Scouting the Divine: A Personal Review

Imagine Jesus, crowd full of listeners who did not have the luxury of googling him, tweeting his quotables, or posting on their facebook status that they were chillin’ at the Mount of Olives listening to this dude from Nazareth. No, they weren’t the most high-tech of crowds, but like many of us they were soul weary, tired, longing for something, someone true and real.

Enter what looked like an ordinary man. Born in a small town like theirs, went to school, learned a trade just like they had, but something was different. Something about this man made you want to follow him, listen to him, probe him with questions about this life and the one after. He always had a story in his pocket, a sensory metaphor with the intent to enlighten; a truth teller who could literally close his message with “seewhatimsayin’” and mean it.

I’ve read his stories, listened to them retold and re-spun. At some points truthfully felt like I heard it all, but I was approaching his and the other stories in the bible as if they were museum artifacts. Meant to be viewed and admired but never touched. Margaret Feinberg’s book Scouting the Divine, will not allow such distance. Choosing three metaphors from the Bible: wool, wine, and honey, Margaret gets up close, dirty and personal in an effort to unfold the reality behind these truths. Interviewing and walking the land with a shepherd, a vintner, and a beekeeper, Margaret brings to life this ancient world that people in the Bible knew that is so unfamiliar to our hyperlink connected world. God’s role as shepherd and vintner, and the land of milk and honey are just a few references that Margaret unpacks here along with her own questions and moments of understanding.

The vintner reference hit home most for me. I literally had to close the book and think about it after reading through a few of the passages. How God, in an effort to want me to grow, would cut and prune (in essence allow me to be in pain) so that when the time comes to be fruitful I can withstand, I can have what it takes. That God doesn’t view me as some work of art that he looks on and keeps in some dusty room that no one ever visits like that frozen living room my aunt’s kept in their houses. Reading about these roles of God from this perspective helped me to see that God is involved in my world every moment, more than I can imagine.

Maybe now when life pinches and prunes, when I feel led down a path and I can’t see the way, I’ll remember as Margaret explored here, that scouting the divine is a journey that never ends and that the dude from Nazareth is worth following.


Featured on Raising Poetry Blog!

A month ago I was featured on the Raising Poetry blog in a profile written by Ty Scott of hip hop group Platinum Souls. Check it out!

Amena Brown: The Voice of the People

by: Ty Scott

“Born a seed in the south,” with the stature of a God’s Top Model, a humble air of confidence, and a smile that lights up the darkest environments; Amena Brown has blessed audiences across the country with her polished poetic prose. For years, she’s successfully juggled a schedule full of: blazing open mics, ministering at churches such as: New Birth (GA), Buckhead Church (GA), Lakewood Community Church (TX), and Irving Bible Church (TX), and as of last year, competing nationally as a member of the 2008 Java Monkey Poetry Slam Team. Simply put- Amena Brown is a modern day rock star. And I for one wanted to re-connect with this Renaissance woman to pick her brain, and her soul, for some spiritual insight.

I’ve always been told that if you want the whole story, you must of course start at the beginning; which for Amena, poetically speaking, was at the age of 13. At a time when most of her peers were probably doodling boy’s names in their notebooks, she was discovering her own “power to excite, ignite, and inspire.” So when she hit the stage at 17, she blew audiences away. And, her refusal to be just another act is what continues to set Amena apart. She has made a commitment to bare her soul and use her words to ignite a fire for Christ amongst her generation.

“Every struggle I’ve had has turned into something I can share with other people that will hopefully help them. When I was in college my pastor used to say that God never wastes an experience and I have found that to be true. Pretty much any struggle I’ve had shows up in a poem, in a conversation, or in a talk or breakout session at some point.” Amena openly admits “one thing I really struggled with was breaking away from being so religious. I grew up in church most of my life and church was what I knew. In my 20s I’ve learned a lot of who God really is and had to unlearn being so afraid of messing up, doing things to keep up appearances, or doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons. That’s a journey I’m still on, but God has really changed my perspective on who he is and what it really means to be a believer.”

Another of Amena’s issues is one that is common to a vast majority of people around the globe- insecurities about her appearance. “When I was younger I didn’t feel like I was beautiful and I hid behind my glasses, my hair, my baggy clothes. As I grew older, I met people that saw behind all my hiding and encouraged me to not be afraid to be myself and love myself just like I was. Over time that love and learning how beautiful God thinks I am and how much time and detail he put into making me, helped me to realize I was beautiful and that I didn’t have to hide behind anything, especially not my outward appearance, religion, or trying to impress other people. I still deal with insecurities today, but the more I mature the more I am learning to accept myself as I am and other people as they are.”

Through it all, Amena’s innate ability to take personal observations and experiences, and weave them into tales that paint vivid pictures and captivate the hearts of her listeners, has placed her on platforms to spread the truth of the gospel across racial, cultural, and religious lines. Her words remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. Amena stands in the gap for many, showing us that just like she’s been through those rough places, and come out of it all more alive, we too can do the same.

To the naked eye, it would seem that she has a full plate before her. But, as a woman of great faith, Amena’s spiritual eyes see much more on the horizon. For starters, she has taken her skills to yet another level, and outlet, by establishing herself as a contributing writer for several well-respected publications. As a female freelance writer, Amena is seizing the opportunity to show other women that you can “carry yourself as a professional and as a classy woman in situations where the industry you’re working with needs to see that. I also really enjoy meeting and talking with other women who are in my similar life situation or industry. Meeting other women who are walking the same path as you is so encouraging, because we can help to keep each other’s heads up.”

Obviously, Amena’s favorite childhood hobby of reading has served her well. And now, God is writing an extraordinary story through her. She is an inspiration to women, and men alike. Having stepped out of boxes of complacency, tradition, religion, and gender stereotypes, Amena is carving a path all her own.

