Posted July 2, 2020

The national conversation on race is an opportunity to push for greater inclusion

David Brown, diversity advisor to the office of the dean at Klein College of Media and Communication, discusses the George Floyd protests and his work advocating for equity and diversity.

A portrait of David Brown
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
David Brown, diversity advisor to the office of the dean at Klein College of Media and Communication, speaking at a campus event in 2017.

For David Brown, the protests following George Floyd’s death have underlined the importance of inclusion. 

A public relations veteran, ordained minister and assistant professor of instruction at Klein College of Media and Communication, Brown is also diversity advisor to the office of the dean, a role he helped create.

”I think that for the first time in a long time, people are really listening and hopefully acting on what they hear,” Brown said, “And those of us who have dedicated our lives to this work, in terms of building more racial equity and justice, have to also take advantage of [this] moment.”

Temple Now: How does your work relate to protests against racial and social injustice that are going on now?

David Brown: Before all this happened, we had been investing in trying to develop a better diversity, equity and inclusion, not only policy, but implementation of that policy throughout Klein College. So that looks at our faculty, in terms of [their] composition and which faculty members who identify as diverse are tenured, and which are tenure-track and non-tenured. 

We also want to look at our curriculum as to how we are teaching our students to be more proficient in diversity, equity and inclusive matters. Because we are in a communications discipline, it becomes very, very important for us to make sure that when you graduate from Temple, you are proficient in those matters. I think that this particular moment in time has helped to heighten the awareness about it, but it’s been something that we’ve been working on for some time. 

“Definitely look at this as not just a moment in time, but a movement over time.”
-- David Brown, diversity advisor to the office of the dean, Klein College of Media and Communication

TN: What are some of the best practices you and your colleagues have been exploring? 

DB: This is the first time in [Klein’s] history that it has had a diversity advisor to the office of the dean. One of the things that had become very clear across the board is that having someone who is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion and has a direct line of reporting to the top person within that department is critically important. The other thing that I’m learning is that I’m thinking of it as a position, as opposed to me in the position. Because the work is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a long time to make some of these things happen. My hope is to build a good foundation on which someone else can continue to build. 

TN: As someone dedicated to mission-focused work, what do you feel called to do right now?

DB: Because I happen to be a person of a certain age, I’ve seen some of these movements stop and start. One thing I feel called to do is use this particular moment to keep nudging the boulder forward. I think we’ve got some momentum that’s definitely built up. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the confluence of different events that have occurred. You’ve got the isolation of the pandemic and a time when we were all home to watch the tragic murder of George Floyd in almost real time. That set off so many different things as it relates to people who have been unemployed or underemployed and frustrated. At the same time we have a presidential election. I feel very called in taking advantage, if I can use that word, of all of those different things to really not just push the ball forward but force it through and at an accelerated pace. 

TN: What advice would you give people who want to get involved in their communities?   

DB: Definitely look at this as not just a moment in time, but a movement over time. I think it’s very important. And in order to be effective you have to be informed. Your level of interest should also match your level of investment and education. So, get educated, bring yourself up to speed. I always tell people to educate first, then have conversations. Because it’s really not the responsibility of folks who identify as diverse to smarten you up. That’s your responsibility. After those two things, take the first step to getting involved. If that means protesting. If that means volunteering for a nonprofit. If that means continuing the discussion. If it’s taken somebody who’s been on the planet 50 years already to now realize, “I’m not sure. This is all new to me,” that’s okay. There’s no wrong time to get started. The only wrong time is not to get started at all. 

—Edirin Oputu