LISTEN TO THE TURN ON
Apple Podcasts | Google Play | iHeart Radio | Radio Public | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | YouTube
CONNECT WITH THE TURN ON
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Patreon
In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to Mahogany L. Browne about about self love as revolution, why poetry is a fantastic vehicle for the erotic and using books to help our kids cope with the fallout of white supremacy.
The Turn On participates in affiliate programs, which provide a small commission when you purchase products via links on this site. This costs you nothing, but helps support the show. Click here for more information.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today we're talking to Mahogany L. Browne, pronouns she and her. Mahogany is a writer, organizer and educator. She also serves as the interim executive director of Urban Word, NYC and poetry coordinator at Saint Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poet's House, Mellon Research and Rauschenberg. She's the author of, “Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice,” “Woke Baby” and “Black Girl Magic,” “Kissing Caskets,” and “#Dear Twitter.” So many books. She's also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair, which is a nationwide diversity literature campaign, and she's an Arts for Justice grantee. She's also completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, which investigates its impact on women and children. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Kenrya: Thank you so much for joining us, Mahogany.
Mahogany L. Browne: Thank you.
Kenrya: We're excited to have you on. You're helping us close out season two, so it's pretty dope.
Mahogany L. Browne: I feel special, hey!
Kenrya: You should. You are.
Erica: You are special.
Erica: We just read your bio, and now that we know what you do, what did little Mahogany think that you would be doing for work as an adult?
Mahogany L. Browne: That's a great question, because I thought I was going to be a pediatrician and a novelist. I was going to be a pediatrician during the day and a novelist on the weekend, and then I saw blood -
Kenrya: Because you had so much time.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... and that shook it up. I said, "Well, -
Erica: We'll just chop off the first part.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... no more pediatrician. Yeah, and novelist it is. But what's funny, I think that was third, fourth grade I had already decided I wanted to be a writer, I just didn't know in which capacity. I went through various jobs that all touched on writing including hip hop journalism in XXL back in 2000, 1999. I was an intern there, and that brought me to New York City. Then I got to focus even more on not just hip hop journalism, but my own writing as a response to the editing process. What happens when people are asking you not to talk about too much of the truth because it might hurt their chances to get advertising dollars later? And that's -
Mahogany L. Browne: ... when I turned to poetry. I turned to poetry full pivot. That's been my focus. What I love about journalism is that it's given me deadlines, it's given me the ability to edit without my feelings being hurt. It's like, What does the poem need? What does the story need to make sure that you're clear and concise. I want my words to be able to sustain and remain whether I'm there or not, and I'm able to use that background to make sure that I do it well.
Kenrya: That's great. That was actually one of the questions we were going to ask because you work in a lot of forms, so it's interesting to hear what really keeps you coming back to poetry.
Mahogany L. Browne: What I love about poetry is there really is no wrong. Like you can write a poem that someone considers not good but that didn't mean it's wrong. That just means that they don't rock with it, they don't feel it. You can come back to your ownership of what did I miss in translation? What was lost in the sauce? That can go back to the person who is the writer, that can go back to the person who is the author, that can go back to the narrator. What did I try to do that did not work? If what actually is happening is there is a disconnect because culturally people just don't understand what a wash and go is or maybe they didn't understand how you have to have whole day to take care of your hair as a person of color. It's not just -
Kenrya: Yes, ma'am.
Mahogany L. Browne: You know what I'm saying? Like if you don't get it because of cultural differences -
Kenrya: It's not for you.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... then this ain't for you. I had to get okay with that. I had to be okay with the poems I write. I write them for clarity, I write them as archive, I write them for those who aren't able to write themselves. I write for my grandmothers who were not listened to. Their households listened to them but not necessarily outside those doors, so I write for them. As long as they feel what I'm saying, I'm Gucci. Everybody else, yah you if you get it, and if you don't kick rocks too, that's fine. I love you, I want you to be a part of this, but I'm not going to stop writing because you decide my story is invalid.
Erica: You've had a lot of big career milestones. Which one are you most proud of?
Mahogany L. Browne: Most recently I would say ... because one thing I did forget to mention in the bio is that I just took over the executive director position at Bowery Poetry Club and that's huge for me, because I didn't really want to be an executive director. I ran the Nuyorican for 13 years, the Friday night series. I ran that program and that's curating, that's coaching, that's mentoring, that's hosting. It had so many different arms and legs and hats attached to it that I was really interesting in just writing. What does it look like when I get to just write? What does it look like when I mentor myself?