“I think my major ah-ha moment came in my mid-twenties. That’s when I realized I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t busy doing ministry and that a lot of the reason I was praying, spending time with God, doing “spiritual” things was because other people were looking at me. At that point, God started me on a journey of unearthing the motivations of my heart, stripping me of pleasing people, and bringing me to a place where I want to please him above all. I’m still learning and growing, and I hope I’m learning and growing the rest of my life.”

Her experiences of being raised in the church, attending & graduating college away from home, discovering her “voice” through poetry, and traveling to spread the good news, are building a powerful testimony. When she’s gone from this world, Amena wants to “leave a legacy of living my life to the fullest, leaving no dreams unturned, being real and downright honest, while living my life for God. I would like those things to permeate everything I do.” At least that was her answer at the time of this interview, because as she said: “that’s a big question, and I’m sure my answer will change as I live.”

You can keep up with the globe-trotting, Proverbs 31 woman, and download some of her master-pieces, by visiting her at:




Scotty Barnhart CD Release: Saying it Plain

*Thanks to guest blogger, Wayne James for covering this show for me and to Fiona Bloom for the media pass!

by Wayne James, blogger and bass player for Gritz and Jelly Butter

I have to admit that I am guilty of a certain kind of elitism when it comes to distinguishing the traditional art form of jazz from the newest variations. Not that variations are bad, but I suppose I want to separate the unmistakable sound that my father’s jazz represented from...well, everything else. So when I got the opportunity to cover the release of solo CD Saying it Plain, by one of Atlanta’s jazz greats, trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, I jumped at the chance to be reminded of the original beauty and passion of this distinctly American art form.

Barnhart has toured the world with definitive jazz institutions such as the Count Basie Orchestra, and has recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Cab Calloway, Joe Williams, Ray Charles and Tito Puentes. Say It Plain includes musical contributions from Eddie & Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry, and Marcus Roberts among others, standing as a testament to Barnhart’s high regard among his peers.

Barnhart played trumpet as a young boy at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and was christened by Martin Luther King Jr., and baptized by Martin Luther King Sr. Barnhart’s performance at the historic Martin Luther King, Jr. Center was double billed as both a CD release and an honorable tribute to an era and a people that were at the heart of the civil rights revolution and heavily influenced his early life.

I was taken immediately by the simplicity, humility, and effortless nature of Barnhart’s sound especially when compared with the backdrop of today’s entertainment-oriented music scene. With Bill Peterson on piano, Kevin Smith on bass, and Leon Anderson on drums, Barnhart walked on stage, cordially greeted the audience, and began to make beautiful music. The album’s title track, “Say It Plain,” eased us into his world with an infectious, finger-snapping groove, peppered with Barnhart’s growling trumpet. His set grew adventurous as he plunged the audience head first into “Burning Sands,” an exhilarating and up-tempo display of his technical prowess wrought with rapid tempo and mood changes.

The night included guest appearances from a number of talented artists/musicians: saxophonist Ricardo Pascal, jazz guitarist Rik Waller, and vocalist Jamie Davis who joined Barnhart for the classic ballad, “Young at Heart.” Davis’ warm, husky baritone, reminiscent of Lou Rawls, combined with Barnhart’s muted trumpet had me grimacing with appreciation.

By the time we got to “Haley’s Passage,” a soft & contemplative stroll that successfully highlights Barnhart’s well-known soloist ability, I was a committed fan. Barnhart and his band closed out the night with an all out jam session during which any musician in the audience was invited to participate.

After the concert, I asked Scotty what he’d say to younger musicians trying to find their way in this new era of music. He paused for a moment and said, “Pay attention to what you’ve been given”. Now that is saying it plain.


Atlanta Intown Article: Creative Community

Creative Community
Atlanta INtown Newspaper May Issue

Westside Arts District emerges as gallery destination

Atlanta's Westside, between Howell Mill Road and Means Street, has become a burgeoning locale for contemporary art. Long a gathering place for creative people, the area has become home to a collective of nine gallery spaces now known as the Westside Arts District.

Westside Arts District is a mix of commercial galleries, nonprofit spaces, and a coffeehouse: Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, Bobbe Gillis Gallery, Emily Amy Gallery, Get This! Gallery, Kiang Gallery, Octane Coffee Bar, SALTWORKS, the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum and Sandler Hudson Gallery. Created in January, the district's monthly "Westside Art Walks" are already creating a buzz among artists and art lovers.

"I sent out a blanket e-mail to all the galleries I knew that existed in the area and said I think we should try to get together and collaborate on something," said Emily Amy, owner of Emily Amy Gallery. "I didn't know any of the gallery owners at the time. I was almost shocked at how quickly everyone responded. We talked about forming the organization during our first meeting."

Although the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Octane and Sandler Hudson Gallery have been established in the area for more than four years, other galleries migrated to the area in the last two years from Castleberry Hills and the Old Fourth Ward, citing location and lower rents.

"Castleberry has stalled as a visual arts area and become more of a center for nightlife," said Ben Roosevelt, an artist whose work whose work has been shown at Get This! Gallery and will be featured at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum. "The challenge of Atlanta, with everything spread so far apart, is that there's not really one arts district. The Westside is a great location because it's more accessible to the greater population of Atlanta."

Every Third Saturday, Westside Arts District hosts the Art Walk, encouraging the Atlanta community to engage in a fresh way with contemporary art. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. families, students, and art enthusiasts take their sneakers to the streets, touring the art gallery spaces and attending educational talks. The art spaces are all within one mile of each other and two or three lectures or artist talks are included each month.

"There are people out there who are curious buyers, but they would rather get on a plane and go to New York because they don't know what's available here," said Christina Caudill, co-owner of SALTWORKS. "We want to make people aware, both the buyer and the general public, of what we're doing here."

Octane, the only arts space in the collective that doubles as a coffeehouse, has its art curated by owner Tony Riffel and is a place where people gather to discuss arts before and after the monthly arts walk.

