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:
*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.