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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to Mahogany L. Browne about about self love as revolution, why poetry is a fantastic vehicle for the erotic and using books to help our kids cope with the fallout of white supremacy.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today we're talking to Mahogany L. Browne, pronouns she and her. Mahogany is a writer, organizer and educator. She also serves as the interim executive director of Urban Word, NYC and poetry coordinator at Saint Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poet's House, Mellon Research and Rauschenberg. She's the author of, “Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice,” “Woke Baby” and “Black Girl Magic,” “Kissing Caskets,” and “#Dear Twitter.” So many books. She's also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair, which is a nationwide diversity literature campaign, and she's an Arts for Justice grantee. She's also completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, which investigates its impact on women and children. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Kenrya: Thank you so much for joining us, Mahogany.
Mahogany L. Browne: Thank you.
Kenrya: We're excited to have you on. You're helping us close out season two, so it's pretty dope.
Mahogany L. Browne: I feel special, hey!
Kenrya: You should. You are.
Erica: You are special.
Erica: We just read your bio, and now that we know what you do, what did little Mahogany think that you would be doing for work as an adult?
Mahogany L. Browne: That's a great question, because I thought I was going to be a pediatrician and a novelist. I was going to be a pediatrician during the day and a novelist on the weekend, and then I saw blood -
Kenrya: Because you had so much time.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... and that shook it up. I said, "Well, -
Erica: We'll just chop off the first part.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... no more pediatrician. Yeah, and novelist it is. But what's funny, I think that was third, fourth grade I had already decided I wanted to be a writer, I just didn't know in which capacity. I went through various jobs that all touched on writing including hip hop journalism in XXL back in 2000, 1999. I was an intern there, and that brought me to New York City. Then I got to focus even more on not just hip hop journalism, but my own writing as a response to the editing process. What happens when people are asking you not to talk about too much of the truth because it might hurt their chances to get advertising dollars later? And that's -
Mahogany L. Browne: ... when I turned to poetry. I turned to poetry full pivot. That's been my focus. What I love about journalism is that it's given me deadlines, it's given me the ability to edit without my feelings being hurt. It's like, What does the poem need? What does the story need to make sure that you're clear and concise. I want my words to be able to sustain and remain whether I'm there or not, and I'm able to use that background to make sure that I do it well.
Kenrya: That's great. That was actually one of the questions we were going to ask because you work in a lot of forms, so it's interesting to hear what really keeps you coming back to poetry.
Mahogany L. Browne: What I love about poetry is there really is no wrong. Like you can write a poem that someone considers not good but that didn't mean it's wrong. That just means that they don't rock with it, they don't feel it. You can come back to your ownership of what did I miss in translation? What was lost in the sauce? That can go back to the person who is the writer, that can go back to the person who is the author, that can go back to the narrator. What did I try to do that did not work? If what actually is happening is there is a disconnect because culturally people just don't understand what a wash and go is or maybe they didn't understand how you have to have whole day to take care of your hair as a person of color. It's not just -
Kenrya: Yes, ma'am.
Mahogany L. Browne: You know what I'm saying? Like if you don't get it because of cultural differences -
Kenrya: It's not for you.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... then this ain't for you. I had to get okay with that. I had to be okay with the poems I write. I write them for clarity, I write them as archive, I write them for those who aren't able to write themselves. I write for my grandmothers who were not listened to. Their households listened to them but not necessarily outside those doors, so I write for them. As long as they feel what I'm saying, I'm Gucci. Everybody else, yah you if you get it, and if you don't kick rocks too, that's fine. I love you, I want you to be a part of this, but I'm not going to stop writing because you decide my story is invalid.
Erica: You've had a lot of big career milestones. Which one are you most proud of?
Mahogany L. Browne: Most recently I would say ... because one thing I did forget to mention in the bio is that I just took over the executive director position at Bowery Poetry Club and that's huge for me, because I didn't really want to be an executive director. I ran the Nuyorican for 13 years, the Friday night series. I ran that program and that's curating, that's coaching, that's mentoring, that's hosting. It had so many different arms and legs and hats attached to it that I was really interesting in just writing. What does it look like when I get to just write? What does it look like when I mentor myself?
Mahogany L. Browne: I came into this industry, this performance poetry world with no mentor. I had to look for mentorship in different spaces and places, and sometimes it happens over a cocktail and sometimes it happens at a one-off workshop. I was interested in just being a writer. For a minute my daughter had went away to college, I didn't have to worry about that. So I think that was the biggest milestone is that day that I quick all of my jobs, I received that Agnes Gund award as a Bearing Witness Fellow. It allowed me to quit all my jobs without fear knowing that I had this grant to take care of the essentials as I worked on writing and just writing alone.
Mahogany L. Browne: Self-care, I know it's a hot word, but as a Black woman it is imperative. I know so many people, so many mothers, so many Black women that we literally will give our last breath to assure someone else's good. When Audre Lorde said, "It's self-preservation and a political act," that's when I understood it. As soon as I said, "I'm quitting all these things and I'm going to focus on me," when I tell you the reaction of the people who benefited from my labor for so long, the reaction wasn't celebratory except by other women.
Mahogany L. Browne: I remember it like it was yesterday, just being like, "I'm going to just do this," and it was a volatile reaction. So that became the moment that I loved because I stayed true to it. For a year and a half that's all I did was focus on that.
Mahogany L. Browne: Taking on the ED position, it was because I was missing that curator role, I missed having a community I could tap into every week, and I just wanted to do it differently. I didn't want to be the only voice. I wanted to be someone who allowed this platform to be built along with others. What could that look like when you begin delegating? What does that look like when your voice is just not the only sound in the room? You have many visions, so I have this curatorial team I got to start building and let them lead the way. So I feel good about it, I feel really good about it. I feel really excited, but I am, I got to say, that moment that I said, "I quit everything," that changed me. It did.
Mahogany L. Browne: I told a group of women I'd never met at this beautiful series called, The Dreamers Brunch, it's about 12 women. In that Dreamers Brunch they said, "Name one thing you're excited about doing?" I said, "I quit my job after 13 years." I didn't even get to finish my sentence when everybody started clapping. Every woman at that table started clapping, and it was all women of color. I thought, "Oh, we all here." We're all at the intersection where we're like, Do I go left and keep it trill or go right and keep it real? Which one am I going to do, because sometimes keeping it real means you're going to keep doing the same thing because you know that your house has to be taken care of, your kids have to be fed, you have to be fed. Sometimes keeping it trill means it might be a little uncomfortable, it might be off the road map of this is what it's supposed to be, but it's still going to take care of you in the end.