Said Riffel, "Art has been a big part of what we have been doing from day one. Our walls are great for different exhibits. We rotate every month, and we only focus on local art. We're really trying to capture the artists that aren't getting attention from other galleries. It's been great to see the creative community grow around us. To see it come to life now is really exciting."


Music Moments Blog 2: What Was Your Musical First?

May is Mena’s Music Month and as many of you know I have a habit of coining random celebrations. lol Blogging about musical moments and memories is not only a great way to celebrate May but it’s also alliteration. Everyone needs alliteration! This week I solicited some quotes from a few cool people about their musical firsts. The amazing thing about music is that it holds memories for all of us across generation, culture, and gender. So read on for some nostalgic musical firsts and feel free to share some of your own.

Amena Brown, writer/talker/spoons player
Sixth grade. I had just moved from Silver Spring, MD to San Antonio, TX and was highly unhappy about it. Felt like I went from really cool place to live to really slow, cowboy boots, flatland place to live. (no offense to my Texas peeps! lol) I was having a hard time fitting in, but somehow found a friend in a tall freckle-faced, brown haired boy named Daniel. Daniel was always in trouble, so when our class went to do fun stuff like play on the computer or have recess, he was typically leaning against some wall at the teacher’s behest for his bad behavior. I would stop and talk to him sometimes since we kind of had something in common. He couldn’t have fun with the class and I frankly didn’t want to. lol He told me about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Asked me if I’d ever heard a song called “Under the Bridge.” I hadn’t so he sang me the words and told me to check it out. I caught the video on MTV and loved it! After that I’d always check on Daniel during his times of detention and sing a few of the lines with him. I still know all the words to that song.

Leaf, Singer/Songwriter
I think my first live show was Goapele. I actually went to go see another artist that night at the temple bar in Los Angeles and stayed around to see the other artists. And I must tell you that watching her with her band inspired my brother to encourage me to put my own band together which I did soon after. It was really a great show but my most favorite live show was AMEL @ Sugar Hill in ATL. There was just something about the magnitude of energy and love reciprocated in the room between Amel and us fans that I have yet to experience again. Hopefully it will be one of my own shows.

Leaf, Singer/Songwriter

The first instrument I learned was the guitar. At four years old while living in Los Angeles, 54th and Venice in South Central, a friend of my parents brought over an old beat up guitar with holes in it and just two strings. And my dad used to tell the story that I just walked over and started playing and I've been playing ever since.

Marc McCartney, Blogger
Director of Events, www.RightNow.org

My Dad was a football coach and I loved being around him. So as a little kid, I spent a ton of hours on the practice field and in the locker room. Music was always the pulse of the locker room. I could walk into the locker room and just by listening to the music I would know what was going on.

Before games you hear something with lots of bass to get the juices flowing. Before practice you might hear something a little more upbeat, but not too intense. After practice is going to be something mellow and lazy. After a loss – no music! But after a win – that’s when you get the hip hop. Everyone was excited and juiced up and ready to let it all out. The team would sing the songs aloud – practically shouting the music – it was a party in that locker room and it was so much fun! Run DMC, Sir Mix A Lot, Public Enemy, Biz Markie, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, and the list goes on… those were the days!

Chuck Woo, Managing Director, Woo Media Works
Blogger/Marketing Consultant, www.chuckwoo.com

As a 6 year old being able to witness the hardest working man in show business and the smooth Temptations gave me a soulful appreciation of music and entertainment. James Brown was the best entertainer and could move the crowd just dancing.

Don't know if I remember my first music store experience, however the first 45 that I bought for 67 cents was James Brown, which I think I still have somewhere.

Dan Kimball, author/speaker, www.dankimball.com

I think the first full album I ever bought was KISS's "Destroyer" album. I was fascinated with KISS as a kid. I think it was the whole stage show, lighting, smoke machines, the drums that rose in the air during the drum solo and all the theatrics that they did that no one else was doing like that back then. I am quite embarrassed to say but I saw KISS 3 times live in concert while in high school.

Matthew “Opie” Owen, DJ and Saxophone player

The first time I was on my turntables in front of a crowd, a large youth group had hired me to come and make it hot that night. I was kind of panicking because I wasn't exactly sure how to hook everything up, but I didn't want to let them know that. Even though my right table was coming out of my left on the mixer and my left was coming out of the right, the crowd was moving and I've been in love ever since.

AJ Joiner, www.TheASpot.com

“It’s not bippety-bop mama.” I pleaded sincerely as I tried to convince my Mama to cough up $7.99 so I could buy UTFO. 
I’d heard ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’ and ‘The Real Roxanne’ at friends’ houses, but Grandma wasn’t allowing that ‘bee-bop mess’ in her house, and Mama wasn’t either. Shortly thereafter I scammed my Uncle into buying the tape and it. Was. On. 

We spent weeks with the tape deck locked, loaded and on record/pause. I wrote lyrics in my ‘Rap notebook’ and was ready at a moment’s notice for a ‘battle’ with my brother and friends to rap the lyrics to anything by UTFO. 
“Calling Her a Crab, Roxanne, Roxanne, Bite It, The Real Roxanne” are all classics in their own right. Dr. Ice, Kangol Kid, Mixmaster Ice, and the Educated Rapper pioneered the early 80’s version of what we call ‘diss’ and reply albums. 

No true hip hop head can stroll down Hip Hop memory lane without touching the Untouchable Force Organization better known as UTFO. 

What were some of your musical firsts?


Music Moments Blog 1: Theme Songs

theme song: \ˈthēm\ \ˈsoŋ\ noun 1 a musical composition that inspires and motivates

I’ve learned that the only time dreams just happen to you is in your sleep. In real life, the achieving of dreams takes work, risking failure and rejection, and refusing to settle for what is comfortable or convenient. A theme song can be a great way to keep yourself focused and motivated. These tunes keep me encouraged to be myself, to keep going even when it would seem easier to call it quits, to sing really loud, to dance, and to believe.

