By BCN Managing Editor Victoria Mays — June 9, 2021 — Black Consumer News Publisher Wesley Brown was officially announced and inducted as a board director at the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) quarterly meeting in March.
Based in Akron, Ohio, NIHF is an organization that has honored some of the world’s greatest innovators such as Steve Jobs, Tesla and Wright brothers, Hedy Lamarr, George Washington Carver, and Alexander Grant Bell through their annual black-tie Hall of Fame event that holds great significance in the scientific community.
They also pride themselves on being the bridge between some of the world’s greatest inventors and the youth of tomorrow who are aspiring to be innovators and trailblazers. In addition to the Hall of Fame, NIHF also sells its STEM-related curriculum, Camp Invention, to schools across the nation making nearly $20 million a year in sales. The Ohio 501 © 3 nonprofit also operates the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, located at the headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office just outside Washington, D.C.
It comes as no surprise that Brown was selected to be a part of such a distinguished organization because many who know him identify him as a classic Renaissance man–a man with many talents, expertise and knowledge in a range of areas.
At one point, Brown was a professional marathon runner who also served as a track and field coach and administrator during the same time he entered the journalism field and discovered his passion there. Brown is also the publisher at the Daily Record Inc. based in Little Rock and earlier this year launched Black Consumer News, an online publication that specializes in highlighting Black stories in politics, business and life in general.
Brown is also a part of Arkansas’ Freedom of Information (FOI) Task Force that meets during each biennial legislative session to monitor and challenge legislation that could possibly violate the state’s open record laws.
“Arkansas used to have the strongest Freedom of Information law in the country, but over the last 10-15 years, bit by bit, legislators and these lobbyists groups have–it’s kind of a death of a thousand cuts where they cut out this exemption and this exemption that allows the hospitals to keep information, allows some of the police groups to keep information secret. (It) used to be basically … no record in Arkansas was confidential,” Brown said.
He doesn’t take his position lightly and prides himself on being a voice for the people who are absent from the table. “One of the pillars of the First Amendment is a free and open government is kind of the pillar of our society in that it holds people in power in check to ensure that we can have access to records that deal with public meetings, city council meetings, government records, etc.,” Brown said.
“Recently, there was a report where the Arkansas Coroner’s Association wanted to make all of the coroner’s reports secret and that prevents (reporters) from doing stories on what’s happening to people–COVID-19, opioid deaths, children’s deaths. . . There have been some great stories written about what’s happening to Black people dying due to COVID-19. To get some of that information, reporters have to get those records from the coroner’s report. Death is a big business because everyone is going to come to that point,” Brown said of the award-winning series by several Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporters.
As more people are getting vaccinated in the state and across the world, our communities are still being affected by not only COVID-19, but opioids amongst many other things. “The other crisis in Arkansas over the last few years was the opioid deaths. Reporters, myself, have been able to get access to coroner’s reports and death records to kind of put a picture on the face of statistics,” said Wesley. “I love [statistics], but they’re nothing if you don’t put a face on them. That’s what I like about reporting–digging into the statistics and then putting a picture to that data.”
“For instance, the unemployment report comes out every month and I tell people that the Trump administration tried to take credit for [Black unemployment] and the record low. The problem with that was that the gap between the average unemployment rate and the Black unemployment rate remained the same. It’s how you look at the data. You can take the data and make it say anything you want it to, but when you began to compare it to a year ago or a month ago or Whites versus Blacks or Hispanics versus Blacks or Black versus the national average, then that lie that Black unemployment hit a historical low is kind of a fable.”
With wearing many hats, Brown has sat at many tables and taken advantage of many opportunities to help advocate for Black people. “A lot of people get on boards because they know somebody or are connected to somebody. Very rarely does that work for us. In this particular case, it did work for me,” Wesley said.
During his youth growing up in Hope, he mentored and became a big brother to childhood friend Jon Wood, the chairman of NIHF’s board and one of the top patent and trademark attorneys in the country. “I had a connection. You can have a connection, but you also have to have a resume. With all of the George Floyd incidents and the reckoning of the lack of diversity in the corporate world, a lot of corporate boards have made commitments to diversify. . . Jon reached out to me over a year before the George Floyd incident. The board’s CEO reached out to me formally six months ago after reviewing my resume and background and decided that I would be a great fit for their organization.”
As a board member of the NIHF, Brown’s passion to uplift the Black Community has followed closely behind. “One thing I talked to them about was expanding [Camp Invention] to our communities in (Arkansas) and the South. Our kids need to be on the leading edge of STEM-related jobs because that’s where our jobs are going–technology, science, engineering and math,” Brown said.
Brown also hopes to help strengthen NIHF’s financial areas and help them capture their story. “They’re well known on the East coast and some of the West coast. I shared with them that they could do a better job of telling their story. They’ve got all of the top inventors in the United States who are Hall of Fame members–tell that story.”
Due to COVID-19 and tighter restrictions during the planning period, the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction has been postponed to 2022. To learn more about Brown, go here. For more information about the organization, visit https://www.invent.org
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