Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. Today for the first time, I am happy to announce a new series called “Classy Connections”, where I will be interviewing some amazing entrepreneurs. Today for our first spotlight, meet Justin Brown. He is a successful diversity specialist, author, motivational speaker, and higher education professional. I attended one of his diversity trainings and it absolutely changed my life. Without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Jonathan: Tell us a little about yourself.
Justin: Well, my name is Justin L. Brown. I am a presenter and critically acclaimed speaker who has devoted my life to educating campuses, businesses, and society about cultural awareness. I help to build the respect of others, communication, authentic relationships, and how to have a closer connection to God. After being fed up with the world and its continuing decline of respect, morals, and values, I was determined to make a difference. My passion for working with students developed while pursuing a bachelor's degree in public relations from Slippery Rock University. During my undergraduate tenure, I was actively involved on campus, working and collaborating with various offices and departments on campus. I enjoyed spending time with family, traveling and collecting sports memorabilia. You can often find me playing games and activities with my friends or family or writing. Quick fun fact, in my lifetime, through various means, I have met over 300 celebrities.
Jonathan: How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Justin: It was during this time (undergrad) that I created the Diversity Awareness Program (D.A.P.), a program dedicated to raising awareness and educating college campuses about the importance of diversity and embracing all cultures and backgrounds. I then continued nurturing D.A.P. through my graduate studies at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, while working towards earning my master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education. D.A.P. has successfully grown in popularity, having visited over 400 colleges and universities, and over 20 chapters established within those institutions. Many of my mentors and friends suggested writing books and charging for trainings as a means of business and income. I quickly established D.A.P. as an LCC and the rest is history.
Jonathan: What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have diversity awareness?
Justin: I believe that people think that being vulnerable and having these inclusive conversations are going to be intense and are going to come from a shame-based paradigm. Traditionally and culturally, most people having conversations with different views are bound to collide and cause disagreements. But is there another way to accomplish this goal? I believe that people have had bad experiences with previous diversity trainings and bring that baggage and fear into this new training. Trust me, this is something they have never experienced.
Jonathan: Diversity can be a very touchy subject, but you do a great job of having the conversation without making the environment tense while you’re doing it. How did you develop your style of making diversity less uncomfortable to talk about, especially in large group settings?
Justin: I developed this style of facilitation with 11+ years of practice. This skill is very hard and takes many years of dedication and practice. I think the secret to the style is to allow people to be themselves, bring up tough subjects in a way that gives validation to both sides but also holds both sides accountable for growth and change. I also believe that having individuals energetically engaged and physically active during the training is also helpful. Who doesn’t want to be a part of the action and have their voice heard? The training is 90% me and 10% the participant. The learning is in your hands. Lastly, I believe the activities and modules used in the training session truly provide humor to the participants. Who doesn’t want a great laugh while you are learning?
Jonathan: How does your brand stand out compared to others in your industry?
Justin: I believe the brand stands out because there is no other training like it. I’ve conducted focus groups and surveys from over 3500+ individuals over the 11 years I’ve been doing training. Here are my results:
· 87.6% of participants’ survey said I feel more equipped to talk about diversity regarding gender, race, ethnicity, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, language, age, and social class towards an analysis of equity.
· 91.2% of participants’ survey said the session improved my understanding to develop a foundation of ethics, respect for diversity, and a more thorough awareness of topics related to diversity.
· 95% of participants’ survey said the session improved my understanding to develop a foundation of ethics, respect for diversity, and a more thorough awareness of topics related to diversity.
· 98% of participants’ survey said I was challenged by this program to explore challenges that surface amidst interactions between people of different backgrounds, world views, environmental opportunities, and how social contexts exacerbate or reduce those challenges.
· 97.5.2% of participants’ survey said I felt like I was in a safe place.
· 91% of participants’ survey said I feel that this program should be repeated on my campus.
· 97.5% of participants’ survey said they thoroughly enjoyed the program.
I just believe the experience alone is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The approach to the training is unique and gives the participants the autonomy to traject their own course of understanding development.
Jonathan: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Justin: In 5 years, I’d like to have my first D.A.P. conference. I’d like to invite all the schools that have established one at their respective schools and have them meet up to discuss ideas, positives, negatives, things that have worked and programs that were successful. I’d like to be doing D.A.P. full time. Lastly, it would be great if D.A.P. had some online coursework for individuals to complete and get certified in the training.
Jonathan: Who/What do you look to for inspiration?
Justin: I get inspiration from the lives that are changed because of my training and their personal interactions with other people. It sincerely energizes me and keeps me going. Without it, I’m not sure how long one could last in this type of work. Being able to ignite fires inside individuals and turning lightbulbs on is truly rewarding. Also, I know there are numerous amount of people who do this work and it is a blessing to do so. I believe being humble and not forgetting who you are at the end of the day is the greatest inspiration.
Jonathan: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those looking to breakthrough in your industry?
Justin: Never lose focus on the original reason you began the work. The work is challenging, time-consuming and emotionally draining at times. The work is never-ending and sometimes people just don’t get it. Most days, you may find yourself asking what’s the point of helping people who will never change their mindset. Some days, it’s not the training that is the most difficult, it is teaching people to care.The focus of doing this work is not to try and change an individual’s minds. The focus is to give people another perspective to consider when making decisions or passing judgment onto others. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for this, from the trainer to the trainee.
Jonathan: Outside of your work, what are your other hobbies/passions?
Justin: I currently also travel with a few other projects. I am a leadership trainer and an FYE specialist. Both of those jobs keep me busy. I also co-write children’s books with my wife. We currently have published 3 of these books. I enjoy writing and have written several books. They are available via Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Jonathan: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Justin: One of the children’s books that my wife and I have co-written has a diversity and kindness theme to teach children K-12 on how to be inclusive and tolerant of other’s differences.
Jonathan: How can the #Jontourage/followers stay in touch with you?
Justin: I am currently on Facebook, IG and LinkedIn.
Buy The Book Here: Click Here
Schools we have visited in 11 years: Click Here
YouTube: Click Here
Facebook: Click Here
Moral of the story: Some conversations are never easy to have but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Some of the greatest tragedies happened as a result of not having the difficult talks. Thank you, Justin, for being an inspiration to everyone you come in contact with.
Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! If you know of an amazing entrepreneur who you believe should be featured, please contact me here so that we can connect https://www.authorjon.com/work-with-jonathan.html. Until next time, stay classy...
For more Classy Gent Chronicles blog post, be sure to visit https://www.authorjon.com/blog
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.