Braxton Winston: Charlotte protestor turned politician

Charlotte city councilman spoke to East Meck students about progressive changes in Charlotte’s government.

Story by Ashleigh Fields, Online Editor In Chief

In the wake of the Keith Lamont Scott shooting, a leader emerged with a clear and decisive message, one voice can matter.


*Braxton Winston was the voice that made an instant impact on the Charlotte community throughout the protests in 2016. He is mainly recognized for a picture that was shown on CNN, MSNBC, and other media outlets with his fists raised in the air, shirtless in front of Charlotte police officers.


In the 2016 protests Winston was there with protestors who he says asked questions but were simply ignored.


“We were asking for the mayor, we were asking for the chief of police, but instead we got tear gas,” says Winston.


The most important thing to Winston then and now are inclusive conversations that spark change. After marching in the protests, Winston decided that change could start with him.


“If not me, then who?” Winston said.


That year he emerged as a prominent figure and initiated his first political campaign to join the city council.


On November 7, 2017 Winston won the city-council election with the second-highest number of votes for an at-large City Council seat.


It was clear that his involvement in the protests helped propel him into office but he explicitly states that while there he expects no special treatment.


“Hold my feet to the fire” says Winston.


He understands that marching is simply not enough and that more must be done to inspire change.


“We are a culture of laws and policy so while it’s good to write articles and make videos and organize congregations, really to affect widespread change, I believe that we have to change policy and laws,” Winston said. “I am looking to push new ideas and new leaders forward because, in September 2016, I think most of us agree that we experienced a lack of leadership from our government elected and appointed officials.”


As a leader Winston has decided to push for three main things in the city of Charlotte, equity, accessibility, and interconnection. His biggest focus is affordable housing. Homes are an extremely important topic for Winston who was born in North Carolina and raised in Brooklyn, New York.

“I grew up ducking shots, waking up with bullet holes in the car windows,” Winston said. “Police didn’t come until the shooting had stopped. You had to learn how to survive on your own… They only came to clean up the mess.”


He states that it is because of his diverse background that he is able to connect and interact well with others. He says this is a term many members of the community in Charlotte are lacking.


“We are a very segregated city; we are one of the most segregated cities in the country,” Winston said. “We got this way, I think, because of the fear of the other.”


The city councilman has created a clear goal of connecting the city and removing the underlying fear of others and creating safer neighborhoods.


“People should be able to go home to a safe and secure [house],” Winston said. “Too many people in Charlotte are not able to do that.”


As of now, Winston along with the other members of city council have set a goal of creating 50,000 housing units that are affordable. Before Winston joined the council the goal was 5,000 housing units to which Winston says, “… is just not good enough.”


“We grow by 44 people every day in this city,” Winston said. “So, when you get those 5,000 units up in 5 years, you’re going to need 50,000 and we’ll just keep growing. So, we have to think big, we can’t think small like that number.”


The council has also chosen to not only make housing changes but changes in wages as well. Currently the city has a set minimum wage of $15 for its workers. Winston stated that in the future he hopes to see this number rise as well.


“It’s hard for the city of Charlotte to talk about itself in a negative light” Winston said.


Winston believes that for change to occur in the future we have to be dedicated to having tough conversations and that’s something he plans to continue in aiding.


“I’m committed to Charlotte. I have three kids. I can’t leave this city the way that I found it,” Winston said.