Mahogany L. Browne: I came into this industry, this performance poetry world with no mentor. I had to look for mentorship in different spaces and places, and sometimes it happens over a cocktail and sometimes it happens at a one-off workshop. I was interested in just being a writer. For a minute my daughter had went away to college, I didn't have to worry about that. So I think that was the biggest milestone is that day that I quick all of my jobs, I received that Agnes Gund award as a Bearing Witness Fellow. It allowed me to quit all my jobs without fear knowing that I had this grant to take care of the essentials as I worked on writing and just writing alone.
Mahogany L. Browne: Self-care, I know it's a hot word, but as a Black woman it is imperative. I know so many people, so many mothers, so many Black women that we literally will give our last breath to assure someone else's good. When Audre Lorde said, "It's self-preservation and a political act," that's when I understood it. As soon as I said, "I'm quitting all these things and I'm going to focus on me," when I tell you the reaction of the people who benefited from my labor for so long, the reaction wasn't celebratory except by other women.
Mahogany L. Browne: I remember it like it was yesterday, just being like, "I'm going to just do this," and it was a volatile reaction. So that became the moment that I loved because I stayed true to it. For a year and a half that's all I did was focus on that.
Mahogany L. Browne: Taking on the ED position, it was because I was missing that curator role, I missed having a community I could tap into every week, and I just wanted to do it differently. I didn't want to be the only voice. I wanted to be someone who allowed this platform to be built along with others. What could that look like when you begin delegating? What does that look like when your voice is just not the only sound in the room? You have many visions, so I have this curatorial team I got to start building and let them lead the way. So I feel good about it, I feel really good about it. I feel really excited, but I am, I got to say, that moment that I said, "I quit everything," that changed me. It did.
Mahogany L. Browne: I told a group of women I'd never met at this beautiful series called, The Dreamers Brunch, it's about 12 women. In that Dreamers Brunch they said, "Name one thing you're excited about doing?" I said, "I quit my job after 13 years." I didn't even get to finish my sentence when everybody started clapping. Every woman at that table started clapping, and it was all women of color. I thought, "Oh, we all here." We're all at the intersection where we're like, Do I go left and keep it trill or go right and keep it real? Which one am I going to do, because sometimes keeping it real means you're going to keep doing the same thing because you know that your house has to be taken care of, your kids have to be fed, you have to be fed. Sometimes keeping it trill means it might be a little uncomfortable, it might be off the road map of this is what it's supposed to be, but it's still going to take care of you in the end.
Kenrya: That's what's up. I super duper relate to that, because I did something very similar just before COVID hit. And -
Mahogany L. Browne: What you do?
Kenrya: I quit my job. I just decided I was going to go full-time back into consulting and putting my resources and my energy and my joy into this podcast and all the other things that really make me happy every day. It was transformative. I worried that it would be scary, but I remember that in the moment after I said I was out it was literally like the weight being lifted.
Mahogany L. Browne: I could cry thinking about it. Waking up that next day -
Kenrya: It's an amazing moment.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... and feel like your chest is not heavy, you're not like, What meeting do I have to go that could really be [crosstalk 00:10:36]?
Kenrya: That's right. You can take a full breath. Yes.
Mahogany L. Browne: I don't even get to smell my coffee right, I'm rushing for someone else's benefit. It's so good.
Kenrya: That's right.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's so freeing. Congratulations!
Kenrya: It really is. Thank you, you too, for maintaining it all this time. It's great to loop back to the fact that it really allow you to delve into your writing. I'd love if we could talk a little bit about your new book. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. “Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice.” “Woke,” I did the edits during that year and a half. I had written the majority beforehand. But I did the edits and it's a lovely hybrid of social justice, understanding, and the building blocks required when talking to young people about larger ideas. It's very difficult to come to five, six, seven, eight-year-old and talk to them about racism. They know what it is, they know that they're affected, but they don't know the name necessarily. The articulation is far more difficult than the emotional capacity for being misjudged and mistreated. So I wanted to be able to have a touchstone for those large conversations, and in this anthology of poems, which was written by myself, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood with illustrations by Theodore Taylor III and an amazing forward by Jason Reynolds.