Kenrya: That's what's up. I super duper relate to that, because I did something very similar just before COVID hit. And -
Mahogany L. Browne: What you do?
Kenrya: I quit my job. I just decided I was going to go full-time back into consulting and putting my resources and my energy and my joy into this podcast and all the other things that really make me happy every day. It was transformative. I worried that it would be scary, but I remember that in the moment after I said I was out it was literally like the weight being lifted.
Mahogany L. Browne: I could cry thinking about it. Waking up that next day -
Kenrya: It's an amazing moment.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... and feel like your chest is not heavy, you're not like, What meeting do I have to go that could really be [crosstalk 00:10:36]?
Kenrya: That's right. You can take a full breath. Yes.
Mahogany L. Browne: I don't even get to smell my coffee right, I'm rushing for someone else's benefit. It's so good.
Kenrya: That's right.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's so freeing. Congratulations!
Kenrya: It really is. Thank you, you too, for maintaining it all this time. It's great to loop back to the fact that it really allow you to delve into your writing. I'd love if we could talk a little bit about your new book. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. “Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice.” “Woke,” I did the edits during that year and a half. I had written the majority beforehand. But I did the edits and it's a lovely hybrid of social justice, understanding, and the building blocks required when talking to young people about larger ideas. It's very difficult to come to five, six, seven, eight-year-old and talk to them about racism. They know what it is, they know that they're affected, but they don't know the name necessarily. The articulation is far more difficult than the emotional capacity for being misjudged and mistreated. So I wanted to be able to have a touchstone for those large conversations, and in this anthology of poems, which was written by myself, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood with illustrations by Theodore Taylor III and an amazing forward by Jason Reynolds.
Mahogany L. Browne: With that happening, this collection does so many things. We're able to tackle and unpack intersectionality, racism, justice, freedom fighters, migration ... I have to get the book, but it goes on and on and on. Even restorative justice is a part of that discussion, because I think we have these really ... we think that young people aren't watching and listening and learning by watching us, but they are. They retain that information, things that we think are throwaways become the marrow of these babies that go on to run or ruin countries.
Mahogany L. Browne: What would have happened if this book was available when an eight-year-old said, I don't want to play with that person because they look different. Then you start talking about, Well, this is what racism is, and what does different mean, and why is that not wrong? Or what would it mean for a 10-year-old to have a discussion about their obligation as a global citizen, because all of us are a part of the world when it comes to making sure we are not ablist. So just you holding the door open for someone who may be in a wheelchair is cool. But also what does it mean to make sure that, that's always, that there is always accessibility for someone who is othered?
Mahogany L. Browne: We don't all have the same capabilities with our bodies and so to not think about it is a privilege. How do you use your power and your position with privilege to challenge things that just go unseen for you, to make sure that everybody is taken care of?
Kenrya: Word. That's awesome. Thank you so much.
Erica: Why was it important for you to collaborate with Elizabeth, Olivia, and Theodore on this project?
Mahogany L. Browne: Again, we talk about intersectionality, which was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which is, again, a very large idea. There's many adults that don't even know what that means. They're sitting up there -
Kenrya: A whole lot of adults who don't know what that means.
Mahogany L. Browne: They're sitting up there like, I'm at the intersection of a street. No, sis, we're not talking about that. We're talking about identity politics and political power. But when you start talking to young people about it, like how do you break down that very large idea, they don't realize that their identity can be a power play. Their social status can be a power play, all those things come into play. Of course, when she was coining it and designing it, it was speaking about the way Black women show up in a room and to not generalize all of our identities as a monolithic thing.
Mahogany L. Browne: The reason I wanted to work with others is I was coming from it at that same viewpoint. There's more than one way to look at activism, there's more than one way to look at social justice. My way isn't the only, but if we are collective that's really how we can ... I don't want to get on the church soap box and talk about how we will prevail, but many understandings and a myriad of voices is how we will collectively find liberation. It can't just happen with one voice.
Kenrya: Dope. That's awesome. So as you know, we read poems from “The Complete Works of Pat Parker” last week and, yes -
Mahogany L. Browne: Come on now! Come on!
Kenrya: And the poems that we picked they really centered small but poignant and really sexy moments between Black lesbian lovers. It was interesting because these poems really made visible relationships that we rarely see lifted up, especially back when Pat was writing. I'm wondering from your point of view, what makes poetry a good vehicle for the erotic?
Mahogany L. Browne: Well, that's a great question. What makes poetry a good vehicle for the erotic? If I can talk poem, poem talk -
Kenrya: Yes, please.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... I think the sparsity in language, I think the lushness that is often considered as fluff and say a historical fiction piece or a news report or a dissertation, an academic paper. Those are the things that they deem as throwaways are the things that poets collect and build love with. We build these paintings, we collage work. All of the ways in which you can touch, taste, feel, smell a sensation, an emotion. I think poetry is the one form that there is no rock unturned even with the sparsity of language. Even if we are being economical about how many words we use, because Pat did write short poems as did Lucille Clifton, as did Sonia Sanchez with the haiku, these are women who could write you under a table and did not need more than 20 syllables. You're like, Whoa! Why do I have all the feelings right now? Like, Why is my blood boiling? You didn't even take three minutes away from my life. You gave me this bit, this blip, this bite that I'm going to chew on for the rest of my time. That not only is powerful, it is masterful.
Erica: We read Pat's poem, “Metamorphosis,” on this show and it ends with the following lines, "Fill me with you and I become pregnant with love. Give birth to the revolution." She manages to bring together the erotic and vulnerability and revolution all in just four lines. What connections do you draw between these concepts?
Mahogany L. Browne: I think that Pat Parker, like Audre Lorde ... I think the coloration between the Black woman body, love, and liberation, I think the connection is obvious for me because one, I believe that love is the first revolution. There is a lot in our present contemporary world that is not that far from their time that has been designed for us to believe that we're not worthy of love, we're not worthy of being remembered, we're not worthy of being celebrated. When you find love despite those things being casted at you, put on you, when you find love despite that, that is also a revolutionary act. That is a moment of not just rebirth but liberation-making. You are becoming fortified in understanding that the things that are sold to us, for us to change our hair, change our style, change our accents, change our names to be more easily malleable, when you negate those things as the only way to be, you are making space for such a love that the next generation that comes, that arises, that is born with that in mind will not fall victim to the commodification of oppressed people.
