In this series, BUFF and Flylords have partnered to highlight some outstanding members of the greater-angling community who are taking action to drive change, in their communities, and throughout the world. In highlighting these unique individuals through the lens of their own struggle, perseverance, and passion; we aim to share the stories of these anglers as they push to inspire activism in their communities, as well as in future generations. This is, “Anglers Driving Change”.
In this episode, we’ll be highlighting, non-profit leader, creative, and conservationist: Chad Brown.
About Chad Brown:
Chad Brown is most notably known for his work in the non-profit sector, specifically as the leader of two major non-profit organizations; Soul River Inc. and Love is King, which both target underrepresented communities and focus on teaching new, important life skills, by getting them involved in the outdoors. However, there is much more to Chad Brown than what meets the eye.
In 1990, Chad enlisted in the United States Navy, serving in operations such as Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Operation Restore Hope – Somalia. During his deployment, Chad also spent a brief period in Antarctica, which was his first, but certainly not last, visit to the frozen tundra. Upon discharge, Chad went on to earn a Master of Science in Communication Design from Pratt Institute in NYC and began working in the design world in the city.
However, even with his success, Chad found himself slipping silently into a depressive state, as he became consumed by a battle with PTSD. Eventually, after months of fighting, he found himself homeless and trapped in a state of addiction to the very medications which were meant to help him overcome his illness. It wasn’t long before he was driven to make an unsuccessful attempt to take his own life. It was then, in the aftermath of his brush with fate, that he discovered fly-fishing.
Through the sport of fly fishing and a reignited appreciation for life and exploration, Chad put his life on a new path. By seeking solace in the outdoors, Chad planned to utilize the lessons learned from the hardships he had endured and made it his mission to share those lessons with others. In finding an outlet through teaching and with the aim to inspire others through art (check out his photography portfolio, HERE.) and the outdoors, Chad launched his first non-profit organization: Soul River Inc. in 2010.
Soul River Inc primarily focuses on pairing Veterans and inner-city youth, to teach kids lessons that “can’t be found in a classroom”, primarily through fishing. The program is an excellent outlet for Veterans to pass on their skills to the next generation, and for kids, who may not have previously had access to it, to find mentorship in the outdoor space.
As Soul River Inc. grew, Chad also pursued his passion in the creative space. In making a name for himself as a notable storyteller through photo and video, Chad, to this day, continues to create films and art around marginalized voices, both through the lens of humanity and race, as well as ecological and cultural conservation. In 2020, Chad founded his second non-profit, Love is King.
Love is King focuses on promoting leadership amongst BIPOC communities in the outdoor space, specifically through the ROAM program. “Roam (Rapid Ongoing Advance Missions) is to provide an opportunity for BIPOC leaders to step into the realm of public land and freshwater conservation efforts and disrupt the historical system that allowed BIPOC voices of not being invited to government spaces where the decisions were made about land and wildlife and indigenous conservation policies.”
Today, Chad Brown, and his canine partner in crime, Axe, can be found anywhere from his office in Portland, OR, to the Arctic Tundra creating his next film. Chad spends much of his time, nowadays, traveling to deliver speeches on his initiatives, and inspire others to practice “living through love”, spreading the word of peace and equality.
From Chad Brown on, “Who is Chad Brown?”
“I think I’m still trying to figure out who I am”.
“I lead two non-profit organizations, I’m a business owner, and entrepreneur. I’m also a creative professional, wear a couple of hats in that space as a photographer and filmmaker. I also tend to straddle my creativity and use that as a way of navigating in the business world as an entrepreneur. I think one of the biggest things about myself and how I navigate the business of doing what I do for a living is I like to step into more unconventional spaces, or if that’s not available, create my own unconventional space. which allows me to be more creative and be more unique in what I’m trying to accomplish as far as business goes. I find that traditional spaces are great. And there’s a purpose for them, but it’s very, very hard for me to navigate them sometimes.
Especially, as an African American in the space of business, “traditional” is, is a very hard barrier that prevents me from doing what I need to do. But when I’m in a creative space, it allows me to create a unique platform. That puts me in a position to where not only I can execute my ideas that ties to my organizations, and our new business concepts, but it also allows me to create new relationships within that creative space of business. I think I’m more of a creative behind the scenes of trying to figure out new ways and explore new concepts, around bringing people together to change lives. [For Instance] engaging newbies into the sport of fly-fishing and dismantling and breaking down the barriers of financial barriers, making that available for folks who maybe can’t afford to get in that sport. I want to create change and stepping into a creative space allows me to create change by breaking barriers down, and dismantling ignorance, racism, bias, and bigotry.
What I do, really allows me to blow that up, and get down to the skeleton of humanity and of who we are. I have bones, just like you have bones, you bleed just like I bleed. That’s the fundamental of the tapestry or the creativity that I am tying into my efforts. I’m trying to be creating that space where everybody feels unique and heard. As an angler, where sometimes I tend to not really identify myself as an angler, and I identify more as a vessel, basically, to merge people into new spaces. Green spaces within a conservation space”.
To learn more about Chad Brown and his current initiatives, you can find his websites at www.soulriverinc.org, and www.loveisking.org, you can also find his full portfolio of photo and video work at Chado Creative.
Thank you to BUFF for making “Anglers Driving Change” possible. Check them out HERE, to continue to support initiatives driving change.
All photos ©FlylordsLLC
How One Man is Helping Veterans and Inner City Youth Heal with Fly Fishing