Mahogany L. Browne: With that happening, this collection does so many things. We're able to tackle and unpack intersectionality, racism, justice, freedom fighters, migration ... I have to get the book, but it goes on and on and on. Even restorative justice is a part of that discussion, because I think we have these really ... we think that young people aren't watching and listening and learning by watching us, but they are. They retain that information, things that we think are throwaways become the marrow of these babies that go on to run or ruin countries.
Mahogany L. Browne: What would have happened if this book was available when an eight-year-old said, I don't want to play with that person because they look different. Then you start talking about, Well, this is what racism is, and what does different mean, and why is that not wrong? Or what would it mean for a 10-year-old to have a discussion about their obligation as a global citizen, because all of us are a part of the world when it comes to making sure we are not ablist. So just you holding the door open for someone who may be in a wheelchair is cool. But also what does it mean to make sure that, that's always, that there is always accessibility for someone who is othered?
Mahogany L. Browne: We don't all have the same capabilities with our bodies and so to not think about it is a privilege. How do you use your power and your position with privilege to challenge things that just go unseen for you, to make sure that everybody is taken care of?
Kenrya: Word. That's awesome. Thank you so much.
Erica: Why was it important for you to collaborate with Elizabeth, Olivia, and Theodore on this project?
Mahogany L. Browne: Again, we talk about intersectionality, which was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which is, again, a very large idea. There's many adults that don't even know what that means. They're sitting up there -
Kenrya: A whole lot of adults who don't know what that means.
Mahogany L. Browne: They're sitting up there like, I'm at the intersection of a street. No, sis, we're not talking about that. We're talking about identity politics and political power. But when you start talking to young people about it, like how do you break down that very large idea, they don't realize that their identity can be a power play. Their social status can be a power play, all those things come into play. Of course, when she was coining it and designing it, it was speaking about the way Black women show up in a room and to not generalize all of our identities as a monolithic thing.
Mahogany L. Browne: The reason I wanted to work with others is I was coming from it at that same viewpoint. There's more than one way to look at activism, there's more than one way to look at social justice. My way isn't the only, but if we are collective that's really how we can ... I don't want to get on the church soap box and talk about how we will prevail, but many understandings and a myriad of voices is how we will collectively find liberation. It can't just happen with one voice.
Kenrya: Dope. That's awesome. So as you know, we read poems from “The Complete Works of Pat Parker” last week and, yes -
Mahogany L. Browne: Come on now! Come on!
Kenrya: And the poems that we picked they really centered small but poignant and really sexy moments between Black lesbian lovers. It was interesting because these poems really made visible relationships that we rarely see lifted up, especially back when Pat was writing. I'm wondering from your point of view, what makes poetry a good vehicle for the erotic?
Mahogany L. Browne: Well, that's a great question. What makes poetry a good vehicle for the erotic? If I can talk poem, poem talk -
Kenrya: Yes, please.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... I think the sparsity in language, I think the lushness that is often considered as fluff and say a historical fiction piece or a news report or a dissertation, an academic paper. Those are the things that they deem as throwaways are the things that poets collect and build love with. We build these paintings, we collage work. All of the ways in which you can touch, taste, feel, smell a sensation, an emotion. I think poetry is the one form that there is no rock unturned even with the sparsity of language. Even if we are being economical about how many words we use, because Pat did write short poems as did Lucille Clifton, as did Sonia Sanchez with the haiku, these are women who could write you under a table and did not need more than 20 syllables. You're like, Whoa! Why do I have all the feelings right now? Like, Why is my blood boiling? You didn't even take three minutes away from my life. You gave me this bit, this blip, this bite that I'm going to chew on for the rest of my time. That not only is powerful, it is masterful.
Erica: We read Pat's poem, “Metamorphosis,” on this show and it ends with the following lines, "Fill me with you and I become pregnant with love. Give birth to the revolution." She manages to bring together the erotic and vulnerability and revolution all in just four lines. What connections do you draw between these concepts?