Off the Wall – Michael Jackson
Yes, this song is about the boogie, but let’s dig a little deeper. Michael is singing a metaphor here, something Pink picked up on in “God is a Deejay.” Life -- the dance floor. God – the deejay. You – hopefully are not leaning against the wall scared to dance. Not only does this song rock, but also it reminds me to not get too comfortable leaning against the wall in life.

“Life ain’t so bad at all if you’re living off the wall.” – Michael Jackson

Strength, Courage and Wisdom – India.Arie
India.Arie is one of my FAVORITE artists. She writes the songs that say what I want to say, and this one is closest to my heart out of all of them. I love this song because it communicates the balance of living your dream: I do my part and God does his. There are times to make a move and times to let it be. This is also a great workout song! (Shout out to the treadmill!)

“I close my eyes and I think of all the things that I wanna see…” – India.Arie

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
I’ll admit it. I LOVED Kelly Clarkson’s first album (shout out to dr. hoch who hipped me to it!) When I first heard the song “Breakaway,” Andy Stanley was doing a series of messages with the same title at Buckhead Church. I cried at all of them because I knew that breaking away from what was comfortable is what I would have to do if I was going to live my life to the fullest. At the time that was a tall order because it meant a serious interruption in my routine and perspective. Looking back on that moment I’m glad I took the risk of leaving my convenience and comfort to pursue something new.

“Make a wish, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway.” – Kelly Clarkson

Pretty Girl – Eric Roberson
I believe God can speak to us through many things and I realized after listening to this on repeat 20 zillion times lol that I love this song because it sounds like something God would say. I can imagine him watching this girl, the same way a dad marvels at, loves, and protects his daughter. Telling her that she doesn’t have to settle for less than what she’s worth. That there is more to her than her physical appearance. That he sees beauty in her beyond her smile. This song, reminds me of how big God’s love is and that thankfully his love doesn’t depend on how good we are or how much we have it together.

“Open your eyes and realize you’re worth much more. Oh so much more.” – Eric Roberson

“That’s my theme music. Every good hero should have some.” – John Slade, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (check the video around 7:50...really watch all of it, it's hilarious! lol)

Your turn. What are some of your theme songs?


J*Davey show at Sugar Hill

Saturday night I was doing double duty, wearing two wonderfully artistic hats. One as a poet at a qualifying slam with the Java Monkey Decatur, GA and Knoxville, TN slam teams and the other as a journalist/blogger at the J*Davey show at Sugar Hill. My homeboy and fellow writer Adam Beane agreed to tag team blog with me about the J*Davey show so none of the festivities would be missed. He is officially a part of history -- my first guest blogger. :) What follows is an insider view into the evening. A glimpse, if you will, of conversation, texts, and pseudo-twittering. lol For your reading pleasure...

Adam arrives at 9:30, sure he’s late, but hears DJ TaBone and remembers that nothing in Atlanta starts on time - absolutely nothing.

Adam is absorbing the scene: white guys in suits & ties, faux blipsters in flannels and ladies with more variations of natural than Whole Foods, Sevananda and Trader Joe’s combined.

Adam peeps the paintings being constructed by Flux of Binkis Recs on the side of the stage.

Adam watches a white girl who he thinks is CJ from 95.5 The Beat welcome the crowd.

Adam thought Dres tha Beatnik was hosting…???

Adam sees Ali “ALIen” Warren take the stage on some Clyde Stubblefield drumming meets Rahzel “Godfather of Noyze”.

Adam accompanies ALI’s DJ through the medley of hip hop crowd movers…yes, I concur Hov “Brooklyn, we do, in fact, go hard”

Adam is mesmerized as the only thing ALIen is unable to do on drums is sit still. So sick…

Adam watches ALIen take off his shirt (no E. Lynn Harris) while drumming…stand on the kick while drumming…and walk through the audience with his snare while (you guessed it) still drumming.

Adam is digging how ALIen pours the Red Bull can over the drum set providing the audience with an 80’s glam rock video splash scene every time he “click-clacks(!)”.

Thoroughly entertained, Adam is wondering why ALIen wasn’t billed on the flyer…?

Adam has no time to contemplate, Atlanta-native The Doll Daze promptly takes the stage donning masquerade half masks.
Adam is digging her indie rock soul vibe.

Adam was doing fine until the Acid Girls, The Doll Daze’s promo team, walked in front of him trying to steal his attention.
Adam peeps Janelle Monae slide into the venue with Brittany Bosco.

Back on his grizzly, Adam thinks The Doll Daze pleasantly fill a void left by RES.

Adam wonders if RES, Kweli and this Idle Warship joint is really gonna produce results for either of them…

Single tracking my train of thought, Adam is grooving to “Words”, “2040” and “Please Everybody” which is a good sign for Doll Daze if I can remember the names of your songs.

Adam applauds as Doll Daze bids farewell to an appreciative audience.

Adam considers getting a drink until he looks at how packed the bar has become and realizes a cranberry juice ain’t worth all that.

Adam sees Brittany Bosco’s band take their places and digs the two keyboardists, bassist, guitarist, drummer and DJ that Bosco has brought along with her.

Adam listens as somehow Brittany gets two intros…one from the white girl followed by another from Dres.

Adam is feeling how Brittany Bosco comes out looking like Lena Horne…long eyelashes and all.

Adam watches as Brittany’s commanding voice fills the room and her body’s contortions ensure all eyes are on her.

Adam can’t quite get the “City of Nowhere” chant right that Brittany wants everybody to sing.

Adam thinks Brittany Bosco is about as dynamic a performer as you’re going to see before becoming famous.

Adam is slightly distracted as the couple next to him discusses Brittany Bosco’s unconventional looks.

Adam likes that Brittany and her cousin (pulled from the audience) end her set singing a duet of “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)”.

Adam decides that he’s seen Brittany Bosco perform even better, but loves that she always seems to leave it all on the stage.