Mahogany L. Browne: I feel like I just used a whole bunch of really big ass words and that wasn't my intent. But when you sell people themselves, when you sell them themselves, what kind of damage, psychological damage, emotional damage, and spiritual damage, not just historical, but what kind of damage is being done for you to constantly keep us as passengers in a vehicle that we built? We have to break that cycle, and Pat was one of those persons. There's a lot of poets who are like, “I'm okay having a baldie, I'm okay having my hair in braids or dreads. None of it defines me.” India Arie had the song about not being defined by the hair and, "I love my skin."
Mahogany L. Browne: In a time where people are using bleaching creams still, there's so many different cultures that are affected by the bleaching cream industry regardless of the fact that we know it causes cancer. Then what will happen once we have skin cancer. Then we have to go get treatment that we have to pay for, because we don't live in a society that even gives us free healthcare. So you're making us sick by making us think we're sick, and then you're making us pay you to make us unsick. Bananas! It's a racket, and she knew it. In them four lines she said, "But nah though. But nah.”
Kenrya: Something that really comes through loud and clear, I think, in Pat's work is that idea that intimacy of all kinds is an essential part of Black feminist discourse and literature and action. It's a theme that we see in your work too, and here I'm really thinking particularly of, “Black Girl Magic,” which really lifts up that self-love that we were just talking about. Why is this important terrain for you to cover?
Mahogany L. Browne: It was important for me to do that poem and align Cardi B and Amber Rose and Badu and Lauryn Hill and Coretta Scott and Ida B. Wells. There is no one way to be a Black woman, to be a Black woman feminist, just the same way that Pat Parker and Audre Lorde said, "There is no one way to love." Like heterosexuality isn't the only love that matters. Queer love matters, lesbian love matters, familial love matters. Kinship comes in many forms and if we allow people to say, That's my cousin, and then no necessarily be related, but the act of family is still revered and celebrated and respected, then why not love? When I think of them, I think of Black Girl Magic in the same vein that we can't keep having a hierarchy of what Black woman is to be respected. Respectability politics are a sham. So all of us deserve to be here. All of us are Black Girl Magic in all the various ways.
Mahogany L. Browne: I remember having this argument with someone where I said, "Something, something, something, something, something, Cardi B," and I love Cardi B. She's like, "Well, Cardi B doesn't speak for me. Like, that's not successful.” I thought, That's interesting that you say that's not successful because you're an entrepreneur. You're a Black woman and do you understand that when you walk in a room they see you, they see her too.
Kenrya: There is no separation between the two.
Mahogany L. Browne: No. Even though we know that we are not the same, that the Black woman voice is not monolithic, we also have to understand that, that fight is still not done. That when we walk in the room, we've already been decided for whether we deserve to be respected or not because we're Black and because we're women. It's already decides whether we should be respected because we're Black and because we're women. So for you to take your time out of your day to negate another Black woman, to separate yourself, you actually are thinning, as they say, you're thinning the troops. You are isolating yourself from the power of we.
Mahogany L. Browne: There are so many of us in our families, all of us ain't respectable. Don't get it twisted. Like, your auntie may have did something that your grandma didn't want everybody to know about and ... period. We all have had things that challenge or compromised our ideas of perfection, because there is not such thing as perfection. But we have all of those things that we come across as adults. I at least hope you're aware and critically thinking about your growth. That doesn't make you bad. It makes you human.
Kenrya: Wow. That's right. We literally celebrate all the things that make us less than respectable on this show every week.
Mahogany L. Browne: Love it.
Kenrya: In great detail.
Erica: We sign out every podcast as two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: I'm so glad you're here with us.
Mahogany L. Browne: Wow! I am in love.
Mahogany L. Browne: Amen for you.
Kenrya: And you, sis. It's interesting. It brings up the question of what does success look like to you?
Mahogany L. Browne: I don't know. Some days it changes. I thought if I just had a book, I would be successful. I had a book, and I put the book out myself, and then I said, "If someone else puts my book out, then I'll be successful." Then I had that. Then I said, "If I get an award nomination, I'll be successful." I got nominated for the NAACP. Image award for poetry. Then if I thought, "Well, if I have a bigger book company." I kept on adding these things, and I keep meeting the mark and I realize that my actually success comes from the ability to love what I do. I'm able to write, I'm able to share, I'm able to make space for other people, and that brings me so much joy that everything else ... of course, I'd like to travel and stay at a nice hotel and eat me a fried lobster tail and I want the plushness.
Erica: Yes, fried.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yes, fried. But my joy truly comes from knowing that I can write and make a living writing, and also make my daughter happy. My daughter is proud of me. She's so funny. She hit me and was like, "Mom, do you know who's following you on Instagram?" That's cute. That feels successful when my kid thinks I'm cool. I like that. I was like, "Oh yeah, I saw she..." "Mom!" Okay, girl.
Erica: Oftentimes, your kids are the hardest critic, so ...
Mahogany L. Browne: Beyond.
Erica: Like, yeah I got an Image Award, but did you know my daughter said ...
Mahogany L. Browne: She's like, "Do you know who is following you?"
Erica: She was hype.
Kenrya: Get your priorities straight.
Erica: She was hype.
Mahogany L. Browne: She don't care what movie I worked on, what poem I ... Who's following you on that Insta?
Erica: Okay, girl.
Kenrya: Love it. We all got to have our own measures.
Mahogany L. Browne: That's true, that's true. I accept it.
Kenrya: A lot of ... go ahead, boo.
Erica: No, go.
Mahogany L. Browne: I hope you keep that. Please, Jesus, keep that part. That's perfect.
Kenrya: Okay, we will. I'm a go. A lot of what you do, you talked a couple of times about the fact that you love being able to make space for other people and being able to mentor others. What do you wish you'd known about being a professional artist before you got here?
Mahogany L. Browne: Child! I don't think we got that much time. Two things. I wish someone talked to be about the finances of being a 1099 independent contractor. There comes a day when your taxes look real crazy, like what is ... What? I don't remember putting in 11 exemptions. What is happening? I wish someone would have hipped me to that game sooner.
Mahogany L. Browne: And also, which I think that we've been teaching our young girls specifically now, is that everybody is not going to like you. Some of them are going to go out of their way to not like you, and you got to be okay with it anyway. So I wish I would have learned that very ... there's some things that I still been responding to as a high schooler, because I realize I haven't let go of the trauma of what not being like means about me rather than who doesn't like me and what that means about them. It took me very long to change my perspective on that.
Erica: I remember I had a job and I went to my boss, because I had to do something. I was like, "But they're not going to like me." My boss looked me dead in the face. He was like, "You ain't doing your job if everybody like you." I was like, Well, damn. I've held on to that because as a Black woman in this Black body and this Black skin, if I'm living as who I am and not holding anything back, some of you all just not going to like this. So, fuck them.
