Embracing Inclusion: Dean of DEI Chris Brown’s Inspiring Message

Embracing Inclusion: Dean of DEI Chris Brown’s Inspiring Message
Kara McDuffee

In a compelling address to the Brewster community, Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chris Brown delivered a thought-provoking speech leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Brown’s words emphasized the significance of the day in honoring a man who dedicated his life to equality and justice.

In recognition of the historical struggles for racial equality, Brown began, "Believe it or not, but there was a time when, someone like me, a Black man, would have been dragged through the streets, blasted with fire hoses, or even lynched, just for the thought of speaking in a 'white space.'"

He continued by highlighting the enduring principles of Dr. King. "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s main message to the people was one of profound hope, equality, and justice,” Brown explained. “King believed in the transformative power of nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest to bring about social change." 

This set the tone for a call that urged Brewster's diverse community to embody these principles and embrace the challenges of fostering inclusion.

"We are a community that holds people from all walks of life, from non-binary humans to inner city Black and Brown folks, and everything in between," Brown said. He urged each student, regardless of their background, to play a role in upholding the school's values. "Challenge yourself to be more than just a number that fills a bed. Everyone in this room has the capacity to help foster and affect lasting positive change. Everyone in this room has the ability to make choices. Everyone in this room has the ability to transform a community for the better.”

To illustrate the power of these individual choices in community dynamics, Brown introduced the 20-60-20 concept, developed by leadership expert Dr. Rod Napier: 20% of members are proactive in creating a healthy community, 20% of members are apathetic, and 60% of members have potential. While Brown acknowledged that he still believes in the 20% “apathetic” group, he called on the 60% “potential group” as the most important. 

“We need you!” Brown encouraged the students. “You have the ability to transform the entire community, but it comes down to choice. How do you want to show up every day? What legacy do you want to leave behind for future Bobcats? The one thing we all have in common is the choice of how we show up for each other.”

Closing his address, Brown extended invitations for the students to engage in this work in the coming days. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, students had the opportunity to learn more from their peers during a special All-School in which several students took the podium and shared about their unique cultures, ethnicities, and home countries. Topics they covered included traditional dress, food, and traditions.

There were also additional opportunities for learning during evening “Equity Week” workshops, led by students and faculty on a range of topics.