In January, Khanya Brann joined the White House communications staff as Senior Communications Assistant and Special Assistant to the Director of Communications.
In January, Khanya Brann joined the White House communications staff as Senior Communications Assistant and Special Assistant to the Director of Communications. She is a graduate of Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, Mount St. Joseph, and Temple University. She wasn’t planning on a political career.
In 2019, Brann received a B.A. in Journalism and Spanish from Temple, and wrote for Philadelphia Magazine, Generocity.org, and Temple News. She saw a Facebook notice about interning on the Biden campaign, thinking it might be a good experience for a young journalist.
“I liked it a lot,” she said. “I grew a lot, and really appreciated the opportunity to learn how to communicate.”
She also became a Fellow for Philly Counts 2020, a city office involved in the 2020 Census.
In January 2020 she joined the White House staff.
“I was having ‘pinch me’ moments for the first few weeks,” Brann said. “Still, to this day, when I walk by the Rose Garden. Or yesterday, when I watched President Biden board Marine One [helicopter] to fly to the airport to go to Georgia. It’s a shock, in that way, because you grow up thinking this is a very far-away place where the elite in politics work and govern the country, and it feels so distant from you and your community. And then I’m walking the halls every single day and I’m seeing people who look like me, and people who are working on policies affecting communities like mine; that feels really inspiring and encouraging.”
A typical day starts around 7:30, preparing the briefing book, then monitoring press coverage; at 9 a.m. there’s a communications staff meeting to set the day’s agenda: interviews, scheduling, taking notes, trips, statements, monitoring and responding to press coverage. In addition to Brann, there are three press assistants.
Brann, 24, was born in London. A year later the Branns moved to Montreal when her father, a heart surgeon, took a new position. A year later they moved to her parents’ original home Trinidad, then back to Montreal in 2006, and eventually Elkins Park in 2009, when she was 11. Her brother Orin, 22, is a musician, and her sister Dariya, 18, is studying physics at Princeton. “A lot of that moving around in those early years shifted my identity but also impacted the way I looked at the world and has always driven the stories I’m drawn to as a storyteller, as a journalist. It’s helpful in this role now, when I’m thinking about my team’s putting out messages to different communities.”
She started Norwood-Fontbonne Academy in seventh grade, class of 2011, and then high school at Mount St. Joseph Academy.
Annemarie Greenberg is now Norwood’s Alumni Relations Manager / Special Projects, Aftercare Coordinator, but taught math from 1980 until 2015.
“I never had her in class but we formed a relationship because I had her brother and her sister,” said Greenberg.
Starting a new school in seventh grade, in a new city, and being one of the few African American families, Brann ended up talking to Greenberg when she would pick up her younger siblings.
“When she went off to the Mount, she kept in contact,” Greenberg said. “Just recently, I came across a letter she wrote me in high school. And from that point on I just kept in contact with her.”
Greenberg found the Brann family close and supportive; she’s still in touch with Khanya’s mother and sister as well.
“When she got this appointment, I was beyond thrilled for her,” she said.
Brann is the second NFA alumni to work at the White House. Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (class of 76) was the White House National Security Adviser from 2017-2018. He “returned” to NFA for a virtual discussion of his new book on January 26.
She recognizes that this is a unique position to be in.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brann said. “I’m so lucky that I get to work and learn alongside such experienced people.”
Some were interns in the Obama administration and have returned in higher positions.
“I feel like I’m getting a Master Class every day,” she said.