Kenrya: As I like to say, "I'm not for everybody." That's okay.
Mahogany L. Browne: But how long did it take you to get to that space?
Kenrya: Oh, love, not until my thirties.
Erica: It took a long time. A long time.
Kenrya: I tell my child, "Everybody is not your friend."
Mahogany L. Browne: You got the mama quote down! I still remember my mother saying, "Everybody ain't your friend." I thought -
Kenrya: You don't understand it.
Mahogany L. Browne: "That's my friend. I love her. I got love for her. I love her."
Kenrya: Until you go through it.
Mahogany L. Browne: But then she also made me concerned because she would say, "Everybody ain't your friend," and then she would say, "I'm not one of your little friends," which kind of ... that push, pull. I was like, "Wait, which one is it? Do I have friends or I don't have friends and you not little? Which one?" Semantics didn't go well in my household. You better get over yourself and duck.
Erica: I am very much a words mean things kind of person, but as a parent all that goes out the window.
Mahogany L. Browne: It really does. You return to, "Because I said so." We right here. "Because I said so?”
Erica: Oh, totally. Totally. I open my mouth and Judy jumps out all the time.
Mahogany L. Browne: Wow, which is hilarious because I'm totally different. As a poet I've really drilled in my daughter’s head, "What do you mean? Say what you mean." Like even if you need to build the world, build it with these words, but you ain't going to just say I'm sad because ... Because ain't enough. That's an open-ended statement that you haven't given me anything to understand that with. And what? So now she talks too much to which my mother said, "You did that." You earned that one.
Kenrya: I was literally just telling somebody ... Yes, me. I was literally just telling somebody because she was saying her being in quarantine, her kid is always talking. I'm like, "Listen, I got an eight-year-old that fucking talks nonstop." But when she was born, she wasn't breathing, and so every time I feel overwhelmed by the barrage of words that are constantly being thrown my way, I stop and say, "Thank you, God, for giving me a verbal child." I have to stop and ground myself or remember that there was a chance that we wouldn't have had this privilege, so even if she's driving me fucking crazy, I have to stop and thank God to keep from getting frustrated. Lord, sometimes I don't want to talk.
Mahogany L. Browne: That's right.
Kenrya: I'm an introvert. I don't need this.
Mahogany L. Browne: Right. Does baby read, yet?
Kenrya: Oh, yeah. Very, very, very well.
Mahogany L. Browne: My daughter, she got so mad at me. I didn't realize because I was a reader as a kid. I just started, "If you read this book and tell me about it, I'll pay you for it." And that would give me -
Kenrya: Oh, shit.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. That dollar starts adding up, but when I tell you the solace in my brain as I just had to like reboot, it meant the world. We started off easy, "Here you are. Read this book." "Okay, here's a chapter book." Now, she loves to read. She signed up for book clubs. It's really cute. She's adorable. She's 22, but she still feels like my baby.
Erica: She's still your baby.
Kenrya: She'll be your baby forever. No, she's literally reading right now. That's how I'm keeping her quiet while we do this show. She had to pick a book and dive into it while we're doing this.
Mahogany L. Browne: Tell her, Auntie Mo, I'm going to cash out her some money.
Kenrya: Word, thank you.
Mahogany L. Browne: You're doing good.
Kenrya: No, her next book is going to be yours. I didn't really know it was for her age group, but I'm like, “Now, this is perfect,” because her response when she sees racism -
Mahogany L. Browne: What does she say?
Kenrya: Literally, "More racism."
Erica: "More racism."
Mahogany L. Browne: She is bored by racism. I rocks with her.
Kenrya: Because it's my work. We did the “How We Fight White Supremacy” book, and so she's in it and she's been to events. She's just like, "Nigga, I'm tired."
Mahogany L. Browne: And I'm eight.
Erica: I got a whole life of this shit ahead of me.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm tired, I'm bored, and eight. I'm really about to CashApp her some money. Listen, you got me messed up. That's a freedom fighter right there. To be done ...
Kenrya: She's world weary.
Mahogany L. Browne: ... to be done, done. Yeah. Right there. Got to support that. You got to support that. All of that.
Erica: So speaking of books, what are you reading right now?
Mahogany L. Browne: All right. So I just finished Candace Iloh, “Every Body Looking.” I'm looking at it now, I received, “Clap When You Land,” by Elizabeth Acevedo. I also received, “Kontemparary Amerikan Poetry,” by John Murillo, which I'm doing. So I'm reading one YA a day and a book of poetry a week is what I'm trying. Poetry is a little more intensive for me. It's like because I'm a poet I'm diving into more than just the read of it, but the other things that happen, whereas YA allows me some breathing room to just remember what it felt like to be a kid and not worry about bills. Like when I read, “Patina,” by Jason Reynolds with his track series, it's a four book series. I did, “Ghost, first” and like got through it ... it's like 100 pages maybe. Then I did, “Patina.” I started crying reading “Patina” because there's this section where he's writing about braiding hair, and it reminds me so much of home and of my youth and of that being the biggest thing to care about was is your part straight? Did you grease the hair, the scalp? He writes it beautifully.
Mahogany L. Browne: I've begun to really honor those moments, and I think YA allows me to tap into it more organically than sitting and meditating and being like, “Okay now I'm going to get everything out of my head.” I just get to go back down memory lane and have that experience.
Kenrya: Love that.
Erica: Love it. Okay, so I like to get a little wild and crazy, a little ratchet. We ask our guests a would you rather question.
Mahogany L. Browne: Okay. I don't know this game.
Erica: Sometimes we get a little wild. But inspired by your book, “#Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online in 140 Characters or Less,” which was published by Penmanship Books in 2010. Would you rather be able to only answer questions in 140 characters or less or only be able to answer questions in like two-minute or more responses?
Mahogany L. Browne: 140 characters or less.
Kenrya: Yeah, I knew. I knew it.
Mahogany L. Browne: Get to the point
Erica: I know, and coming from you it would sound so good. I'd be like, What do you want for dinner? and just like ...
Kenrya: Right, the economy of words.
Mahogany L. Browne: Let's go.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: I want to slather myself in those 140 characters. All right. Well, that's a good one.
Mahogany L. Browne: I hate meetings, I hate people that talk long-winded, I hate ... I only like repetition in a poem. If you keep saying the same thing to me, I'm done. Sleep. Over it, unless you're a wordsmith. Like I can hear Malcolm X talk forever. I could hear Sister Sonia Sanchez talk forever. Like there's Ocean Vuong. I can hear Ocean Vuong talk forever. That's a book I just finished and it ended me, “One Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.” You got to read it.
