Mahogany L. Browne

Acclaimed Spoken Word Poet
Visionary & Activist
NAACP Image Award Finalist

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Black Girl Magic
  • An Evening with Mahogany L. Browne


“Out of necessity, Mahogany L. Browne has become her own revolution: she is one of those people who sees things in the world that need to change and actually makes real moves to change them. While there can only ever really be one Mahogany L. Browne, we’d be very lucky to have more poets/humans who are as fiercely visionary, hardworking, and resourceful as her.” —Ploughshares

Writer, organizer, vocalist, spoken word poet, and educator Mahogany L. Browne is the author of poetry and fiction. Her YA poetry book Black Girl Magic celebrates a black girlhood that is “free, unforgettable, and luminous” (School Library Journal), while her children’s book Woke Baby is for all the littlest progressives who grow up to change the world; both were published in 2018 by Roaring Brook/Macmillan. Her poetry collections include Kissing Caskets (YesYes Books, 2017) and the NAACP-nominated chapbook Redbone (Willow Books, 2016). She has co-edited the anthology The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 3: Black Girl Magic, declared by Dazed as “one of the most important volumes of poetry in recent years” and is at work on the YA anthology WOKE: A Young Poets Guide To Justice (2020), co-edited with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood. Of Redbone, Ross Gay wrote: “What I may love most about Redbone is the way it strains formally, with syntax and diction, with voice and perspective, searching for the right space on the page to make of this complex family story which, like most family stories, is made of sweetness and plain old hurt a kind of bearable song. It’s such a moving act. Such a caring and true telling. Such a singing.”

Born in Oakland, California, Browne dropped out of high school after being told not to write poetry during a English honors class. Using her personal experiences with addiction, racism, sexism and oppression to inspire her own brand of shameless authentic work, Browne’s spoken word performances create a platform for women and girls to feel empowered and heard.

She has a MFA in Writing and Activism from Pratt Institute, where she founded the Women Writers of Color Reading Room and became the director of the Black Lives Matter program. Browne is one of the founders of the socially active literary collective #BlackPoetsSpeakOut (with Amanda Johnston, Jonterri Gadson, Jericho Brown, and Sherina Rodriguez Sharpe), created out of urgency and as a response to the non-indictment of the Mike Brown’s murderer.

Browne is the publisher of Penmanship Books, curator of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Friday Night Slam, founder of the Women Writers of Color Reading Room, and the director of Black Lives Matter at Pratt Institute, and artistic director at Urban Word NYC (a non-profit youth literary organization).

Her work has appeared in Poetry, Bustle, BET, Academy of American Poets, and other venues. She has also released five LPs, including a live album, Sheroshima. She is the recipient of literary fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, and Rauschenberg. Browne has been featured in PBS NewsHour reading her poem “Black Girl Magic” and in HBO’s Brave New Voices. She has toured internationally as a member of Global Poetics, an international arts exchange.

Mahogany L. Browne is the current Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College’s MFA Program. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Mahogany L. Browne’s website


Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, educator, and spoken word poet. She is the author of the YA poetry book Black Girl Magic, and the children’s book Woke Baby. Her poetry collections include Kissing Caskets and Redbone. She co-edited the poetry anthology The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 3: Black Girl Magic and is at work on WOKE: A Young Poets Guide To Justice. Browne is the recipient of numerous literary fellowships and has appeared on BuzzFeed Live, HBO & PBS NEWShour. She is the Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC and the Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College’s MFA Program. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.


WOKE: A YOUNG POET’S GUIDE TO JUSTICE (Young Adult, 2020)
Co-edited with Olivia Gatwood and Elizabeth Acevedo.

WOKE BABY (Children’s, 2018)

“Bubbling with an easy joy and nascent sense of justice—and the notion that the two can certainly go hand in hand.” —Kirkus Review

For all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism. Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscrapper is more blue.

THE BREAKBEAT POETS VOL. 2: BLACK GIRL MAGIC (Anthology, 2018)

“The poems in the collection, influenced by the rhythms, lyricism, and expressiveness of hip-hop music and culture, speak to the many dimensions of black womanhood.” —Poets & Writers

A BreakBeat Poets anthology to celebrate and canonize the words of Black women across the diaspora. Black Girl Magic continues and deepens the work of the first BreakBeat Poets anthology by focusing on some of the most exciting Black women writing today. This anthology breaks up the myth of hip-hop as a boys’ club, and asserts the truth that the cypher is a feminine form.

BLACK GIRL MAGIC (Young Adult Poetry, 2018)

“Browne celebrates a Black girlhood that is free, unforgettable, and luminous. Middle and high school poetry collections will want to consider.” —School Library Journal

Much of what twenty-first century culture tells black girls is not pretty: Don’t wear this; don’t smile at that. Don’t have an opinion; don’t dream big. And most of all, don’t love yourself. In response to such destructive ideas, internationally recognized poet Mahogany Browne challenges the conditioning of society by crafting an anthem of strength and magic undeniable in its bloom for all beautiful Black girls. She has traveled the world sharing her vision of Black Girl Magic, and now in collaboration with artist Jess X. Snow, presents her acclaimed tribute in a visual form. Black Girl Magic is a journey from girlhood to womanhood and an invitation to readers to find magic in themselves.

KISSING CASKETS (Poetry, 2017)

“Mahogany L. Browne transcends formal innovation. She doesn’t just use form — she makes form work for her. Browne writes in both doorways and catalysts, tackling gender, sexuality, racialization, the body, and the prison industrial complex.” —Medium

Like most young black girls growing up in Northern California, Mahogany L. Browne tussles with ideas of femininity and gender roles, addiction and the prison industrial complex, sexuality & seclusion. Inquiries of the living and dying survive on the pages of Kissing Caskets as the reader is invited to do the self excavation. Each poem a eulogized celebration of what we lose to the dark when no one is looking.


Read “Blueprint and Hymnal” — Academy of American Poets

Read “Marigold” — Poetry

LITANY

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me —Nina Simone

today i am a black woman in america
& i am singing a melody ridden lullaby
it sounds like:
the gentrification of a brooklyn stoop
the rent raised three times my wages
the bodega and laundromat burned down on the corner
the people on the corner
each lock & key their chromosomes
a note of ash & inquiry on their tongues

today i am a black woman in a hopeless state
i will apply for financial aid and food stamps
with the same mouth i spit poems from
i will ask the angels of a creative god to lessen
the blows
& i will beg for forgiveness when i curse
the rising sun

today, i am a black woman in a body of coal
i am always burning and no one knows my name
i am a nameless fury, i am a blues scratched from
the throat of ms. nina—i am always angry
i am always a bumble hive of hello
i love like this too loudly, my neighbors
think i am an unforgiving bitter
sometimes, i think my neighbors are right
most times i think my neighbors are nosey

today, i am a cold country, a storm
brewing, a heat wave of a woman wearing
red pumps to the funeral of my ex-lover’s

today, i am a woman, a brown and black &
brew woman dreaming of freedom

today, i am a mother, & my country is burning
and i forget how to flee
from such a flamboyant backdraft
—i’m too in awe of how beautiful i look
on fire