CAMDEN, NJ — You’ve seen Sean Brown if you’ve spent any significant amount of time in Camden.
Whether that’s been while the local activist and political strategist was attending a city council meeting, putting in hours as the head of the Young Urban Leaders, or addressing the school board — which he once held a seat on.
On a recent Sunday morning, Brown wasn’t doing any of that though.
He, instead, was checking sound levels and adjusting lighting.
As the eighth episode of “The Urban Disruptor” got underway, you could tell that — although it’s his first live show — Brown is more than comfortable at the mic.
“It’s my moniker,” Brown, 37, said, after taping concluded, explaining the title. “I want there to be a disruption of the inadequate policies that we have in our community, whether it's related to jobs, economic development, housing, drugs, education, health...and be able to have a conversation about them.”
Brown said anyone passionate about Camden can prove it by spiffing up and heading to the WCMD’s studios based out of the Jerrothia Riggs Center at 9 a.m. on a Sunday.
As a father of 2, he said he understands the sacrifice but has had no shortage of guests since he launched on Jan. 5.
Advocate Patrick Duff came on to discuss the plight of designating a Camden home, with links to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a historical site. Council members Sheila Davis, Shaneka Boucher, and Felisha Reyes Morton traded thoughts with Brown on the struggling Crestbury Apartments and other matters. Two falsely-convicted men — Kevin Baker and Sean Washington — talked about returning to society after 25 years in jail.
Everything from parenting, to the coronavirus, to Iran, to the school budget crisis have been sent out to listeners from the Parkside studio airwaves.
As far as future guests, “I want to get whoever is influential,” he said.
“That includes the mayor, our assembly leaders, our state senator, but also people like Brandon McKoy from the New Jersey Policy Perspective, he’s a rock star,” Brown said. “But also small business owners, [as well as] journalists and young people from Camden to talk about their perspectives as far as what's going on in the city.”
Brown also hopes to get his boys, who are six and eight, on at some point.
On today’s show, he was joined by recently-elected school board member Falio Leyba-Martinez.
“We share one or two of the same friends...and some of the same enemies,” Brown quipped as the chat got underway.
The pair discussed issues city leagues have had with ATV’s riding over turf, working with a school board member who ran on an opposing campaign, and bilingual services for Hispanic students.
At one point, the conversation diverged into what it means to be on an advisory board versus a board with full voting powers.
Brown then asked Leyba-Martinez whether he ever feels conflicted being in favor of school choice (meaning parents can choose between a charter, renaissance or district school) and also being an advocate for the district.
“No, the way I see it...if we offer what the parent is looking for...then we shouldn't have a problem,” Leyba-Martinez retorted. “Because competition is good, because competition raises the bar.”
Behind the scenes
Brown said he first devised the show during a sit down with the studio’s founder, Anthony Ways.
Forever a news junkie, he follows coverage in Camden throughout the week both on the ground and with alerts set up on his phone — mining for material for his wrap-up.
Every episode of “The Urban Disruptor” starts off the same: 15 or so minutes of Brown recapping relevant city happenings.
A simple set-up, he has a list of notes as well as the live Facebook page where he gleans viewer feedback.
Brown also said he plans to work with the WCMD family to get the show to reach as many viewers as it can, including the possibility of adding new media elements and expanding to YouTube.
WCMD is also the home base of other local programming: “Purpose to Wellness,” “Kingz & Dreamz,” “Giveaway Thursday,” “Jersey Juke Box,” “Who Got Next Ten,” and “Politics & Poetry.”
“There's a relationship between traditional print and digital media, and then a community person, in this case me, who's able to come in and take those stories to the next level through my additional context,” Brown continued. “I see who tunes in...and I see there’s influential people who want to have their finger on the pulse.”
“And that does drive for better public policy,” he said.