One day I was sitting on a bench along Main Street and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to say hi to every Caucasian couple.’ The first guy who came by had a Christian verse on his shirt – First Corinthians or something like that. I said, ‘Hi, my name is Donald Brown.’ Then I asked him, ‘What does that message mean to you?’ So we got into a conversation. I like that. That’s the kind of person I am.
Honestly, I feel like I have a responsibility, in a way. A lot of people around here haven’t really talked to a black man. They’ve probably worked with one, but not on an everyday basis just to say ‘hi.’
The mayor hit me up to be part of the Goshen Community Relations Commission, so I read about it.
We need to start loving each other more. Knowing that’s what the Community Relations Commission is about, I really wanted to be involved with it. I wanted to provide a black male voice on the CRC. I was blessed to be able to be voted in by the City Council, which is Republicans and Democrats. That made me feel really good. I was shocked – when they said they picked me, I was celebrating.
When people ask me, ‘How does it feel?’, I tell them, ‘Just imagine yourself being the only person of your culture or your color and you’re surrounded by all blacks or all Asians.’ That discomfort and feeling like you’re the center of attention…there’s a lot of pressure right there. A lot of people have never been in that situation. I’ve been in that situation so many times being in Goshen.
Dan Grimes was the first African-American Goshen City Council member. The City Council just got its first Latino member, Gilberto Perez. Elkhart just got its first black mayor, Rod Roberson. You’re hearing about these changes, which is good, but it still gets to you – it’s 2020. You think this would have been happening in the ’80s, ’90s, early 2000s. ‘First’…it blows your mind.
My daughter’s class is amazing. The diversity is unbelievable. I am excited to see what the high school will look like in 10 years.