Just three years after becoming a United States citizen, Khanya Brann cast her first presidential vote on Nov. 3, 2020, for Joe Biden, who she would join in the White House a few weeks later.
Brann, a 2019 journalism alumna, started working as senior communications assistant and special assistant to the director of communications for the Biden Administration in January. She works in the White House, accompanying members of the Biden team to interviews and compiling media coverage of the administration.
Every morning, Brann arrives at the White House at 7:30 a.m. She goes to the White House Medical Unit to get a daily COVID-19 test, then prepares materials like meeting briefs for her boss, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, before attending a 9 a.m. press and communications team meeting.
“I get to try my hand at different things,” Brann said. “I’m given a lot of opportunities to grow and learn by trying new things and helping out in different areas.”
In May 2019, Brann saw a Facebook post by Deesha Dyer, the former social secretary for the Obama administration, about internships for a political campaign in Philadelphia. Even though she had no prior experience in politics, Brann decided to apply, she said.
Brann worked as a communications intern for the Biden campaign from July to November 2019, monitoring media coverage, building and maintaining national and local press lists and transcribing interviews.
In August 2020, Brann returned to the Biden campaign as the Pennsylvania communications associate after a fellowship at Philly Counts, a Philadelphia office that assists with the count of population, income, housing and other economic details in the U.S.
Despite working together through Zoom for the majority of the campaign, Brann’s creativity and empathy were immediately evident, said Rosie Lapowsky, the eastern Pennsylvania regional press secretary for the Biden campaign.
“She always stayed true to herself, kept a very authentic voice and was just working so hard for the end goal of getting Joe Biden elected for president,” Lapowsky said.
Brann accepted an offer from Bedingfield to be her senior communications assistant in January, and two weeks later, she moved to Washington, D.C. from Pennsylvania.
“I ran into Kamala Harris in the hallway and she said “Hi” to me and asked me how I was doing, that was a pinch-me moment,” Brann said. I got back to my desk and I was like, ‘Wow, did I just meet the vice president of the United States?”
Brann took Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a journalism reporting class based in different Philadelphia communities, with journalism professor Brian Creech in 2019. She reported on the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, gaining experience working with communities, something Creech believes helps her prioritize community needs in the White House.
“I am thrilled to learn she’s in the Biden White House, I can’t think of a better perspective for the Biden team,” Creech said.
Brann watched Biden sign some executive orders in his office during some of the first days of his presidency, she said.
“I was standing there with the press and everybody else and I was like, ‘Wow, this is what people dream of their entire lives,’” she said.
Editor’s Note: Khanya Brann worked at The Temple News as an assistant features editor in 2018. She did not have any role in the reporting, writing or editing of this story.
Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately identified the month Brann began her current position with the Biden administration. Brann started the job in January. The previous version also inaccurately identified Brann’s title at Philly Counts. Brann was a fellow at the organization.