Today we’d like to introduce you to Bria Brown.
Hi Bria, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Like many writers, I started writing at a young age.
For me, it was poetry and diary entries. I enjoyed using my imagination to create little scenarios in my head. But I was always too shy to act or perform- stuff like that. Throughout middle and high school, I had moments and opportunities to share a poem or pieces of writing. I think I may have won a prize in my high school Creative Writing Club.
It wasn’t until college, Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, GA), that I was introduced to spoken word and poetry cafes and found my very first poetry mentor. By my senior year of college, a group of friends and I wrote, directed, and produced a very original stage play on campus. We called it ‘Paint Me, Black.’ It’s probably still the blackest thing done on that campus. Lol.
I still have the DVD somewhere around my house. ha. DVDs. Showing my age. But it was such an exhilarating experience. I remember feeling so fulfilled in a way I had not known fulfillment to feel like. I knew then that performance art was more than a passion. I knew it was something I needed to build my life around. After college, I moved to Chicago where I would work with various theatre houses getting involved with theatre education and teaching artistry as a career.
I joined a poetry group based on the south side of the city and the rest was history. I spent years writing, learning, performing, and eventually, teaching poetry. I expanded my skill and knowledge of theatre-based performance and really honed in on my craft during that time.
Upon moving back home in 2016, I met Jasmine Settles and reconnected with Akina Morrow to found Homegrown, now Homegrown Arts, which is an arts organization that develops original theatre productions, youth and community creative writing programs, and some original film work.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I think my biggest struggle was finding a way to stay creative (creating good art) and still pay bills on time as well as feed myself daily. Ha.
I hate to reiterate the starving artist narrative but there is something to be said about finding a healthy balance between creating art and taking care of yourself. I’ve not always been great at taking care of myself.
I found out very quickly that the version of myself that is not well taken care of cannot create good, meaningful art. It was a bit of a journey to find that balance. I’m happy to have gotten to this place.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Well, I’m most known around town as a poet. Poetry is my first love and first choice for artistic expression. Outside of my own practice, I teach and facilitate a lot of youth poetry and creative writing workshops. I’ve spent a lot of time managing and leading youth poetry programs and teams in Memphis.
I believe most folks know me from that realm of work. Poetry is just one side of me. I’ve written plays for as long as I could write although I’ve not always been forthcoming about that talent. My first ever stage play “Mysterism: An American Tragedy” debuted while I was still living in Chicago. The one-night-only event was a personal project that I wrote with other poets, directed, and produced.
I wanted to see myself execute a piece of work from inception to ending and I did just that! It was wonderful. That same feeling of fulfillment washed over me. Upon moving back to Memphis and joining forces with Jasmine and Akina, we created an absolutely fabulous show “Women’s Water: The Emergence of Flood, Drought, and Dance” which debuted back in 2019.
Women’s Water is such a dear staged production to my heart because it set the foundation for our grassroots arts organization, Homegrown Arts, to be built. I am most proud of all works that lead me here. I’m very proud of myself for overcoming all the bad days, and all of the obstacles. I’m proud of the women I work closely with. I’m proud of a lot of things including the entirety of the many processes of getting to where I am now.
I’m not sure what sets me apart from others. I don’t think I’ve ever worried about that. I know God made me uniquely intuitive and empathetic. My work is honest and purposeful. I’m sure there is someone out there with their own honesty, their own purpose.
I pray for them what I pray for me… the courage to stay honest and purposeful.
Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Yes! Do it! Find a mentor AND a team. I’ve learned so much through collaboration and teaming up. The biggest lesson is “you don’t have to do everything to get everything done.” Obviously, it’ll take a minute to find the right people to have around but such is life ya know!
I’ve had poetry mentors that turned out not to be a great fit but I’ve also found the blessing in mentorship and teamwork. I’m proud of my team over at Homegrown Arts. What has worked well with us is just open and honest communication. We play to our strengths and have grace for ourselves and each other when we fall short- individually and collectively.
Especially when it comes to communication. Because we are friends who work together, there is an element of understanding, consideration, and openness we naturally have with one another.
- Website: www.901homegrown.com
- Instagram: @901homegrown
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRiyXhU-HxbpAhjh_1ckiEg
Catherine Patton and Jasmine Settles