of Orlando Mayor’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, which Brandy Hand is the chairwoman of, is to strengthen our community by promoting Dr. King’s legacy of service, equality, justice, peace, respect and inclusion for all.

The Orlando Community Pledge and the Dream Community Dialogue Series, two of the MLK Commission’s most recent undertakings, are both making an enormous impact on the community and on our fight against social injustice and racial inequity.

In October 2020, the MLK Commission created the Orlando Community Pledge, which offers an opportunity for every individual and organization to stand with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the Commission and our city to denounce racism and discrimination. Standing (virtually) shoulder to shoulder united in our core beliefs is a powerful statement, an even more powerful effort will be answering the call to action. Sign the pledge here.

“The Commission wanted to speak up and to take action against social injustice,” Hand said. “To me, it is a statement that every person, every organization in our community should put their name to because it’s real simple…We at the Commission believe by everyone signing it, it makes a powerful statement for change, for our community, that we as a community stand together. We are inclusive. We want to show the world we are inclusive and we want to continue to do better at being an inclusive community.”

In January 2021, the MLK Commission announced the Dream Series. Facilitated by the Valencia Peace and Justice Institute, the Commission held six virtual workshops from January to April that focused on our shared humanity with an exploration of race, privilege, religion, gender, sexual orientation, bias, systems of privilege and oppression and practical application.

Participants talked face to face with people they didn’t know and had, as Hand describes it, “courageous conversations.” It is critical, she emphasizes, for us all to not be scared to express our concerns, our feelings, our frustrations, our opinions and our ideas, because that is how we will make significant change going forward.

“Only through talking to each other and learning from each other and truly listening to each other can we begin to make a change,” she said. “I believe that these conversations will lead to a change in behavior and ultimately they will lead to a change in your heart and they will be transformational for our community. I think the Dream Series is an incredible vehicle by which we can continue to have these conversations.”

Born in Alabama, raised in Fort Lauderdale and living in Orlando since she was a young adult, Hand has held leadership positions in her church (First United Methodist Church of Orlando), the Junior League, the United Way, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, NCCJ, and the Wesley Child Development Center.

She was elected twice to serve on the Board of the Association of Junior Leagues International as well as two terms on the Association’s Governance Committee, which she chaired. Brandy served as the Chair of the Re-entry Committee for Mayor Dyer’s SAFE Orlando Task force. The Committee advocated passionately, among other things, to ensure that ex-offenders were included in the City’s Blueprint for community venues. She has consulted with numerous non-profit organizations and conducted many leadership trainings.

Hand, who has worked on the Orlando Mayor’s MLK Commission for nearly 20 years now serving as the Committee Chair, Co-Chair, and Chair of the Commission, has earned many leadership awards throughout her career, including the Neighborhood Watch Leader of the Year, City of Orlando District 3 to the prestigious Drum Major Award for Community Service awarded by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. She also was recently nominated for the City of Orlando’s Civil Rights Walk of Fame Award.

It’s incredibly fulfilling for Hand when she sees individuals and entire families overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals. By spearheading the MLK Commission’s Youth Humanitarian Program, which recognizes and celebrates 24 outstanding community youth each year who exemplify the ideals embraced by Dr. King through their character and leadership, she is able to help youth realize their full potential.

“I think we are answering a call. I believe that we are called by God to love everyone and to help everyone as we can,” she said. “It’s humbling to see when things that groups have done have paid off and you see the people have changed their lives in areas where they thought they had weaknesses.”

Grateful to be recognized by the Orlando Magic, Hand believes it’s critical for professional sports teams and other high-profile organizations to use their platforms to promote social justice. Shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, she noticed the impact the Magic and the rest of the NBA had on their audience by speaking up, taking action and endorsing more community involvement.

“It is so powerful because it draws attention. Not only does it draw attention for people to see it or to hear it, it draws attention to say, ‘hey it’s important to them, maybe it should be important to me,’” she said. “Whether it’s the Magic, whether it’s Disney, whether it’s UCF, these initiatives are just the beginning because we have to raise awareness, we have to talk about it and then we move to a change of behavior and then we move to a change of heart.”

About the Program: As part of the Magic and Steve Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.

Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.

“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”

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