Mahogany L. Browne uses poetry as activism
Mahogany L. Browne read her poems Wednesday in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center until she reached one without a name. She then asked the audience to vote for a title, and the crowd became more animated, laughing and shouting for their favorite.
The crowd decided on the title "Fight Me," for a poem that talks about Browne's opinion that Paula Abdul is a better dancer than J-Lo. Eventually, however, the poem morphs to convey a message of racism from the viewpoint of a parent whose child has been discriminated against.
"My son, fight me. My daughter, fight me. Me, fight me. I dare you," Browne read.
While Browne read, audience members like junior Abigail Gibbs were captured by her words.
"She was really powerful," Gibbs said. "She had a great presence on stage. You could hear a pin drop, just because she commands your presence."
Browne started writing slam poetry in 2001 at the Nuyorican Poets Café, where she currently directs the poetry program. Since then, she has traveled the world as a slam poet and activist.
She centers her poems around African-American culture and spreads messages of racial equality and female empowerment. During Wednesday's event, she read from her book "Redbone," which is based on her parents' relationship.
The poems in her book focus on the power dynamics between men and women in abusive relationships and describe situations vividly.
"Every bruise and throat clenched, spread through my body warm, glow bright," Browne read.
The crowd ranged from individuals who were personally invested in Browne's poems to those who were there for a class, but assignments were quickly forgotten as the audience became more engrossed by Browne's poems.
Throughout the performance, there were snaps and laughter as well as nods of agreement to what Browne was saying.
"She talked about a lot of social issues happening in the world today, and as a political science major I was really into that," said Peyton Abner, a sophomore political science major. "A lot of her views aligned with mine, which helped me get deeper into it, but I thought she was really funny and I liked the way she spoke."
While sophomore Julian Magana attended for a class, he was pleasantly surprised by the performance.
"To hear her and her renditions of poetry from 'Redbone,' it's beautiful," Magana said. "It's hard to put words into art."
At the end of her performance, Browne was able to bring the entire audience, regardless of why they attended, together in a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
Contact Seren Pekola with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.