Mahogany L. Browne: I think that Pat Parker, like Audre Lorde ... I think the coloration between the Black woman body, love, and liberation, I think the connection is obvious for me because one, I believe that love is the first revolution. There is a lot in our present contemporary world that is not that far from their time that has been designed for us to believe that we're not worthy of love, we're not worthy of being remembered, we're not worthy of being celebrated. When you find love despite those things being casted at you, put on you, when you find love despite that, that is also a revolutionary act. That is a moment of not just rebirth but liberation-making. You are becoming fortified in understanding that the things that are sold to us, for us to change our hair, change our style, change our accents, change our names to be more easily malleable, when you negate those things as the only way to be, you are making space for such a love that the next generation that comes, that arises, that is born with that in mind will not fall victim to the commodification of oppressed people.
Mahogany L. Browne: I feel like I just used a whole bunch of really big ass words and that wasn't my intent. But when you sell people themselves, when you sell them themselves, what kind of damage, psychological damage, emotional damage, and spiritual damage, not just historical, but what kind of damage is being done for you to constantly keep us as passengers in a vehicle that we built? We have to break that cycle, and Pat was one of those persons. There's a lot of poets who are like, “I'm okay having a baldie, I'm okay having my hair in braids or dreads. None of it defines me.” India Arie had the song about not being defined by the hair and, "I love my skin."
Mahogany L. Browne: In a time where people are using bleaching creams still, there's so many different cultures that are affected by the bleaching cream industry regardless of the fact that we know it causes cancer. Then what will happen once we have skin cancer. Then we have to go get treatment that we have to pay for, because we don't live in a society that even gives us free healthcare. So you're making us sick by making us think we're sick, and then you're making us pay you to make us unsick. Bananas! It's a racket, and she knew it. In them four lines she said, "But nah though. But nah.”
Kenrya: Something that really comes through loud and clear, I think, in Pat's work is that idea that intimacy of all kinds is an essential part of Black feminist discourse and literature and action. It's a theme that we see in your work too, and here I'm really thinking particularly of, “Black Girl Magic,” which really lifts up that self-love that we were just talking about. Why is this important terrain for you to cover?
Mahogany L. Browne: It was important for me to do that poem and align Cardi B and Amber Rose and Badu and Lauryn Hill and Coretta Scott and Ida B. Wells. There is no one way to be a Black woman, to be a Black woman feminist, just the same way that Pat Parker and Audre Lorde said, "There is no one way to love." Like heterosexuality isn't the only love that matters. Queer love matters, lesbian love matters, familial love matters. Kinship comes in many forms and if we allow people to say, That's my cousin, and then no necessarily be related, but the act of family is still revered and celebrated and respected, then why not love? When I think of them, I think of Black Girl Magic in the same vein that we can't keep having a hierarchy of what Black woman is to be respected. Respectability politics are a sham. So all of us deserve to be here. All of us are Black Girl Magic in all the various ways.
Mahogany L. Browne: I remember having this argument with someone where I said, "Something, something, something, something, something, Cardi B," and I love Cardi B. She's like, "Well, Cardi B doesn't speak for me. Like, that's not successful.” I thought, That's interesting that you say that's not successful because you're an entrepreneur. You're a Black woman and do you understand that when you walk in a room they see you, they see her too.
Kenrya: There is no separation between the two.
Mahogany L. Browne: No. Even though we know that we are not the same, that the Black woman voice is not monolithic, we also have to understand that, that fight is still not done. That when we walk in the room, we've already been decided for whether we deserve to be respected or not because we're Black and because we're women. It's already decides whether we should be respected because we're Black and because we're women. So for you to take your time out of your day to negate another Black woman, to separate yourself, you actually are thinning, as they say, you're thinning the troops. You are isolating yourself from the power of we.
Mahogany L. Browne: There are so many of us in our families, all of us ain't respectable. Don't get it twisted. Like, your auntie may have did something that your grandma didn't want everybody to know about and ... period. We all have had things that challenge or compromised our ideas of perfection, because there is not such thing as perfection. But we have all of those things that we come across as adults. I at least hope you're aware and critically thinking about your growth. That doesn't make you bad. It makes you human.
Kenrya: Wow. That's right. We literally celebrate all the things that make us less than respectable on this show every week.
Mahogany L. Browne: Love it.
Kenrya: In great detail.
Erica: We sign out every podcast as two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: I'm so glad you're here with us.
Mahogany L. Browne: Wow! I am in love.
Mahogany L. Browne: Amen for you.
Kenrya: And you, sis. It's interesting. It brings up the question of what does success look like to you?
