Hurricane Sandy devastated many New Yorkers, leaving them without electricity and running water, and even leaving some homeless. Activist Imani Brown is no stranger to that kind of tragedy.

“I’ve been in New York now for six years. I came here for college in 2006; I’m originally from New Orleans,” says Brown. She moved to Washington, D.C., for her senior year of high school, after Hurricane Katrina ripped through her native city.

After graduating high school, she attended Columbia University, where she studied anthropology and visual arts, and she now works at the Judd Foundation.

“I kind of have this background in arts and activism,” she says, adding that her focus in school was “studying the idea of art as a testimony for different experiences people go through in life.”

Brown explains that activism is in her blood. “Both my mother and my father are long-time activists,” she tells AmNews.

Her earliest memories of having an interest in political activism go back to her adolescent and teenage years in New Orleans–around the time of the first term of George W. Bush, the Sept.11 attacks and the war on terror that followed.

“My first real political likening was in 2000 during the first election, in the sixth grade,” Brown says. Over the years, she became more politically involved in her hometown, and not without a price. “I lost a lot of friends when I started becoming active,” she says.

Last year, Brown became active with the Occupy Wall Street movement, fighting against the 1 percent and injustices around the country and the world. Since Sandy struck, she has most recently been involved with the movement Occupy Sandy.

“I see Occupy Wall Street as having been training for Occupy Sandy,” she says. “We learned all of these skills from Occupy Wall Street.”

But she points out that Occupy Sandy bridges many gaps, because people of many different races and economic backgrounds were affected. “It’s a network rather than an organization, certainty equally balanced between people who are occupiers and people who were never involved.”

Brown adds that Occupy Sandy is a way to work on the concerns discussed in the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying it’s “an opportunity to actualize what we were talking about.”

The work that Brown does with Occupy Sandy is focused on connecting directly with the individuals affected by the disaster, by speaking to them and reaching out, as well as making sure they are fed nutritious meals and have shelter.

“We’re not going there to assert our assumptions on them. We go and we talk to them. We want to make it as personal as possible,” she said. She added that the main concern is to “restore human dignity.”

Brown has been doing extensive work in Far Rockaway in Queens, where even before the hurricane many people of color were struggling.

“Far Rockaway has long been neglected and forgotten about,” Brown says. “The communities were estranged from themselves. A lot of these communities were food deserts to begin with.”

And though the purpose of Occupy Sandy is to create relief, a network and a haven for those affected by the hurricane, the activist in Brown notes that those are just the first steps to making a change. “Any disaster is inherently political,” she says.

Many similarities between Brown’s native New Orleans and Far Rockaway can be drawn. Brown says that not enough of a fight was put up to prevent the destruction of the housing projects in New Orleans and the ultimate fate of lifetime residents who were never able to return home. She does not want to see the same happen in Far Rockaway and stresses that hard work is ahead.

“We definitely have a need for a constant influx of new volunteers. There’s going to have to be more organizing. We need more press,” she says. “I know that this is going to be a 10-year recovery thing.”

Brown says that community servants around the city have been extremely supportive and active, especially the NYPD and the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton Ave. in Brooklyn.

Ultimately, Brown hopes to make the Far Rockaway community and other affected areas even better than before the hurricane.

“There’s no public place in Far Rockaway. No place for the community to come together. I would love to bring some community space to Far Rockaway. I’d like to develop some sort of cultural center.”

And while Brown has seen disasters first-hand and fights against continued political injustice, she is beginning to see the possibilities of change.

“I’m a cynic who aspires to be an optimist,” she says. “The communities are finally coming together. That’s really powerful.”