“Young Brown Poet” by Adrian H. Molina w/ Mannequin Rituals, CHiTT Productions (2008)
Circle back to one of many beginnings. It was November 4th, 2006. I had the opportunity to open for Saul Williams at the University of Wyoming. Will Ross was running sound for ASTEC—the University of Wyoming’s student government sponsored production team.
While running sound, Will recorded my performance on his mini-disc recorder. Young Brown Poet lit him up, and the next day he emailed the vocal track to Dustin Neal, his fellow band-mate and co-founder of CHiTT Productions.
Out of nowhere, I got an email from Will, telling me to check out a rough mix of Dustin’s vision of Young Brown Poet. Will explained how he had sent the track to Dustin in the morning, who ran home over his lunch hour and recorded music to the words. Will mixed it down.
I was floored by what I heard. Completely unexpected.
I had recently written a great deal of spoken word and lyrical material, trying to figure out how I was going to break into the recording world. And out of nowhere, there it was—a glimpse into what was possible.
Will’s recording of “Young Brown Poet” led to the recordings of the Representin’ 4 Life EP, as well as Up Before the Sunrise.
Being the Young Brown Poet
I began performing “Young Brown Poet” as an acapella piece back in 2003. At that time, my writings focused almost exclusively on issues of racial tension and injustice, racial stereotypes, and the role that racism plays in American society.
“Young Brown Poet” is an uncompromising challenge to racial stereotypes. It reaffirms an identity of brownness that is inseparable from my work as a poet within U.S. society.
As an anti-racist educator, members of my community, including several students, challenged me on this. Why do you call yourself Mo Brown? Why focus so much on Brownness? Isn’t “Young Brown Poet” inherently stereotypical?"
My response is that you cannot eradicate racism by being silent about it. It is necessary to confront the issue of racism blatantly, honestly, and unapologetically.
With that said I’ve moved beyond the role of playing the angry brown poet. If you stay in that zone for too long, you become bitter, increasingly distrustful of people outside your race, and you limit yourself, your art, and your ability to interact with other people.
I spit fire all day. I encourage young people to express their anger about racial injustice and other forms of injustice. I encourage dialogue. I push people, personally and professionally, to challenge social isms and schisms, and to be honest about their own isms and schisms. But I am not limited to this.
Anger is a tool that should be used to channel chaotic energy into something positive, something sustainable. Over the past decade, I have worked tirelessly to channel my anger into something useful.
“Young Brown Poet” is still one of my favorite poems and recordings. It has been incredibly useful.
It has been written, and thus I will always be the Young Brown Poet. At the same time, there is much more to say, and so much more to BE…
A.M. Soleil: the morning sun rises. “A.M. Soleil, Retrospectively” is a 52-week blog series in 2010, reflecting on 5 years of independent music by yours truly ~