Kenrya: I'm afraid. I don't know if I can emotionally handle it.
Mahogany L. Browne: You might not be able to because it taps into like all of it. It does. But when I tell you beautifully, it's like Jesmyn Ward's, “Salvage the Bones,” which is a top five books of my life.
Kenrya: I had to stop part way through. I finished it, but Lord have mercy.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's intense.
Kenrya: I had to take a break and read something else, and then come back to finish it.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, that's true. It requires a lot. It requires a lot of your emotional dressing, the things that we're rooted in. It does. So back to rather than rather.
Erica: Would you rather ... that was great. I only have one. I could come up with some more if you want another one?
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, do the ratchet ones. You said, "I'm ratchet." I'm like, "Oh, we about to get it popping!" [crosstalk 00:40:35].
Erica: Oh, shit! Okay.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's happy hour time.
Erica: Okay, so would you rather ... oh, I had this for Kenrya the other day. Would you rather only be able to recognize your partner by smelling their breath or touching their feet? So like you see them and you have no idea who they are until you stick your nose in their mouth or touch their toes.
Kenrya: Which means you could be sticking your nose in the mouth of strangers all the time trying to figure out if it's your partner.
Mahogany L. Browne: Oh!
Kenrya: Or you could be touching strangers’ feet.
Mahogany L. Browne: Oh. I would touch feet. He has great feet. That would be fine.
Erica: But -
Mahogany L. Browne: But I have to touch everybody's feet?
Mahogany L. Browne: Jesus.
Erica: You wouldn't know it was him until you touched the feet. Like, “Oh, hi baby!”
Mahogany L. Browne: That's like die or die. There ain't no lesser evil here. I still go for feet because people's ... that personal space of your nose in someone's breath, that don't go away.
Erica: You can't unsmell some shit, that's what I say all the time.
Mahogany L. Browne: I can wash my hands.
Erica: I can wash my hands. 20 seconds. I cannot unsmell some shit.
Mahogany L. Browne: Ever. You going to start tasting it. Yeah.
Erica: I have a sensitive nose, so I completely agree. All right.
Mahogany L. Browne: I smell a bad idea, so yeah. Keep that together.
Erica: I love it. Okay, final one. You know we talk about sex. We nasty over here. So -
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah. We grownups.
Erica: Would you rather have no sex or bad sex for the rest of your life?
Mahogany L. Browne: Bad because you can make it good. Can't you?
Erica: It's like an itch you can't scratch.
Mahogany L. Browne: But I feel like because I'm mostly in my head already, even the bad ... it's like pizza, even the bad is still pizza.
Erica: Yeah, you could fake it.
Kenrya: That's exactly what my partner said.
Mahogany L. Browne: [crosstalk 00:42:55].
Kenrya: He's like, "It's pizza. Even bad pizza is fucking pizza."
Mahogany L. Browne: I'll figure it out, but to not -
Erica: You'd be like, “I've learned to enjoy that flaccid stroke.”
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, “That taste. There it is. That's fine. More. Nope. Right. Okay. Sure.” In my head though, it's like ...
Kenrya: I love it. I love it. Oh, boy.
Erica: You’re the best.
Mahogany L. Browne: Listen, you have to imagine a world so that you can build you a house that can live in all of them.
Kenrya: This is true. The whole concept of freedom dreaming is some real shit, girl. So why not bring it into bad sex land.
Mahogany L. Browne: Is that near Wakanda or ...?
Erica: It's very far from Wakanda.
Kenrya: Just outside.
Erica: No, it's very far from Wakanda, because on the way toward Wakanda is the land of milk and honey.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's outside that perimeter, that shield. The shield is Wakanda said, “No, no. Stay over there.”
Erica: I think bad sex is in like Italy and some shit. It is not in Africa. How about we do that? How about we just banish bad sex from the continent.
Kenrya: Put it over there.
Erica: Put it over there.
Mahogany L. Browne: I really loved Italy until I got robbed, so I have a love, hate relationship with Italy. I love Italian food. My favorite.
Mahogany L. Browne: I could eat cacio e pepe every day. Don't even [crosstalk 00:44:36]. So I went there waiting to just explore all of my taste bud dreams, and on the way to the airport my last day, took my purse. Just snatched it. Gone. I'm lucky.
Erica: At least it was the last day. It's fucked up, but it's the last day.
Mahogany L. Browne: No, but I was stranded. I was stranded there.
Erica: What the fuck?
Kenrya: I'm about to say passport ...
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, they took it all. Passport, and then of course my money because I had been on tours. So they got all my money and I had to ... oh, and it was the day before Columbus Day, so the embassy was closed for the holiday the next day. I was like, "Okay. Hey jokes, here I am on the day of the biggest thief, one of the largest colonizing thieves, and I got to wait it out."
Kenrya: In his home.
Mahogany L. Browne: I got to wait it out because of him. But yeah, it was a great learning experience. I'd like to say -
Erica: Yeah, bad sex is in Italy. Fuck that continent. I know Italy is not a continent. Fuck that country.
Kenrya: Do you? Do you?
Mahogany L. Browne: So funny.
Erica: Okay. Well, Mahogany, what is next for you?
Kenrya: Yeah, we're going to look forward. What's next?
Mahogany L. Browne: For me? What's next? Okay. On deck, I have my first YA novel coming out. It's called, “Chlorine Sky,” and it is based on the poem that is up my ... you can look it up, it's called “Blurred Visions,” and you'll see me reading a poem along with my daughter singing. At that age I think she was like 14, 15. So that book comes out January 21, and my book of essays on mass incarceration and a long-form poem also on mass incarceration comes out next year as well. Those things I'm looking forward to.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm finishing up some recordings where I'm doing interviews with artists responding to mass incarceration right now. I'm excited to see how that will look.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm really excited to go back into the world safely.
Kenrya: God willing.
Mahogany L. Browne: I'm willing to wait, though. I'm willing to sit still and relax.
Kenrya: Listen, I'm not arguing with nobody to go outside.
Mahogany L. Browne: It's okay. Ain't that deep.
Kenrya: It's just not. It's just not. Well, while the folks is in the house and online, where can they find you?
Mahogany L. Browne: They can find me at mobrowne.com. W-W-W dot M-O-B-R-O-W-N-E, and that goes everywhere, my Insta, my Twitter. I be on both of them joints heavy. I really do.
Erica: With your fancy and famous followers.
Mahogany L. Browne: Eek! My daughter did that. I'm also doing, every Sunday I'm hosting No Desk. Until quarantine is over, I host poetry reading online and it's free and for the people. On the Bowery Poetry page you can find more information about that.