Mahogany L. Browne: I don't know. Some days it changes. I thought if I just had a book, I would be successful. I had a book, and I put the book out myself, and then I said, "If someone else puts my book out, then I'll be successful." Then I had that. Then I said, "If I get an award nomination, I'll be successful." I got nominated for the NAACP. Image award for poetry. Then if I thought, "Well, if I have a bigger book company." I kept on adding these things, and I keep meeting the mark and I realize that my actually success comes from the ability to love what I do. I'm able to write, I'm able to share, I'm able to make space for other people, and that brings me so much joy that everything else ... of course, I'd like to travel and stay at a nice hotel and eat me a fried lobster tail and I want the plushness.
Erica: Yes, fried.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yes, fried. But my joy truly comes from knowing that I can write and make a living writing, and also make my daughter happy. My daughter is proud of me. She's so funny. She hit me and was like, "Mom, do you know who's following you on Instagram?" That's cute. That feels successful when my kid thinks I'm cool. I like that. I was like, "Oh yeah, I saw she..." "Mom!" Okay, girl.
Erica: Oftentimes, your kids are the hardest critic, so ...
Mahogany L. Browne: Beyond.
Erica: Like, yeah I got an Image Award, but did you know my daughter said ...
Mahogany L. Browne: She's like, "Do you know who is following you?"
Erica: She was hype.
Kenrya: Get your priorities straight.
Erica: She was hype.
Mahogany L. Browne: She don't care what movie I worked on, what poem I ... Who's following you on that Insta?
Erica: Okay, girl.
Kenrya: Love it. We all got to have our own measures.
Mahogany L. Browne: That's true, that's true. I accept it.
Kenrya: A lot of ... go ahead, boo.
Erica: No, go.
Mahogany L. Browne: I hope you keep that. Please, Jesus, keep that part. That's perfect.
Kenrya: Okay, we will. I'm a go. A lot of what you do, you talked a couple of times about the fact that you love being able to make space for other people and being able to mentor others. What do you wish you'd known about being a professional artist before you got here?
Mahogany L. Browne: Child! I don't think we got that much time. Two things. I wish someone talked to be about the finances of being a 1099 independent contractor. There comes a day when your taxes look real crazy, like what is ... What? I don't remember putting in 11 exemptions. What is happening? I wish someone would have hipped me to that game sooner.
Mahogany L. Browne: And also, which I think that we've been teaching our young girls specifically now, is that everybody is not going to like you. Some of them are going to go out of their way to not like you, and you got to be okay with it anyway. So I wish I would have learned that very ... there's some things that I still been responding to as a high schooler, because I realize I haven't let go of the trauma of what not being like means about me rather than who doesn't like me and what that means about them. It took me very long to change my perspective on that.
Erica: I remember I had a job and I went to my boss, because I had to do something. I was like, "But they're not going to like me." My boss looked me dead in the face. He was like, "You ain't doing your job if everybody like you." I was like, Well, damn. I've held on to that because as a Black woman in this Black body and this Black skin, if I'm living as who I am and not holding anything back, some of you all just not going to like this. So, fuck them.
Kenrya: As I like to say, "I'm not for everybody." That's okay.
Mahogany L. Browne: But how long did it take you to get to that space?
Kenrya: Oh, love, not until my thirties.
Erica: It took a long time. A long time.
Kenrya: I tell my child, "Everybody is not your friend."
Mahogany L. Browne: You got the mama quote down! I still remember my mother saying, "Everybody ain't your friend." I thought -
Kenrya: You don't understand it.
Mahogany L. Browne: "That's my friend. I love her. I got love for her. I love her."
Kenrya: Until you go through it.
Mahogany L. Browne: But then she also made me concerned because she would say, "Everybody ain't your friend," and then she would say, "I'm not one of your little friends," which kind of ... that push, pull. I was like, "Wait, which one is it? Do I have friends or I don't have friends and you not little? Which one?" Semantics didn't go well in my household. You better get over yourself and duck.
Erica: I am very much a words mean things kind of person, but as a parent all that goes out the window.
Mahogany L. Browne: It really does. You return to, "Because I said so." We right here. "Because I said so?”
Erica: Oh, totally. Totally. I open my mouth and Judy jumps out all the time.