Adam is eagerly anticipating J*Davey when he gets a tap on his shoulder from his pen sister Amena.

amena is trying to catch up with adam but got distracted looking at how the guy next to adam was focusing some serious energy on his two step, then dres and the deejay got on that al green love and happiness, at which time amena had to cut a lil rug.

amena wants to thank dj tabone for playing this..."i wanna rock right now. i'm rob base and i came to get down. i'm not internationally known, but i'm known to rock the microphone!"

amena got some cool footage of janelle monae and dres tha beatnik dancing to a groove.

amena thinks j*davey's music has the ability to make you feel like you have been transported inside your radio.

amena thinks some of j*davey's beats rock.

amena went to the front to snap a picture and caught a whiff of smoke, not of the nicotine kind.

amena wonders if this whiff helps the audience to enjoy j*davey's music.

amena watches people party like it's 1988 while listening to j*davey.

pseudo tweet blog: java monkey/knoxville slam

As previously stated in this here blog, my cell phone is incapable of 21st duties such as checking email, facebook, twittering and the like. In an effort to update my status at events I go old school and write down what I would twitter if I could. For your reading pleasure, my "tweets or something like that" about the qualifying slam I participated in between the Java Monkey and Knoxville slam teams on Saturday, March 14.

amena is hanging out with kim possible and j marie on the way to java monkey.

amena is listening to kim possible read a portion of outliers and feeling inspired.

amena is happy to see rhea sunshine and black atticus from the knoxville slam team.
amena just saw bryan patillo without his locks...wow!

amena huddles up with tonight’s java monkey slam team: tavares, gypsee yo, and bryan patillo, to coolly strategize for the slam.

amena wants to make it known that coolly strategize is another term for four poets looking at each other and saying "so whatchu wanna do?"

amena is digging tavares' poem about inspiring the kids.

amena is sniffling some and hopes it won't affect her performance.

amena performs "God bless mom" and gets the two judges who've been giving high 7s and low 8s all night to come up a couple of decimal points.

amena gets a blasted time penalty for taking her sweet time on "God bless mom."

amena realizes that when rhea sings it sounds like chuuuuuuch.

amena is a gypsee yo fan!

amena watched gypsee yo perform autobiography and had to stand up and shout!

amena wants to thank courageous from knoxville for standing up for the good men and for showing love to everyday women. I’m about that! :D

amena thinks it’s ridiculous that tavares’ amazing poem about the birth of his son got such low scores. haters.

amena enjoyed slamming and having a friendly win with the java team.


Class of 3000 LIVE: A Trip to Cool School

Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Tom Lynch’s animated cartoon brainchild, Cartoon Network’s Emmy award-winning Class of 3000, debuted Saturday as a live stage show to an audience full of Atlanta celebrities, families, and kids at the Alliance Theater. Set in Atlanta, the play hinges on a chance meeting between Li’l D, a middle school student who has just discovered his school has lost its music teacher, and Sunny Bridges, an international jazz and blues performer who after leaving his music career is in need of some inspiration. Here are four reasons to love this animated cartoon turned stage play.

4 Reasons to Love Class of 3000 LIVE

1. An Atlanta World Premiere: Class of 3000 LIVE is the second stage play to host its world premiere in Atlanta at the Alliance Theater this year. Shows like this help to highlight what many people already know about Atlanta, that it is a city brimming with art and talent.

2. Cool Cast: Jonathan Davis (Kam), Bernard Jones (Li’l D), Wendy Melkonian (Madison), Brandon O’Dell (Phil), Zany Pohlel (Kim), Justin Tanner (Eddie), and Sharisa Whatley (Tamika), played the live class of 3000 with song, choreography, and humor that adults and kids alike could enjoy. From the first time Li’l D yells, “let’s crank this thing up!” you want to follow him on the journey to convince his idol, Sunny Bridges, to become the kids’ music teacher. Scott Warren, actor/puppeteer, added hilarity to each role he played from Sunny’s manager to the kids’ principal.

3. Sunny Bridges: Not only is the animated character inspired by Atlanta’s own Andre 3000, but Sinatra Onyewuchi, embodied his character’s animation and eclectic style, with a signature straw hat, fluid dance moves, and a smile that invited cast and audience members to join in the fun.

4. Inspirational Tunes: Sunny and his new cadre of kids perform songs from the animated series, showing that there is more to good music than what you hear on the radio. Towards the end of the show, the kids sing “be yourself, because no one else can take your seat in cool school.” This advice, like the show, is good for all ages.


inspirational women month: dear grandma sudie

march is women's history month, but i like to celebrate it as inspiration women month by highlighting the women who inspire me. here is a poem about my great grandmother.

Dear Grandma Sudie

She had cheeks as dark brown as tree trunks.
See the years of courage weaved like the grain of tobacco leaves between her fingertips.
These same lips fed me spoonfuls of truth, thick and hot like stone ground grits.
She knew the blood of Jesus for its pardon and its power,
Called on his name in a way book knowledge cannot teach.
Siphon the wisdom in her silver strands and I could take sips of womanhood everyday,
Learn a love that follows the curve of her hips and longs to lay beside the man of her dreams for the rest of her life.
I believe in dreams with shoes under pillows.
I believe in your legend.
You were lean, graceful, quiet but knowing,
Strong in the silent enduring sense of the word.

If you were here today, I would kiss you on your cheek,
Ask you if you needed anything
Bring you cool glasses of water
Silence my busy mind and listen to you.
I would sit at your feet and write your life story on my hand so I could retell it to me after you were gone.
Hum you a hymn you taught to me until you went to sleep
Fine-tooth comb your gently pressed hair, scratch your scalp and line it with white rose.
Ask you to teach me the recipe for collard greens, chicken pastry, chitlins, parenting, 60-year love, love of God.
I would follow your recipe by the ounce until I made it my own.


Completely biased CD review - India.Arie’s Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics

Disclaimer, preface, intro, explanation: pretty much any album India.Arie puts out has my wholehearted endorsement so this CD review is a departure from any attempt to be an unbiased journalist or culture and arts commentator.

