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D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is always keen to point out he is the child of activist parents. Phil and Jan Fenty arrived in D.C. as idealistic civil-rights crusaders.
But as far as D.C.–activist bona fides, his communications director, Carrie S. Brooks, might be able to one-up the boss.
Brooks grew up in the District as the daughter of legendary advocate for the homeless Carol Fennelly. She refers to Fennelly’s longtime companion, the late Mitch Snyder, as “my stepfather.” Her upbringing? “We’re talking superhippy stuff,” she says.
Snyder and Fennelly were the driving force behind the District’s battle to provide shelter for the homeless during the Reagan administration. He was a nationally known advocate who engaged in several hunger strikes to highlight the plight of the homeless. Actor Martin Sheen portrayed Snyder on screen.
The couple was arrested too many times to calculate. “I have arrest records in five states,” says Fennelly, who is pleased to see two children of activists in top city jobs. “We’ve known Adrian since he went to school with Sunshine.”
Oh yes, Fenty’s message chief is legally Carrie Sunshine Brooks. “It was 1969. I was a hippy, what can I say?” says Fennelly. “I guess people call her Carrie now. I gave her a real first name in the event that flower power did not survive the ’70s.”
Brooks wasn’t so keen on going into all the details of the Fennelly-Snyder household, but her mother says they provided her son and daughter with a unique view of American society. “My kids grew up with Martin Sheen running through the house stepping over a bunch of homeless people,” Fennelly says.
“Sunshine never wanted to be involved in political stuff. She actually was mortified that I was her mother.” Now Brooks is the one who will be the high-profile political figure. “When she took the job she said to me, ‘I’m really excited being able to make a difference in my city.’ Really, the apple hasn’t fallen that far from the tree.”