The Brothers’ Network wants you to know ‘Black equals brilliance’


The Brothers’ Network has done this for more than a decade by partnering with almost every museum in Philadelphia and celebrating local artists, as well as putting up plays by up-and-coming artists — the group tackles racial inequity mainly through the arts, culture, literature, history, and heritage.

In June, The Brothers’ Network will be producing the Antoinette Nwandu play “Pass Over,” which is inspired by Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” starring two Black men.

Sterling Johnson, who helped make the “Pass Over” production happen, has been involved with the nonprofit for more than a decade. As a man who stands at 6-foot-4, Johnson said he had to fight against the assumption that he was in school for athletics and not academics, or that because he works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he can’t appreciate art.

Johnson brought his nieces and nephews to bird watch so they could see they don’t have to be limited by others’ perceptions.

Keith Russell teaches a group about the fish at Fairmont Park
Keith Russell teaches a group about the fish at Fairmont Park. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

“You can always find something interesting, go wholeheartedly into it, and be involved. So my job as an adult is just to expose them,” said Johnson. “They may become birders, they may not, but at least they know that that’s out there. They see somebody who’s doing it, who looks like them, who didn’t let life define him either. So that when they come an opportunity to try something different, they’re not afraid and struggling.”

Russell said events like Sunday’s are a great way to get new people into birding. In between helping the small group of people spot Canadian geese and yellow warblers visually and audibly, he was able to share some of his work.

Attendees learned that his bird monitoring program allowed the Audubon Society to realize approximately 1,000 birds flew into a building in Center City last October. The data was the genesis for Lights Out Philly, where buildings voluntarily turn off internal and external lights that might lead birds to get confused and crash into buildings during their migration.

Still, Russell said the organization has been a great way to learn about what other Black men are doing in Philadelphia.

“If you’re Black, even in Philadelphia, there’s a need for Black people … to get together and sort of compare notes and be inspired by each other,” said Russell.


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