In 2018, Mahogany L. Browne was awarded a fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund in support of her work to document, through the lens of writing and poetry, communities most harmed by mass incarceration—especially women and children. As part of Browne’s work, we have partnered with her to present a series of original essays and related poems curated from our collection over the months ahead.
The Arts for Justice Fund was founded by Agnes Gund, with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, to support artists and arts initiatives that call for change, expose injustice, and empower communities.
This essay was published on February 19, 2019.
It is Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday in the year 2019, and at a middle school in Birmingham, Alabama, four 12-year-old girls are commandeered by the nurse and assistant principal to endure an illegal strip search unsheathing their self-esteem and self-worth. The adults said they were looking for drugs because the group of tweens were “ acting giddy.” The adults said the search was within their rights as school officials.
This essay was published on March 19, 2019.
I was eight or nine years old when I saw my father after his first or second release from prison. (Memory is funny this way, like a stream of water, never quite sure of its beginnings.) I had not seen him in over six years and was excited to finally sit next to the man that helped make me. Face to face. Or elbow to elbow. He was larger than life with a name as loud as a wind chime. When his name hits the air–it sang. And everyone treated me differently after learning I was his daughter. He was a hood hero. Oldest of eight siblings. Fought anyone. Face to face. Fist to fist. He stood erect, shoulders expanded with both hands curled by his sides into hammers. This was his pose in every picture I’ve ever seen. They called him some kind of hell storm when he got his mind to thinking someone was trying to take advantage of him.