Kanye West had an eventful few days in New York City.
After years of working as an author, top media executive and journalist for major networks, Keith Brown is now pursuing his dream of building his own empire. The former senior vice president of news and public affairs for BET is a partner, along with his wife, Maria, in the Perez-Brown Media Group Inc. The two live with their 4-year-old daughter in Harlem. The consulting firm provides strategies to companies to reach African-American and Latino communities.
With 20 years of experience under his belt working in television, including stints at MTV Networks, PBS, NBC and CBS, Brown is now calling the shots in his own company that the couple began earlier this year. Along with a goal of self-employment and self-determination, he's also looking to share with the world some of his most passionate causes and issues.
"Social issues are really important to me," he said. "I always felt that whatever I do and whatever I did had to have a sense of purpose. Being able to uncover the things that really affect us and impact our lives is a real privilege to be able to do. I feel that my career has been blessed with that."
Brown is a native of Freehold, N.J., just 60 miles outside of New York City. Brown said he grew up in a working-class family alongside his extended family-his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all living nearby. Wanting to leave the rural environment of his youth, Brown had aspirations to move to the city.
He attended Syracuse University, where he majored in international relations and attempted to become a Peace Corp volunteer. Brown went to Africa during his junior year with Operation Crossroads Africa, where he lived in a small village in Botswana.
After graduating from Syracuse, he coordinated African and Caribbean programs with Operation Crossroads for college students. He then was able to return to the continent with students from that group.
"I wanted to tell the stories of what I experienced in Africa," he said. "I wanted to do documentaries. That's what really inspired me to get into the media. I wanted to tell stories about what I saw. There were so many misconceptions about Africa. I wanted to tell stories about the Africa I knew."
Brown came back to New York in 1985, working at the Museum of Natural History, where he coordinated programs dealing with the African-American, African and Caribbean community.
Working to expand his interests with the media, he volunteered on the esteemed PBS weekly program "South Africa Now." While working on the program, he learned the basics of producing and decided he wanted to be a journalist.
To learn the craft, he went to the Columbia Journalism School, where he earned a master's degree. Right out of journalism school he was hired by Bill Moyers, working on one of Moyers' PBS shows as a researcher and associate producer.
Soon, Brown followed that job with a stint at CBS News, where he worked for Ed Bradley on "Street Stories." That experience was a high point professionally, as he served as the associate producer of the documentary "In the Killing Fields," which received a Peabody Award, National Emmy Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism.