'Real World' alum Brown prods Seton Hill students to vote
Reality show star, musician and now political advocate Nick Brown brought his perspective to students at Seton Hill University on Tuesday.
Brown, who made his name on the cast of MTV's “The Real World: Hollywood” in 2008, has been speaking at college campuses across the country about the importance of voting.
Brown, 32, was born in Jamaica. He's been a citizen since 2000.
“I immigrated here, so it's something I think I can give a personal voice to,” he said. “Being on a network gave me a platform.”
About 16 students attended Tuesday's event. Many of them were frustrated by what they see as a choice between two bad options come November.
Junior Brooke Kulasa of Belle Vernon came to the presentation because she's a fan of Brown's. She said she hasn't given much thought to the election, but she's registered to vote, and doesn't love either candidate.
“As far as the best of the worst, I think Donald Trump is probably the way to go,” she said.
Trump and Clinton were barely mentioned at the event. Brown said he has “very mixed feelings” about the election.
“If Bernie Sanders was the nominee it wouldn't even be close,” he said. “It's some of the things you see in a high school election, but I also think it is important for our youth to see what they don't want in the future.”
Instead of talking about the candidates or their policies, Brown stuck to general issues. He gathered the attendees in a circle and asked each what was important to them.
As students chimed in, Brown responded with a wide variety of insights and anecdotes.
He told stories about his grandmother, who moved to Canada from Jamaica before sneaking to the United States in the trunk of a car. He talked about his aunt, who smokes marijuana to relieve her fibromyalgia. And he talked about himself, as he recalled leaving college and having to pay his own health care bills for the first time.
“And then the real world hit me, no pun intended,” he said.
The students in attendance raised many issues. Education, the environment and income inequality were frequent topics, but the clear front runner was equality for people of all races and genders.
Freshman Anita Kunnath talked about the hate she's seen against Muslims. She's from New Jersey, but has seen her family slandered by people who assume they are Muslim.
She's part of the student programming board that organized the event, and though she's looking forward to voting for the first time she's been annoyed by the campaigns.
“It just seems crazy, and I think a lot of millennials are just frustrated by this election,” she said.
Kunnath plans to vote for Clinton. “I used to be ‘Bernie or Bust,' but I think now it's either going to be Hillary or Trump,” she said.
Freshman Alyese Bolton had never heard of Brown before Tuesday's event. She came because of her interest in the political process. She's getting ready to vote in her first election but, like her classmates, doesn't like either of the major candidates.“I just feel like neither candidate is suited for running this country,” she said.
She plans to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“She addresses the issues the mainstream media doesn't,” she said.
Despite Brown's distaste for this year's candidates, he still sees voting as vital, especially as a black American paying tribute to those in previous generations who fought for his right to do so.
“Not to take advantage of such a privilege would be a slap in the face,” he said.His belief that young people can shape the nation was a recurring theme.
“We have to be ambassadors of the things that we believe in,” he said.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or email@example.com.