…having said that let’s get into what I’m sure will be one of my favorite albums of 2009! :D

I believe everyone has an artist they love who somehow has the uncanny knack of taking your story, thoughts, and emotions and filtering it through their music as if they read your journal or eavesdropped on your conversations. For some, it’s Tupac. My brother told me once that listening to Tupac made him ponder the deeper things of life, even his relationship with God. For others, it’s Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill. For me, that artist is India.Arie (…and Eric Roberson lol but that’s for another cd review).

This Tuesday, India released her fourth album, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. Here’s a review track for track:

1. Intro – Grains
I dig the intro, interlude, outro set up. India has stayed true to this for all four albums. This is the first time I actually wanted to hear a full song come of these interludes. “I’m grateful that, you continue to amaze me…”

2. Therapy
This song and “He Heals Me” are cut from the same cloth. Great wordplay here and I love how India can be sweet and sassy all at the same time.

3. Ghetto (featuring Gramps Morgan)
Interesting turn on the term ghetto in this song, I love how India used this song as a panoramic view of global and domestic poverty.

4. Chocolate High (featuring Musiq Soulchild)
Admittedly, I wasn’t in love with this song when I first heard it. It still isn’t one of my favorites on the album, but it’s got a nice groove, so it’s growing on me.

5. He Heals Me
Ladies and gentleman, stop the presses! Pause! This is BY FAR my FAVORITE song on the album. Is that enough CAPS for YOU?! LOL Okay, I have this thing about CDs where there is always a song that is really track 1 for me. Por ejemplo: On Anthony David’s Red Clay Chronicles for me the album starts at Smoke One. On Jay-Z’s American Gangster the album starts for me at American Dreamin’ and on Eric Roberson’s Left the album starts at Pen Just Cries Away. This album for me starts at He Heals Me. This song makes me want to cry every time I hear it. It’s beautifully written and the piano creates the perfect mood for her words. I could go on…sigh…sigh emoticon…but I’ll move on for now. :)

6. Interlude – Grains

7. Pearls (featuring Dobet Gnahore)
There are two images here that struck me as strong metaphor. 1) the idea that we all have something to offer, to hold as precious, and the stories of women across the world who go through such pains to do so. 2) the idea of something hurting like brand new shoes. How typically, a woman’s shoes are a symbol of the pain we endure for what we think is beautiful. Haunting, yet beautiful imagery here.

8. River Rise
This song has such reverence and hope in its lyrics. The organ lilt gives this tune the feel of an old spiritual or hymn. This one also makes me want to cry when I hear it. “I bow down, I surrender today. I can’t do this, Lord I need your help.”

9. Yellow (featuring Terrell Carter)
Cliché to say I love the color of this one? LOL I like the groove and the imagery here too and Terrell Carter’s presence doesn’t hurt at all! :D

10. Better Way
I like how this one rocks. The guitar on this one is great!

11. Interlude – Grains

12. Long Goodbye
The dichotomy and tension in this song is so honest. This is one of my favorites.

13. Psalms 23 (featuring MC Lyte)
Um can we say how AMAZING it is that India.Arie and the LYTE are on the same song! I love the release-the-haters-and-negativity message here and hearing Lyte kick the lyrics was a wonderful bonus! Kudos on the artist choice for this India. Love it!

14. The Cure (featuring Sezen Aksu)
This is a feel good song with a positive message. I like that she doesn’t just sing about love as the cure but challenges the listener to action.

15. Outro – Grains

16. A Beautiful Day
This is the theme song I pull from the album. I always get a theme song from India’s albums. First Album: Strength, Courage & Wisdom. Second Album: Beautiful Surprise. Third Album: I Choose. And now this one. What a great way to end the album.

Okay fellow India fans…what are your favorite songs from the album? What are your India theme songs from any of the albums? Let’s tawk. :)


dear mr. nice guy

this is an essay i wrote awhile ago for submission to a regional publication. it wasn't chosen for publication but i thought it would be fitting to post it here in honor of good man month.

Dear Mr. Nice Guy,

Good men are hard to find and even harder to keep. It’s unforgiveable to let one go. Just like you, they keep slipping through my hands like so much sand in an hourglass. You’re right. You are underappreciated. You’ve been given a bad rap and truthfully I preferred a broken and bruised heart to your respectful ways. I’m sorry I said you were boring. I’m sorry I said you were soft. I’m sorry I said you weren’t sexy enough. I’m sorry for not giving you a chance.

When we first met, you confused me. Seriously, who’s honest anymore Mr. Nice Guy? Who says what they mean in the dating game these days? I suppose you do, and it’s clear you don’t believe in playing with my emotions. What’s a single woman to do with all that free time, now that she has no reason to spend her time psychoanalyzing too short text messages, missed calls with no voicemail, and first dates that never make it to a second one?

And another thing Mr. Nice Guy, how dare you be into commitment? I mean who’s into getting serious? Who wants the pressure of a man who wants to be with only me? I would much rather prefer a man who’s juggling me and sixty other women across the city. I like a man who keeps me guessing.

Marriage, commitment, rings, his and hers sinks and towels, matching outfits – these words didn’t scare you. In fact, you welcomed them, wanted them, wanted me, but I wasn’t ready for you. My early 20s mind couldn’t fathom giving up the freedom of singleness to settle down with you. I couldn’t imagine my one and your one becoming one. I couldn’t bring myself to give up the lottery-like possibility of finding five other men that might be the one. I was standing on the side of the road with a hitchhiker’s thumb, passing up the most safe ride home. I was waiting for something better. Like baiting a unicorn on a fishing pole, I was stupid to throw you back into the sea that clichés say is running aplenty with fish.