Mahogany L. Browne: Wow, which is hilarious because I'm totally different. As a poet I've really drilled in my daughter’s head, "What do you mean? Say what you mean." Like even if you need to build the world, build it with these words, but you ain't going to just say I'm sad because ... Because ain't enough. That's an open-ended statement that you haven't given me anything to understand that with. And what? So now she talks too much to which my mother said, "You did that." You earned that one.
Kenrya: I was literally just telling somebody ... Yes, me. I was literally just telling somebody because she was saying her being in quarantine, her kid is always talking. I'm like, "Listen, I got an eight-year-old that fucking talks nonstop." But when she was born, she wasn't breathing, and so every time I feel overwhelmed by the barrage of words that are constantly being thrown my way, I stop and say, "Thank you, God, for giving me a verbal child." I have to stop and ground myself or remember that there was a chance that we wouldn't have had this privilege, so even if she's driving me fucking crazy, I have to stop and thank God to keep from getting frustrated. Lord, sometimes I don't want to talk.
Mahogany L. Browne: That's right.
Kenrya: I'm an introvert. I don't need this.
Mahogany L. Browne: Right. Does baby read, yet?
Kenrya: Oh, yeah. Very, very, very well.
Mahogany L. Browne: My daughter, she got so mad at me. I didn't realize because I was a reader as a kid. I just started, "If you read this book and tell me about it, I'll pay you for it." And that would give me -
Kenrya: Oh, shit.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. That dollar starts adding up, but when I tell you the solace in my brain as I just had to like reboot, it meant the world. We started off easy, "Here you are. Read this book." "Okay, here's a chapter book." Now, she loves to read. She signed up for book clubs. It's really cute. She's adorable. She's 22, but she still feels like my baby.
Erica: She's still your baby.
Kenrya: She'll be your baby forever. No, she's literally reading right now. That's how I'm keeping her quiet while we do this show. She had to pick a book and dive into it while we're doing this.
Mahogany L. Browne: Tell her, Auntie Mo, I'm going to cash out her some money.
Kenrya: Word, thank you.
Mahogany L. Browne: You're doing good.
Kenrya: No, her next book is going to be yours. I didn't really know it was for her age group, but I'm like, “Now, this is perfect,” because her response when she sees racism -
Mahogany L. Browne: What does she say?
Kenrya: Literally, "More racism."
Erica: "More racism."
Mahogany L. Browne: She is bored by racism. I rocks with her.
Kenrya: Because it's my work. We did the “How We Fight White Supremacy” book, and so she's in it and she's been to events. She's just like, "Nigga, I'm tired."
Mahogany L. Browne: And I'm eight.
Erica: I got a whole life of this shit ahead of me.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm tired, I'm bored, and eight. I'm really about to CashApp her some money. Listen, you got me messed up. That's a freedom fighter right there. To be done ...
Kenrya: She's world weary.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... to be done, done. Yeah. Right there. Got to support that. You got to support that. All of that.
Erica: So speaking of books, what are you reading right now?
Mahogany L. Browne: All right. So I just finished Candace Iloh, “Every Body Looking.” I'm looking at it now, I received, “Clap When You Land,” by Elizabeth Acevedo. I also received, “Kontemparary Amerikan Poetry,” by John Murillo, which I'm doing. So I'm reading one YA a day and a book of poetry a week is what I'm trying. Poetry is a little more intensive for me. It's like because I'm a poet I'm diving into more than just the read of it, but the other things that happen, whereas YA allows me some breathing room to just remember what it felt like to be a kid and not worry about bills. Like when I read, “Patina,” by Jason Reynolds with his track series, it's a four book series. I did, “Ghost, first” and like got through it ... it's like 100 pages maybe. Then I did, “Patina.” I started crying reading “Patina” because there's this section where he's writing about braiding hair, and it reminds me so much of home and of my youth and of that being the biggest thing to care about was is your part straight? Did you grease the hair, the scalp? He writes it beautifully.
Mahogany L. Browne: I've begun to really honor those moments, and I think YA allows me to tap into it more organically than sitting and meditating and being like, “Okay now I'm going to get everything out of my head.” I just get to go back down memory lane and have that experience.
Kenrya: Love that.
Erica: Love it. Okay, so I like to get a little wild and crazy, a little ratchet. We ask our guests a would you rather question.
Mahogany L. Browne: Okay. I don't know this game.
