Viviette V. Brooks, a housekeeper and entrepreneur, died on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. She was 100.
In 2012, at the age of 93, Brooks was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that successfully challenged a voter photo identification law enacted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which led the lawsuit, estimated that the new law could have disenfranchised over 100,000 duly registered voters, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and women.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an emergency ruling blocking the new requirements in time for Brooks and thousands of other people to exercise their right to vote in the November 2012 election.
Brooks was “bright, serious and feisty,” ACLU legal director Witold “Vic” Walczak said in a tribute. “Pennsylvanians owe her a debt of gratitude for waging a courageous fight to defend our precious right to vote.
The case “helped wake people to the reality that not every voter has or can get a government-issued photo ID,” he said.
“Viviette’s lawsuit helped to expose the lie [that voter ID laws] are needed to combat rampant voter fraud,” Walczak said. “Through discovery in the lawsuit, we learned that Pennsylvania officials could not identify a single instance of in-person voter fraud.”
Brooks was born on May 19, 1919, to the late Bessie Davenport Brooks and Rueben C. Brooks in the Bluebell Hill section of Germantown. She also grew up in Gloucester, Virginia.
She married John W. Young III and from that union came a daughter. After that marriage ended in divorce, she spent most of the rest of her life with Tony Miles, living in Philadelphia and Chicago. She also spent a period of time with Tony Applewhite in Hampton, Virginia, and Mississippi.
For a short period in Chicago, she worked in the Pershing Hotel as a housekeeper. While in Philadelphia, she worked at the shipyard and later at the Marriott Hotel.
During her lifetime she learned several crafts that she turned into not only hobbies but also entrepreneur undertakings, one of which was making dolls and selling them or giving them as gifts.
During her middle years, she was a welcome resource to her family. She provided an alternative to day camps for her grandchildren, who instead spent summers with her in Virginia.
She was preceded in death by: her siblings, Harvey, William, Felix and Aray Brooks; great-grandchildren, Karl and Deana; and companions, Tony Miles and Tony Applewhite.
She is survived by: her siblings, Dorothy Brooks Adams and Amos Brooks; daughter, Viviette Marlene Young; grandchildren, Joette, Debra, Michele, Neal and Devon; great-grandchildren, Shamon, Karlynne, Khali, Rick, Michael, Joshua, Tamara, Donte, Cirrus, LaMaya, Mathew, Yusef, Lamar and others; and other family members.
A memorial service will be held on Jan. 17 at First Presbyterian Church of Germantown.