By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Two-time Emmy Award winning actor Sterling K. Brown may have wowed people with his performance and role as Randall Pearson in NBC’s drama series, This Is Us. However, it was the students at St. Philip’s School and Community Center that left a lasting impression on Brown when he visited the South Dallas school before attending the 23rd annual Destiny Awards Luncheon where he delivered his keynote address and conversation.
The event, held on March 3 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, was a fundraiser for the school, themed “Illuminating Art, Education and Service.” Funds raised that afternoon exceeded $1.2 million, which directly go to support the school and its mission.
“I got a chance to go visit the school for a brief moment and Principal Kellee Murrell had the students recite the St. Philip’s creed,” Brown said. “And I stood there thinking most creeds are like five seconds long. And then for about two minutes, I was watching these little Brown faces say the most profound things about themselves and the impact that they will have in the world.
“I told students at the school sometimes they have to explain to people the words that they use with regards to themselves, their own self-talk because our words are not just nearly descriptive, but they are creative. This school is about community and everything about a community to thrive.”
Brown then thanked the attendees for supporting St. Philip’s and its mission.
“To know that not only these students see themselves but that you all see them and that you all see the value of who they are, the value of Black boy joy and Black girl magic makes my heart burst wide open, because it’s not all the time that people who don’t always look like us see it too,” he stated.
The conversation was moderated by Bruce DuBose, Undermain Theater co-founder and producing artistic director.
DuBose asked Brown to discuss the challenges he had growing up.
Brown said he lost his father at 10 years old. Nevertheless, he was able to reflect on how both of his parents had a major influence in his life and stressed the importance of an education.
Brown said at first he wanted to do something in economics because he loved math and attended Stanford University because it had one of the top business schools in the country.
However, his life changed when one of his professors encouraged him to try out for one of the school plays. Brown fell in love with theater, acting and film production and eventually pursued a career in acting. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Stanford, he earned a Masters of Fine Arts Degree at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
He went on to play roles such as Randall Pearson in This is Us and became the first African American actor to win a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in the award’s 75-year history and also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama series.
In 2018, Brown was named in TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world.
Other notable acting roles Brown has partaken in include playing the role of Christopher Darden in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and supporting roles in the films Black Panther and Waves.
Brown is married to fellow actress Ryan Michelle Bathe whom he met at Stanford. The couple have two boys.
“When I get home to my family, I am going to get a copy of the St. Philip’s creed so I can have my children recite it as well,” he said.
St. Philip’s students showcased their talents to Brown as well.
Brown had a chance to view the students’ creations and projects awaiting him at the Hilton Anatole’s hallway, such as robots and Legos used to create innovative technology.
Margot Forteau, a fifth grader at the school, explained what types of things students get to build.
“Mrs. Stevens gave us Legos and she gave us the box and the instructions. And we each had different things to build, such as a guitar,” Forteau said. “It was a good time. It is really fun and you got to learn a lot of things I didn’t learn from my other schools and the teachers make it fun so we can enjoy what we are learning.”
Tia Stevens, director of the Innovation and Science Lab at St. Philips, explained what sets the school apart from others.
“We have the LEGO booth, we have cubelets, those are robots, and we have ozobots, those are also robots,” Stevens said. “They learn how to program and do various things and they have STEM challenges where they have to carry out a mission.”
Ellen and John McStay received the David Munson Humanitarian Award for their work in philanthropy and for their support of the school.
In order to reach one’s dream, Brown said students should take it one step at a time.
“I would say that it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Brown emphasized. “And if you know what your why is, it will sustain you through the lean times. I personally don’t think fame or fortune is significant enough to motivate you to move through the times in which people are constantly telling you that you can’t do something. I think you have to know something beyond and for me it’s a simple creative like wanting to entertain, educate and edify. I want to make people laugh. I want to make people think and hopefully encourage them to become a better version of themselves.”
Brown reflected on his visit to the school and said he was inspired by what he witnessed.
“It was kind of life changing because in just 10 to 15 minutes of seeing what Dr. Flowers has created, it’s not just a school, but it’s a community,” Brown said. “It’s a community of people who are being encouraged to come back and further develop the community from which they’ve come. I heard the students deliver their creed, and I was gob smacked. Like my jaw was like literally on the ground as I was hearing these words of encouragement to themselves of being seen and appreciated and a value that everybody may not even understand exactly what they’re saying. But the seed has been planted and it’s going to water into something that is incredible.”
He said he also hoped to inspire students and the audience that came to hear him speak by letting the Spirit speak through him.
“I’m a man who’s valuable as any other man or whatnot, but hopefully, the Holy Spirit has something to say that is worth value and then that when people see me, they see God’s Spirit.”
Dr. Terry Flowers, Perot Family Headmaster of St. Philip’s, explained why the school chose Brown as this year’s keynote speaker.
“Sterling K. Brown represents excellence and St. Philip’s School and Community Center has students who aspire to work in the arts just like he has but more importantly the Destiny Award Luncheon focuses on the oneness of humankind and if you look at Brown’s body of work and the excellence that he has achieved, it encompasses all realms of life and helps us tell those stories that our students aspire to.”