Kenrya: Dope. It's on their website or it's on their IG?
Mahogany L. Browne: It's both.
Kenrya: Oh, dope. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. We're so glad you're here.
Mahogany L. Browne: Yeah, I appreciate you. You all have a good one.
Kenrya: This was so fun. You too. Had a great time.
Mahogany L. Browne: I can't wait to see how amazing this comes out. You both are doing good work and I really love your sister love. It inspires me.
Erica: Oh, thank you.
Kenrya: Thank you. So excited for you. Let me do this. I'm going to say for the people, that's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thanks so much for joining us and, wow, we'll see you next season.
Erica: Season three, motherfuckers!
Mahogany L. Browne: Wait, did you say, "We just two hoes shaking it up?" What was it again?
Erica: Oh. This is Erica and Kenrya, two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: Making it clap.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us Kenrya and Erica and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. We want to hear from you all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions that you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. Please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram and @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find books, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Remember, The Turn On podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast network. You can find more podcasts that you'll love at Frolic.media/podcast. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you soon. Bye!
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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya read from "The Complete Works of Pat Parker" and discuss love—and sex—as a revolutionary act.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Erica: Welcome to the penultimate episode of season two of The Turn On. So, this week we're going to be reading...
Kenrya: That's a very fancy word.
Erica: Because I took the SAT? I lied. No, I didn't. ACT. I had work.
Erica: I’m Midwestern.
Kenrya: I did both. Low standards.
Erica: So, this week, we're reading from “The Complete Works of Pat Parker,” so we have a few of her poems. These poems were published in, like I said, “The Complete Works of Pat Parker” in 2016, and it was published by her daughter, Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady. So, sit back, relax...
Kenrya: Yeah, she holds the copyright.
Erica: Yes. So, sit back. Relax. Get your wine, your weed, whatever you need, and enjoy.
Kenrya: Selections from “The Complete Works of Pat Parker.” Copyright by Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady.
Kenrya: For Willyce. When I make love to you, I try, with each stroke of my tongue, to say "I love you." To tease "I love you." To hammer "I love you." To melt "I love you." And your sounds drift down, oh, God. Oh, Jesus. And I think, "Here it is. Some dude's getting credit for what a woman has done. Again."
Kenrya: From Deep Within. Nature tests those she will call hers. Slips up, naked and blank, down dark paths. Skeletons of the sea, this we will become to suck a ray of sight from the fire. A woman's body must be taught to speak. Bearing a lifetime of keys, a patient soul moves through a maze of fear, and bolts clothed in soft hues and many candles. The season's tongues must be heard and taken, and many paths built for the travelers. A woman's flesh learns slow by fire and pestle. Like succulent meats, it must be sucked and eaten.
Kenrya: Aftermath, For Marty. Did you know I watch you as you cuddle asleep? Propped up on my elbow, close, your breath brushes back silence like a swimmer parting water. Your lips are tight now. If I close my eyes, they become a cool drink. Cool and wet. House an active tongue that travels my body like an explorer retracing familiar ground. If I close my eyes, I can feel your tongue dart from my ear, to my neck, to the crevice. A prospector, paused to take samples, inspect the ore, then move on. If I close my eyes, I can feel your tongue wrap around my nipples, tuck them deep in the corner of your mouth, and suck them. Suck them with parched flowers. If I close my eyes, oh, love... If I close my eyes, I become, once again, your hopeless captive, ready to submit. I think of the straight person who asks, "What do you do in bed?" Oh, how many times I ask the same thing.
Kenrya: My Baby's A Bass Player. Fingers me all the time. And when she get down, makes me feel so fine. She plays her modes every day, from A to A. Makes me say, "Jesus, honey, your hand's so kind, don't think I'll last until you start on your lines." She studies cord changes, day and night, practices charts until they're just right. But what really makes my temperature rise is when she gets down on me and starts to improvise. She plays her notes for hours at a time. The utility bill here is some kind of crime. Every time she touches me, I let out a scream. Thank you, Jesus, she don't play the tambourine.
Kenrya: Metamorphosis. You take these fingers, bid them soft. A velvet touch to your loins. You take these arms, bid them pliant. A warm cocoon to shield you. You take this shell, bid it full. A sensual cup to lay with you. You take this voice, bid it sing. An uncaged bird to warble your praise. You take me, love. A sea skeleton. Fill me with you, and I become pregnant with love. Give birth to revolution.
Erica: So, welcome back. I think we should just start with giving our listeners a... This was the first time I said "listeners" and not "readers," without...
Kenrya: Aye look at you. Progress. Growth.
Erica: Exactly, growth.
Kenrya: It makes me... Yeah.
Erica: Let's give our listeners a little bit of background on Pat Parker. So, Pat Parker is a poet. She is a lesbian feminist. She did most of her work in the '60s and '70s, right?
Kenrya: Yeah, so she was born in '44 and... Yeah, by the time she got to the '60s, she really identified as a lesbian. And then she was super involved in all the rights movements, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights. And she wrote poetry, but she also wrote a lot of other stuff too. One of the great things about her is that she wrote across genres, but because she is a poet, everything sounds beautiful...
Kenrya: ...and like this. You mentioned that she is a feminist lesbian writer, and she's really one of the folks who's credited with helping to create the genre of Black feminist literature, alongside her mentor and friend, Audre Lorde, and a whole bunch of other dope-ass Black women who wanted us to be free, and knew that if Black women were free, and especially queer Black women were free, folks who have the most oppressors on us, then that would bring us all to freedom. That really centered a lot of her work. And she also did a lot of work around the erotic, which is why it was dope that we could pull some of her poems for the show today.
Erica: Yeah. So, I guess we should just go through the poems one by one, and give our thoughts on them?
Kenrya: Let's do it.
Erica: So, let's start with the first one, For Willyce. I just love the final line, "Some dude's getting credit for what a woman has done again." Like, just in the...
Kenrya: I love it and I hate it.
Erica: ...because, even as you explained her and her work, and you think about that whole genre of just bomb-ass Black women doing the work, recognizing that we ain't all free if we ain't all free, you know?
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: Again, that's where it hits, but it starts in the bedroom, too. You know?
Kenrya: Like most things.
Erica: Exactly. But because you think about like, even when it comes to giving head...
Kenrya: You say "giving head?"
Erica: Meaning oral sex. Cunnilingus. With the vagina. Not giving head to penis. You follow me?
Kenrya: Yeah, I got you.
