For too long Black History Month has been the remembrance of hardship, economical failure, and stripping away of black men integrity and hope. It is a month that many has shunned, because, “we’re black everyday”, right? It is a month to celebrate how we’ve overcome on the backs of those who marched, protested, fought, and even died to see us be able to win awards, walk through the same doors of others, and so much more. Each generation should not have to start over and that’s why we are seeing excellent men rise up for the occasion to stop the perpetual cycle of defeat in black communities. Stopping it in its track is a win and a breath to a lung to ensure progression is always found in communities, families, and individuals.
You do not have to be a lawyer or politician to make this happen, as we see with Actor, Dancer, and Comedian, London Brown. Among being known as best actor for his role in Asia A at the Overcome Festival, being seen in the hit HBO series Ballers, Brown is recognized for his contributions and involvement with the development with inner city youth. He is the epitome of paying it forward and I had the privilege of hearing how he was able to shift his entire life and what he is doing to inspire the youth to do the same.
Check it out here.
I want to talk about inspiration. There’s a quote I believe that you live by which says do something every day that puts you closer to where you want to be, just how much do you live by that?
London Brown I definitely make it a practice to do something every day. I think people think they have to wait till they get a degree or get an agent. Do something every day because that draws things to you. I live in anticipation! I expect things to happen. Whatever I want I focus on that. And I really expect them to happen and usually, things start to happen. Not just career-wise but day to day. For example, I am not a gym rat but I work out every day because I anticipate that these roles I get wil require to be more fit. So I stay ready so I don’t have to be ready.
So would that be how you landed your role on HBO’s Ballers and other roles for that matter as well?
London Brown When I landed ballers I didn’t have representation; agent or manager. At the time I was just functioning and taking classes. I found free classes and continued to stay active. So yes, doing something every day to reach my goals is what landed these roles.
Was it surreal landing these major roles? I’m an actress so when I land a role I’m like wow that’s dope you know but a lot of people aren’t aware of the hard work and diligence it takes and the resiliency because there are so many no’s, so how did you feel after landing a gig?
London Brown It all works together. I wasn’t surprised at all. I anticipate things to happen; I’m not surprised. It’s happening because I set out to get it. I was more than ready. It’s like an athlete coming off the bench. He’s ready and scoring because he’s been conditioning himself. It happened the way it did so I can hopefully inspire others through that story because I didn’t go looking for this, HBO found me. All of my stuff was in my mother’s garage. I was living with her and teaching classes what not and staying with friends. But I was putting in work That’s the power of staying focused. Everything I set out to do came to pass.
I am going to adopt being in anticipation of seeing the manifestation of what I’m working on. I also think it’s quite important to see representation on screen and on stage and a lot of people say this but I don’t think they understand how imperative it is. What are your thoughts on seeing more black leading men playing other roles than the stereotypical roles that make us feel as if we’ve been pushed back years instead of progressing? And how do you think we can begin to see more of leading black men playing roles that shift your entire perspective of life and provoke thoughts?
London Brown I think it’s really important to see diversity on the screen, diversity of roles and community. One way that helps with that is to take the Issa Rae approach and create the content. Major shout out to that. And shout to Showrunner Prentice Penny who booked my first job. Shout out to 50! He’s not a screenwriter but at the end of the day he’s smart. He places people around him who can do things he can’t. We have to create solid content which is the Issa Rae approach, have people behind the camera who knows what they’re doing like Prentice Penny), and having people like 50 Cents who is hiring our own and putting them in positions who can manage all of this and execute it to bring dynamics to the filming.
One thing about representation that I believe it’s highly important, more important than seeing it on the screen, is seeing it within communities and I know you are working with inner-city youth, so just what are you doing with them that helps them see a different picture? And to help scope their view of changing the narrative of black history?
London Brown I go back to the schools I used to work with and go into the hood and let the youth know that you have some alternatives other than gangs, drugs and street life. I believe wholeheartedly in working with students 101 and exposing them to things outside of the hood. One of the ways that I am really trying to make an impact, and you’ll be the first to hear this, but what I’ve started is a scholarship fund. I’m doing this because I just wan to have a more hands-on way of being invested in the young people. I want them to know that I believe in what they’re doing so here’s so financial backing to show just how much I am believing in them. In the black community we push college, college, and college which is cool but also there’s a breakdown in this because sometimes, and I don’t mean to be abrasive about this, but sometimes there’s a breakdown because some don’t have the discipline to get a 4 year degree to get something unrelated to the job they enter in. Or get a degree in something that probably makes no sense and they can’t even use. This scholarship gives them some start-up money, because when I was younger no one told me that I could be a barber and pick up a trade, so this fund is to help them buy some $20 clippers maybe and go to school to get your hours at to start your journey with your trade. Growing up all you hear was, be a doctor, be a teacher, be a fireman, get a degree but never said anything about trades. The scholarship fund is a start up for their dreams and to let them know, you can do whatever you desire without college and I’m going to back it.
I really like that! Thank you for that initiative. are you open to connecting with other individuals to see this come forth even more?
London Brown I’m open, I’ve been open. My main thing is to ensure that people are really there for the kids and not camera ops.
That’s quite understandable and admirable. Now shifting gears a little, I’m not going to get in your business too much but I am curious about your view on healthy relationships among black men, in all aspects of relationships; brother, cousin, father, friend, lover. What are some practices you implement in your own relationships to see them flourish and to break the stereotypical narrative of a black man in a relationship? I ask because I think that plays a part in the representation that we see in communities and on screen.
London Brown I function from a place of healthy connections and we in general sometimes ignore the toxicity. And I try to be very present because when I start seeing that flag I might not cut you off immediately but I have to deal with you on a surface level until you get yourself worked out. Because we can never come to a place that healthy if you got some unresolved issues. So what happens sometimes, we’ll go through life trying to have these different relationships, platonic and so forth, and we’re dealing with people who have tons of red flags that we don’t realize because they bring forth the representative of themselves but it’s not until you touch on something that you were unaware of that initiates a fight. I am a guy who likes to study psychology in general human behavior, so I just have to fall back and let people get themselves together as opposed to trying to keep forcing a solid connection. So this is why I believe in having healthy connections; healthy connections stem from healthy individuals and that’s what I try to do. I try to connect with healthy individuals.
Actor London Brown is one of the many leading black men who are changing the narrative of how we view not just our black men but our communities as a whole by bringing light, healing, and hope. Be sure to stay connected with him on social media like Instagram @reallondonbrown to find out on new endeavors and more.
Written By: Ashley Shaunte
Rosella Joseph: Photographer
Ann Polycarpe: Stylist + CD
Christina Lubin: Grooming
Will Foster: Photo Assistant/Lighting