Erica: Sometimes we get a little wild. But inspired by your book, “#Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online in 140 Characters or Less,” which was published by Penmanship Books in 2010. Would you rather be able to only answer questions in 140 characters or less or only be able to answer questions in like two-minute or more responses?
Mahogany L. Browne: 140 characters or less.
Kenrya: Yeah, I knew. I knew it.
Mahogany L. Browne: Get to the point
Erica: I know, and coming from you it would sound so good. I'd be like, What do you want for dinner? and just like ...
Kenrya: Right, the economy of words.
Mahogany L. Browne: Let's go.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: I want to slather myself in those 140 characters. All right. Well, that's a good one.
Mahogany L. Browne: I hate meetings, I hate people that talk long-winded, I hate ... I only like repetition in a poem. If you keep saying the same thing to me, I'm done. Sleep. Over it, unless you're a wordsmith. Like I can hear Malcolm X talk forever. I could hear Sister Sonia Sanchez talk forever. Like there's Ocean Vuong. I can hear Ocean Vuong talk forever. That's a book I just finished and it ended me, “One Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.” You got to read it.
Kenrya: I'm afraid. I don't know if I can emotionally handle it.
Mahogany L. Browne: You might not be able to because it taps into like all of it. It does. But when I tell you beautifully, it's like Jesmyn Ward's, “Salvage the Bones,” which is a top five books of my life.
Kenrya: I had to stop part way through. I finished it, but Lord have mercy.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's intense.
Kenrya: I had to take a break and read something else, and then come back to finish it.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, that's true. It requires a lot. It requires a lot of your emotional dressing, the things that we're rooted in. It does. So back to rather than rather.
Erica: Would you rather ... that was great. I only have one. I could come up with some more if you want another one?
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, do the ratchet ones. You said, "I'm ratchet." I'm like, "Oh, we about to get it popping!" [crosstalk 00:40:35].
Erica: Oh, shit! Okay.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's happy hour time.
Erica: Okay, so would you rather ... oh, I had this for Kenrya the other day. Would you rather only be able to recognize your partner by smelling their breath or touching their feet? So like you see them and you have no idea who they are until you stick your nose in their mouth or touch their toes.
Kenrya: Which means you could be sticking your nose in the mouth of strangers all the time trying to figure out if it's your partner.
Mahogany L. Browne: Oh!
Kenrya: Or you could be touching strangers’ feet.
Mahogany L. Browne: Oh. I would touch feet. He has great feet. That would be fine.
Erica: But -
Mahogany L. Browne: But I have to touch everybody's feet?
Mahogany L. Browne: Jesus.
Erica: You wouldn't know it was him until you touched the feet. Like, “Oh, hi baby!”
Mahogany L. Browne: That's like die or die. There ain't no lesser evil here. I still go for feet because people's ... that personal space of your nose in someone's breath, that don't go away.
Erica: You can't unsmell some shit, that's what I say all the time.
Mahogany L. Browne: I can wash my hands.
Erica: I can wash my hands. 20 seconds. I cannot unsmell some shit.
Mahogany L. Browne: Ever. You going to start tasting it. Yeah.
Erica: I have a sensitive nose, so I completely agree. All right.
Mahogany L. Browne: I smell a bad idea, so yeah. Keep that together.
Erica: I love it. Okay, final one. You know we talk about sex. We nasty over here. So -
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. We grownups.
Erica: Would you rather have no sex or bad sex for the rest of your life?
Mahogany L. Browne: Bad because you can make it good. Can't you?
Erica: It's like an itch you can't scratch.
Mahogany L. Browne: But I feel like because I'm mostly in my head already, even the bad ... it's like pizza, even the bad is still pizza.
Erica: Yeah, you could fake it.
Kenrya: That's exactly what my partner said.
Mahogany L. Browne: [crosstalk 00:42:55].
Kenrya: He's like, "It's pizza. Even bad pizza is fucking pizza."
Mahogany L. Browne: I'll figure it out, but to not -
Erica: You'd be like, “I've learned to enjoy that flaccid stroke.”
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, “That taste. There it is. That's fine. More. Nope. Right. Okay. Sure.” In my head though, it's like ...
Kenrya: I love it. I love it. Oh, boy.
Erica: You’re the best.
Mahogany L. Browne: Listen, you have to imagine a world so that you can build you a house that can live in all of them.