Erica: All right, yeah. You're just looking at me like, "Huh?" Yeah, so... Even when you think about that, women do that really, really well, because they know their bodies. And, as always, men getting the credit for it, but... No, I think white men do it well.
Kenrya: Yes, they do. You've said that I've never had a...
Erica: Not to make broad generalizations, but...
Kenrya: Never had a white man go down on me before.
Erica: But women do it very, very well, too. And...
Kenrya: Also never had a woman go down on me before.
Erica: Five stars. I recommend a trip to that town.
Kenrya: Five out of five.
Erica: Yeah, put it on your travel... Trip Advisor list. But, yeah. So it's like, damn. This nigga getting credit again when it's really the woman doing the work.
Erica: Yeah. So, I mean that took place, especially when you think about Black revolution and civil rights and all of that, a lot of it really was the work of women, you know?
Kenrya: Queer Black women.
Erica: Yeah! Yeah. And...
Kenrya: Still, today, when you look at the Black Lives Matter movement and all the attendant organizations, it's the queer Black women who are putting their lives on the line every day.
Erica: Yep. For you ashy niggas.
Kenrya: Who don't fucking deserve.
Erica: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, this is a beautiful poem. But, even to end it like that, it's just like, oh, love is great.
Erica: It's beautiful. And then, you just like, then again, fuck.
Kenrya: The patriarchy.
Kenrya: It reminds me, remember when we went to the Blacksonian, and we took the kids?
Erica: More racism?
Erica: It was like, we was really just thinking that we were going to see this great little exhibit. And then...
Kenrya: Yeah. My kid was like...
Erica: More racism.
Kenrya: More racism, my God.
Erica: We hadn't made it all the way to the top, so...
Kenrya: Yeah, she hadn't seen the light.
Erica: Yeah. But it was definitely an oppressive trip through there.
Kenrya: That's true.
Erica: Although we still recommend the Blacksonian.
Kenrya: Yes. Five out of five.
Erica: But, so... Even with the rest of the poem, I jumped straight to the end, but the rest of the poem was beautiful, because to me, I saw it as like, love comes in so many different ways. It can come hard and soft and fast and slow and... just because you're getting your brains fucked out, don't mean that it's not love, you know?
Erica: Just, because I feel like sometimes we equate lovemaking with putting Luther on. I'm such an auntie. Putting on some Luther and Freddie Jackson, and...
Kenrya: I fuck to SZA.
Erica: Oh, God, no. Mm-mm (negative).
Kenrya: I do. And that's the light list, because you know I got that other list that's like...
Erica: The “Shake It Fast” list?
Erica: But, you can fuck. And you can make love to both SZA and “Shake It Fast.” You can make love to both Vanity, “Nasty Girl,” and Luther. See, that's what I am, musically.
Kenrya: That's real.
Erica: And so, I think it's great that she shows that through that poem.
Kenrya: And I love that she... Yes, like she's varying it, but I also just love that she's saying that "I am showing you that I love you with this?" Like...
Kenrya: I've been in this place where the kiss on the eyelid was the legit me saying "I love you." I don't have to use the words, but you felt that shit come from my lips to you.
Erica: Through your body.
Kenrya: When I lick the bottom of your balls, I'm saying "I love you."
Erica: Oh my God, I miss balls.
Kenrya: Because we do talk a lot about sex and how it's empowered women, right?
Kenrya: We know. And, well, empowered people. We know that sex and love don't have to come together, but it was nice to see in this instance the way that she uses intimacy to show that she loves someone.
Erica: To say, "I love you."
Kenrya: Yes. Like that.
Erica: Yeah. So, that was a beautiful, sweet, little...
Kenrya: Yeah, until a nigga came in.
Erica: Until a nigga came in.
Kenrya: I love Jesus. I just realized I called Jesus a nigga.
Erica: I mean, he is. He is. He's a good one. He's not an ashy one.
Erica: Thanks. Thanks, Jesus. As I point to the sky.
Kenrya: This is a prime opportunity for you to say your favorite meme. What'd you just make me watch?
Erica: Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ! I'm sorry. There's this meme of this California gangbanger. He's Crip walking hard.
Kenrya: Banging for Jesus.
Erica: To Jesus, he be banging for Jesus, like "Yeah, Jesus, yeah!" And he Crip Walking, doing all this. And he's saying, "Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!" That's why I say it all the time, but no one knows where it comes from. So I literally sent it to Kenrya and said, "You have to watch this," because I at least need someone to know what the fuck I mean when I shout "Jesus Christ." And so, yeah. Because I be banging for Jesus. He my homeboy.
Kenrya: Apparently. Yes.
Erica: And a Crip. Apparently...
Kenrya: Don't come for us.
Erica: Don't come for us. We think he loves all the sects. Okay. Sorry about that non sequitur. Is that what it is?
Kenrya: Yeah. Stop apologizing.
Erica: Okay. From Deep Within. So...
Kenrya: This one, I...
Erica: I'll let you take that one, Kenrya.
Kenrya: Sure. There are two things that came up for me here. One of them is the refrain that comes up, which is that "A woman's body must be taught to speak." Excuse me. And I think it gets at one of the things we talk about on the show all the time, which is that you have to learn your body, in order to be able to make it do what you want it to do. So, I think that people think that there is this innate ability to be able to derive pleasure, and so...
Erica: A woman is a magical... tap into...
Kenrya: Yeah. And so, then that creates frustration...
Erica: Which is still a point, but... Yeah.
Kenrya: Sure, but I think that when you expect to be able to flick a clit...
Erica: Know it all.
Kenrya: ...and cum...
Kenrya: ...that there's a lot of frustration that comes in, whether it's solo play or play with a partner. And then that can mean that you're not willing to try things. And I'm not saying that it needs to be work, because I'm not doing sex that’s work, I'll do something else. But that it does mean that you have to be in tune with your body, and be willing to touch it and not be afraid, because we have some friends who we still working on to not be afraid of touching their bodies and knowing what they like. I mean, shit, if you don't get nothing else from this show, we hope that you can figure out what you like, and what works for your body, and how to make it speak. And so...
Erica: We should do a mirror exercise with our girlfriends. Make them stare at their pussy.
Kenrya: We should do that. You all should do that too. I just...
Erica: Yeah, just look at it.
Erica: Look at it, get to know it. We're like... We know that she's beautiful in her own...
Kenrya: A minute.
Erica: Right. Yeah, just look.
Kenrya: Not on come comparison shit. Literally just look at it.
