Detroit native Michelle Brown was recently welcomed onto the board of directors at Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, an LGBTQ+ community activist center and educational bridge. The New Jersey-based center, whose mission, in part, is to “inspire community” and “communicate acceptance,” is named after openly gay Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin.
Brown, host of the internet radio show “Collections by Michelle Brown — Blog Radio,” follows that mission while highlighting mostly BIPOC voices. On her weekly show, which airs every Thursday at 7 p.m., Brown recognizes and celebrates the lives of those standing “boldly in the crosshairs of their intersectionality and creating change as they move through life.” While spending some time with her cat Pancake and listening to Earth, Wind and Fire, Brown sat down with Pride Source to have a virtual chat about her new role.How does it feel to be a part of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice?
It feels like I found my forever home. The folks at Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and I have developed a relationship over the past couple of years. Particularly [Robt Seda Schreiber], who is their chief activist, but also a lot of the board members have become friends. [Robt] calls me and says, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ If we’re working on a project, we talk about it. As they faced COVID and were talking about pivoting, I was there. I was like, ‘You guys don’t know it, but I think I’ve been on the board for a while.’ Actually, there are a lot of things [Robt] doesn’t think about doing unless he talks to me. But, also, the people who are on the board are phenomenal, and to be in that company is great. It’s sort of like being that one kid that was always coming over, like the adopted sister, and now Michelle’s a part of the family. Well, I was always part of the family.What do you hope to bring as part of their board of directors?
I hope to bring more of what I’ve been bringing. I help them do a couple of programs that really focus on queer BIPOC voices, and to really lift that up more. I work with a lot of people who are from all over the country, so it has been really exciting to sort of like bring those people to Bayard. I do what I do once a week, and they do “Social Justice Power Hour!” every night. [Sometimes] I’m able to bring some people who maybe they haven’t heard of. I had a fellow who was originally from Nigeria, who was a poet and entrepreneur, and I brought him [on the show]. I think that I bring different voices because of what I do. We’re able to share things. If I hear of an author who’s incredibly amazing, then I’ll tell them and they’ll put them on their [Power Hour].
I [also hope to]... highlight people who are change agents. I think [board members] give people an idea of what Rustin Center is about while also talking about people who are living that work. As a young Black queer girl, I never heard about us. We can be community activists or social justice activists, but that queer part was always in the closet. And, Bayard Rustin faced that. I mean, he was part of the March on Washington, but he had to take a back seat because of who he was. You really have to bring your full self to it. By bringing your full self to it, we are those angelic troublemakers that Bayard talked about. He talked about how that’s our role. To come in there and fight for social justice.What does this new role entail?
In part, it involves talking about the center, promoting the center, supporting some of the work they did. We have done things remotely last year, the year before, to help build BIPOC programs. We’ve done virtual Pride when there weren’t things. We’ve done virtual New Year’s Eve. We have brought in voices from all over. We let people know that these programs are available.You are well known for your internet radio show “Collections,” do you see this new role aiding in that? How so?
Often, I’ll talk to people and let the Rustin Center know ‘This is someone you should [put on Power Hour].’ I [introduced them to] Nina Kennedy, who is a concert pianist [and] has written a couple of books. To have Nina come on the show and start off playing Rachmaninoff and then go into a Hip Hop melody was like wow. I see us [Black queer people] and put them out there. I think that that’s important.
I think with Rustin being on the East Coast, they can get in that little box of being on the East Coast. The East Coast is awesome. But, there are amazing LGBTQ people who are doing phenomenal things across, with who we can build collaborations with.What do you have planned for 2022 in regard to “Collections?”
There are some people I’m going to go back and revisit because I know they’ve been doing something. I’m going to be cross-pollinating with Rustin’s Power Hour. I’m going to reach out to people who have been past guests on [Power Hour], who I wasn’t ready to do, who I hope to do now. I’m thinking of doing a [woman] panel, where we would talk about something. We could talk about hair, holistic living or how this pandemic has been a time to reset. I find that a lot of people who have been going full speed ahead had to come home to change their mindset…[Also,] I hope to talk about people who’re saying, ‘I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m doing it.’