Trust me. When my night’s get lonely, when I’m out with some ignorant fool who doesn’t know opening the door for a lady from throwing a shot of tequila down his throat, who assumes that dinner and a second date means sex, I think of you. Don’t tell anyone I’m writing this but sometimes I daydream of you. You, the one any woman wants to bring home to meet a dysfunctional family. You, who would rub my back while my family argues the merit of scripture and scrabble, and gaze at me with the look that said you loved and accepted me just for me and would do the same for them. You, who would make love, make babies, and stick around to deal with me, my horrible hormonal attitude, and alien cravings; stick around for baby names, birth, pre-k, middle school, college, and empty nest until it’s back to just us. You, who even as you are reading this forgives the silly me that sent you on your way in the first place.

The phrase “no more Mr. Nice Guy” has haunted me since I ended things with you. You made me question my definition of a man. As if the paramount of testosterone has to equal hairy machismo, never-ending noncommittal, and grunts-only communication. You had character, endurance, perseverance, respect, patience, and I was just too fireworks-driven to see it.

You have no reason to trust these words coming from the pen of a woman who so quickly and easily dismissed you, but years and life and trouble and struggle have shaped that woman with the same indelible imprint with which quick rivers slowly hewn canyons. I see you more clearly now, as I see myself.

I really just wanted to let you know that the phrase “nice guys finish last” is propaganda pushed by bad boys in gentlemen’s clothing. Whatever you do in life, don’t shy away from being the nice guy, especially not because of women like me. Sooner or later some woman is going to relish your gentlemanly gestures. She will find your respectful hand in the small of her back so much more sexy than a strange first-date hand attempting the squeeze on her inner thigh. She will be swept away by your chivalrous door-opening, coat-holding, pulling out her chair, and she will not ditch you for the next smooth swagger, emotionally unavailable, slick talker. Hold out for her and don’t settle for less.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to reply. I wouldn’t dare ask you for a second chance. I just wanted to clear the air and hopefully give myself a clean slate. And maybe, just maybe I’ll cross paths with another nice guy and this time I won’t give him back.


poem: a few good men

yes, it's the third annual good man month! it's also black history month, so as my mom would say get your black history on! you can start here! :D

every february on my poetry and journalist myspace pages i rotate a different set of good men and men who are good at they do as my top friends. this year i'm stepping it up. my personal assignment is to post some pieces i've written that were inspired by good men. here's the first one...and videos are coming soon!

you have an assignment too. ladies, your assignment is to encourage one good man in your life each week this month. let him know he is appreciated. fellas, your assignment is to commit one random act of goodness (some of you already do this stuff and if so keep it up!) i.e. opening the door for a lady, giving a classy compliment, pulling out a lady's chair, etc. hit me up and let me know how it's going. in the meantime...here's "a few good men."

A Few Good Men

By: Amena J. Brown

His walk is R-E-S-P-E-C-T
He’s got tender loving care up his sleeve
He sees God in me like India.Arie
Something about his swagger
Something about his walk
I get all caught up in that truth he talks

His only game is telling me his name
Or asking for mine
He wants to know what I’m about
He wants to know if I’m about what he’s about
For his character even God can vouch
Check his heavenly references
He’s got clout where it counts

He appreciates the complexity of a woman’s mind
Deserves words well seasoned and well defined
And did I mention that he was fine?
His good deeds may never make it to the news
But he showed me that chivalry has been resurrected as the new cool

He opens doors
He walks on the outside nearest the street
He pulls out chairs
Sometimes he pushes my cash away and says it’s his treat
Telling me it was his pleasure at the end of the night
Walking me to my car just to say good night
Insisting I call to let him know I made it home safe
He makes me feel safe because he is so secure
Imagine that even his sexiness is pure

He gives sweet and thoughtful gifts
Like conversations that take unexpected turns like jazz riffs
Leaving me wanting more of his music
More of his deep voice reflections
More of his intellectual connections
More of him

'Cause meeting a man like him is like finding a four-leaf clover
You’ve been looking for one all your life
But never thought you'd get the chance to hold one
I can’t really say that he brings me good luck
But I do know he brings so much love, concern, intelligence
So much friendship, kinship, and common sense

If his status ain’t good, I ain’t checking for him
Better know how to be sweet if he’s looking at me
'Cause despite popular belie... size really does matter
A big heart can go a long way
A man who believes that obstacles won’t stop dreams can carry you a long way
He’s the kind who drapes his coat over your cold shoulders
Quick to correct you when you turn pebbles into boulders
His type of love grows stronger as the two of you get older

His love is patient, kind, his love waits
His love gives more than his love takes
Honesty is the first kind of love he makes
He takes his time
Cultivating a connection of the spiritual kind
Investigate his mind and you might find
Pages of psalm 139
I can read his life, line upon line
Discover how his heart aligns with God’s divine design
I am inclined to try to make him mine
But, all in due time

He doesn’t rush which makes his gentle touch mean so much
Just the thought of holding his hand makes me blush
To him, intimacy is a gift, not an expectation
Which means he skips all the compromising situations
He wants me to save my best and no playing games
He won’t ask for my body until he gives me his name

Take a few trifling experiences plus all the sad statistics
And it might seem that a man like him no longer existed
I stand as a witness I’ve encountered a few
I treasure them for all the gentlemanly things they do
I cherish them for the good men they are
The kind of men that a woman can trust with her heart


Atlanta INtown Article: Art Fusion

Atlanta Nightlife: Call Me Up

The team that brought you Play Date and Paint By Numbers, can’t stop won’t stop in 2009. Imari Havard and his Timeless Entertainment Concepts crew added new event Call Me Up to their repertoire in front of a packed house at 595 North on Saturday night.

Call Me Up is a combination of Comic View and improv theater, with the added twist that audience members could be called on to join a scene at any moment by the ring of their cell phone. In scenes such as “Ridin’ Miss Daisy” where Miss Daisy and her driver Henry transform from old and harmless to Bonnie & Clyde ’09, an audience participant was called on stage and forced to choose whether she would ride or die. Call Me Up provides an alternative to standard club hopping, dinner and a movie options. More events to come from this creative crew.