Kenrya: This is true. The whole concept of freedom dreaming is some real shit, girl. So why not bring it into bad sex land.
Mahogany L. Browne: Is that near Wakanda or ...?
Erica: It's very far from Wakanda.
Kenrya: Just outside.
Erica: No, it's very far from Wakanda, because on the way toward Wakanda is the land of milk and honey.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's outside that perimeter, that shield. The shield is Wakanda said, “No, no. Stay over there.”
Erica: I think bad sex is in like Italy and some shit. It is not in Africa. How about we do that? How about we just banish bad sex from the continent.
Kenrya: Put it over there.
Erica: Put it over there.
Mahogany L. Browne: I really loved Italy until I got robbed, so I have a love, hate relationship with Italy. I love Italian food. My favorite.
Mahogany L. Browne: I could eat cacio e pepe every day. Don't even [crosstalk 00:44:36]. So I went there waiting to just explore all of my taste bud dreams, and on the way to the airport my last day, took my purse. Just snatched it. Gone. I'm lucky.
Erica: At least it was the last day. It's fucked up, but it's the last day.
Mahogany L. Browne: No, but I was stranded. I was stranded there.
Erica: What the fuck?
Kenrya: I'm about to say passport ...
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, they took it all. Passport, and then of course my money because I had been on tours. So they got all my money and I had to ... oh, and it was the day before Columbus Day, so the embassy was closed for the holiday the next day. I was like, "Okay. Hey jokes, here I am on the day of the biggest thief, one of the largest colonizing thieves, and I got to wait it out."
Kenrya: In his home.
Mahogany L. Browne: I got to wait it out because of him. But yeah, it was a great learning experience. I'd like to say -
Erica: Yeah, bad sex is in Italy. Fuck that continent. I know Italy is not a continent. Fuck that country.
Kenrya: Do you? Do you?
Mahogany L. Browne: So funny.
Erica: Okay. Well, Mahogany, what is next for you?
Kenrya: Yeah, we're going to look forward. What's next?
Mahogany L. Browne: For me? What's next? Okay. On deck, I have my first YA novel coming out. It's called, “Chlorine Sky,” and it is based on the poem that is up my ... you can look it up, it's called “Blurred Visions,” and you'll see me reading a poem along with my daughter singing. At that age I think she was like 14, 15. So that book comes out January 21, and my book of essays on mass incarceration and a long-form poem also on mass incarceration comes out next year as well. Those things I'm looking forward to.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm finishing up some recordings where I'm doing interviews with artists responding to mass incarceration right now. I'm excited to see how that will look.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm really excited to go back into the world safely.
Kenrya: God willing.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm willing to wait, though. I'm willing to sit still and relax.
Kenrya: Listen, I'm not arguing with nobody to go outside.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's okay. Ain't that deep.
Kenrya: It's just not. It's just not. Well, while the folks is in the house and online, where can they find you?
Mahogany L. Browne: They can find me at mobrowne.com. W-W-W dot M-O-B-R-O-W-N-E, and that goes everywhere, my Insta, my Twitter. I be on both of them joints heavy. I really do.
Erica: With your fancy and famous followers.
Mahogany L. Browne: Eek! My daughter did that. I'm also doing, every Sunday I'm hosting No Desk. Until quarantine is over, I host poetry reading online and it's free and for the people. On the Bowery Poetry page you can find more information about that.
Kenrya: Dope. It's on their website or it's on their IG?
Mahogany L. Browne: It's both.
Kenrya: Oh, dope. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. We're so glad you're here.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, I appreciate you. You all have a good one.
Kenrya: This was so fun. You too. Had a great time.
Mahogany L. Browne: I can't wait to see how amazing this comes out. You both are doing good work and I really love your sister love. It inspires me.
Erica: Oh, thank you.
Kenrya: Thank you. So excited for you. Let me do this. I'm going to say for the people, that's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thanks so much for joining us and, wow, we'll see you next season.
Erica: Season three, motherfuckers!
Mahogany L. Browne: Wait, did you say, "We just two hoes shaking it up?" What was it again?
Erica: Oh. This is Erica and Kenrya, two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: Making it clap.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us Kenrya and Erica and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. We want to hear from you all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions that you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. Please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram and @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find books, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Remember, The Turn On podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast network. You can find more podcasts that you'll love at Frolic.media/podcast. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you soon. Bye!
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.