Atlanta Theater: Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel

Four years ago, Atlanta hosted the premiere of a fresh take on Alice Walker’s The Color Purple – a musical. “The Color Purple” danced from its southern roots to Broadway, embarking on a national tour that eventually led the moving production back to its premiere roots.

This year, the Alliance Theater premieres another new look at a classic story, “Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel.” Retaining original lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the gospel version is conceived and arranged by Grammy award-winning songwriter Louis St. Louis, who penned songs for both Grease and Grease 2. St. Louis takes the vulnerable story of Jesus Christ Superstar and harkens to his Detroit Pentecostal church roots to bring swinging soul to Webber’s rock hits.

The stone/marble set with added choir risers, created the backdrop for the choir ensemble and cast, clad in all white modern day attire. Mary Magdalene played by Nicole Long and Judas played by Darryl Jovan Williams were particular vocal standouts. Eric Jordan Young’s turn as a pimpish Herod added a new panache to the role and one of the most well executed scenes of the production. Hopefully this choir-rocking, hand-clapping production will also make its way from a southern soul mecca premiere to a Broadway run.


Atlanta INtown Article: Ivy Hall

Atlanta INtown Newspaper – November Issue

Old and New: SCAD Completes Ivy Hall Restoration

The Savannah College of Art and Design-Atlanta (SCAD) officially celebrated the opening of its new cultural and writing center, Ivy Hall, in October. The newly restored 19th century mansion sits at the corner of Piedmont and Ponce de Leon avenues in Midtown, juxtaposed with the new condominiums (also called Ivy Hall) that surround it.

Built in 1886 for Edward Peters, one of Atlanta’s founders, Ivy Hall might be best known to many Atlantans as the now defunct Mansion Restaurant. Much of the first floor was destroyed by fire in 2000, which forced the restaurant to close. After it lay dormant for several years and was named one of Atlanta’s endangered buildings, the owners, William Swearingen of S.D.H. Investment Corporation, William Dunaway and Harry Hill, donated the house to SCAD in 2007.

Since then, led my SCAD’s historic preservation specialist, Bob Dickensheets, SCAD staff and students have preserved Ivy Hall’s historic architecture and updated the mansion’s more than 4,000 square feet.

“Imagine the ceilings falling in, the windows knocked out, a fire, the roof falling in, the hardware gone, the doors stolen. It was just a mess,” Dickensheets recalled. “We do what the college does best, preserve beautiful old buildings.”

Ivy Hall was hailed as one of the first examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture in the city. Originally designed by architect Gottfrid L. Norman in 1883, the house still maintains some of Norman’s signature Japanese-inspired design: hand-carved wood panels, lincrusta fabric panels, a carved pulpit as the centerpiece of the front staircase, and ivy accents throughout the décor. Updates to the house include computer and data ports, an apartment to house artists-in-residence, and lecture and classroom space.

This winter SCAD will host open-to-the-public lectures and writers’ series as well as a holiday concert in Ivy Hall.

For more info, visit www.artofrestoration.org.

Atlanta Intown Article: Good Moves

Atlanta INtown Newspaper - September Issue

Dance Company Keeps Atlanta Youth In Step

Some believe that the best way to live is to work yourself out of a job. Atlanta natives Annette Lewis and Carolyn McLaughlin, director and associate director, respectively, of the youth dance company Good Moves are following a similar notion: train their dancers to outgrow their instruction.

• Outreach: Includes dance performances, workshops and lectures for the community.
• Ed Source: Economical, high quality dance instruction for various levels of expertise.
• The Consort: A pre-professional performing ensemble.
• Moving On: A young professional performing ensemble designed to support and employ students in the off-season.

Good Moves also encourages dancers to participate in ongoing instruction within the organization, as well as to take classes with other local dance companies.

The company’s commitment to artistic excellence means plenty of hard work, but McLaughlin describes it as “joyful work” that challenges and excites its charges.

“Even our youngest students learn and work in the first class,” McLaughlin said, “Our job is to make it so they don’t need us anymore – to get them ready to away, not stay with us.”

Lewis, who has been involved with Good Moves since its inception, discovered a newfound passion for dancing at 25 years old, and studied dance with Alvin Ailey, Agnes DeMille, and Robert Joffrey, among others. Becoming a dancer, choreographer and teacher later in life, Lewis focused more in training and less on dancers who had a particular look.

“As an older dancer, the majority of the people in my classes didn’t have perfect bodies,” she said, “I wanted to work with kids like that, and make sure everybody had a chance to dance. I want to assure the modern dance world continues to improve. To me, it’s about staying connected to the past and building on the future.”

Good Moves will present two new works this season. Lewis will choreograph Buffett Buffet, a montage of Jimmy Buffett songs, all referencing food, and another work entitled The Prince and the Pauper to music by the English rock band Queen. McLaughlin will choreograph a work inspired by Sandra Boynton’s book/CD for children Rhinoceros Tap, incorporating movement and the spoken word.

Good Moves will also host the Inman Park Dance Festival in March 2009, which will feature The Consort and Moving On, along with dancers and choreographers from all over the nation.

For more: (404) 518-1646 or www.goodmoves.org


featured in november charisma mag

forgot to post this when it hit newsstands but here it is for your reading pleasure! :) i was included in a charisma mag article in november featuring young people doing their thing in all types of arenas (shout out to zach hunter who was also included), titled "voices of a new generation." there is also an excerpt of the interview on the charisma website.

Amena Brown knew from a young age that she was called to talk. What she didn’t know was that she would use spoken-word poetry to illuminate God’s glory and communicate biblical truth. Through her “performance poetry,” which she presents at Christian events such as the Passion and Fusion conferences for young adults, as well as at secular “poetry slam” competitions, Brown is helping the church reclaim the arts. “I think it’s cool to see how some of the constraints are coming off,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing what God s going to do with art in general in opening our eyes as believers to how big God is.”-written by Adrienne Gaines