Erica: Be comfortable with it. So, now that I'm working from home, one of the things I watch during the day is “Botched.” I'm really into watching plastic surgeries and how to fix them, maybe it's because now I've done it, but I'm really into it. And it makes me so sad when I hear about women doing the designer vagina surgery, where they get their labia cut so they look a particular way. And I'm just like, girl, your pussy fine. Your pussy is your pussy. And one of the things that I've realized... Not that you need validation from others, but one of the things that I've learned as I've started enjoying OnlyFans and talking to more and learning more from sex workers, there is a niche market for everything. Some niggas love long-ass pussy lips. Some niggas love one being lopsided. And just because it doesn't look like what you've seen presented in porn doesn't mean that it's not normal. You know? So...
Kenrya: It's true, although I think we also need to make sure that we make space for people who have those surgeries such as after trauma, whether it be a traumatic birth or an assault, folks who have it because they are undergoing a transformation of their bodies to align with their gender identity. There are reasons to have that surgery...
Erica: No, I'm talking about the bitches that... They've had 30 surgeries, 15 liposuctions, and then they're like...
Kenrya: They're like, "Oh, my pussy's next."
Erica: "And I wanted a cute little vagina." And it's like...
Kenrya: What's cute?
Erica: Exactly. We need to not use... There's no baseline, I guess that's what I'm trying to get at. Your body is your body. God put it together for this reason. So, just enjoy it, you know? You shouldn't have to feel like you have to do more or change it. So, sorry I, got... again went off on a rant.
Kenrya: Stop apologizing.
Erica: But... You're right.
Kenrya: Stop apologizing.
Erica: Okay, Mama.
Kenrya: It's your show, you can do what the fuck you want.
Erica: Yeah. So, I think it's so important for women to learn their bodies. And learn to love their bodies.
Kenrya: Exactly. And I mean, I think that really plays into the other thing that I saw here, was that she relates the body, and the pleasure that comes from it, directly to nature. So, she talks about the sea. She talks about light, she talks about fire, she talks about all of these things that we think of as being of the earth and of the universe that we occupy, and puts knowing your body, and the pleasure that you can get from it, right in lieu with those things. Reminding us that there is nothing unnatural about those acts.
Erica: So beautiful. Yeah, also those are things that cannot be tamed, you know?
Erica: Like your pleasure and all the good fun. Feelings. Just go with it. Get sucked up into that sea of a good orgasm.
Erica: Let it wash over you.
Kenrya: And then, I mean, she ends on a note that does exactly that. "Like succulent meats, it must be sucked and eaten."
Erica: I thought of mangoes. When I heard you say that like a good, juicy mango.
Kenrya: She's saying meat. I don't even eat meat, but I was like...
Erica: Mango meat.
Kenrya: Oh, okay. I don't call it that.
Erica: You don't call it mango meat? My bad.
Kenrya: I know, I said I don't. Call it what you want.
Erica: Oh. Okay. Again, do what you want.
Erica: Whatever tickles your pickle.
Erica: Aftermath, For Marty. You can just like... When I read this, I felt hugged-up in post-sex afterglow.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I think that's exactly what this is. It's what it brought me to. She's lying there, watching her lover sleep after they've had sex. I've totally done that. Sounds creepy. Don't care. I've done it. I do it.
Erica: Yeah, I guess I haven't been in like "love" love, because I be like...
Kenrya: Well, you know, part of the problem is... What I hear is a lot of folks are... and I have been that person, but I am not that person now. After I have sex, I'm awake. Like, wide-awake. Like, "let's watch a movie, let's talk about all the things" awake, after I cum. I do not get sleepy.
Erica: Yeah. And so, you sit there staring at my ass...
Erica: Watching me in the goodest sleep. Goodest.
Erica: The goodest sleep that I've had.
Kenrya: Because my partner is instantly exhausted when we're done. And I'm like, "Hey, what we doing next?" He's like, "If you don't take your ass to bed," but I don't ever want to, so I am watching him fall asleep.
Erica: You're Pat.
Kenrya: I'm Pat in this scenario. But I thought it was dope like, I think she's doing something that I've absolutely done, which is closing my eyes and replaying what just happened. And not on some, like we've talked about in other episodes where you've got to replay it so you can have sex with this nigga that's not as good, so you got to get yourself there. But just in some... Hmm. Damn. That was good, let's do the play-by-play again, right quick. You know what I'm saying? It also helps me to fall asleep, when I do that, which is probably why I do it so often. Because I'm not tired.
Erica: So, have you ever... This usually happens to me fresh out of a good session, where I wake up, I'll do something, and get an instant flash and go weak.
Kenrya: Yes. Yes, yes!
Erica: I was in CVS and I went to grab something, and suddenly saw my wrist, and was like, oh, shit!
Kenrya: I call those aftershocks.
Erica: Yes. A good aftershock. Yeah. Those are lovely, especially when it's not for a "I need to go to sleep" or I'm trying to tap into it for another session, just want to...
Kenrya: Yeah, like where I'm just driving in my car.
Erica: Yeah, it was like...
Kenrya: And your pussy do that little clench thing.
Erica: Uh-huh (affirmative)! It's like, girl... Baby! Calm down, girlfriend, we'll see him later.
Kenrya: Exactly that. Oh, yeah.
Erica: Yeah, that is so lovely. Something else about this that stood out to me was "I think of the straight person who asks you, 'What do you do in bed?'" And I think that that just... again, certain baseline. Straight sex isn't the baseline, just because it's your baseline doesn't mean that it's the baseline.
Kenrya: Right, like it's the fucking default, like there's no other way to have sex. As if straight people all have sex the same way, anyway.
Kenrya: That shit’s dumb.
Erica: You have sex with enough people, you will realize that some folks be doing it very different. We all generally call it "sex," but under that umbrella of sex, there's a whole lot of factions. So, I thought it was really cool that she was like, girl, I done asked the same thing, because you all ain't as fun as we are.
Kenrya: Yeah. And I love that she called it out, right? That in this poem, that could have just been about the afterglow, she's like, "Let me talk to these straight niggas for a minute."
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, what we're missing out on.
Erica: All the world does not revolve around your type of sex. Your section under the umbrella. So, that was a good one. It was a key one. All right, My Baby's a Bass Player. I love this one, it's a jazzy little one. You can hear the music as you read it. It was so cute. And then, again, the last line, "Thank you, Jesus, she don't play the tambourine." I was like, oh! That reminded me of the setting that I hate on my vibrator.
Kenrya: Oh, that di-di-di, you don't want to know...
Erica: Yeah, uh-huh (affirmative).
Kenrya: Because I don't like that one.
Erica: Like, girl, who uses this one?
Kenrya: I think it's supposed to be like the wholesa... I'm like, this don't feel good.
Erica: Not for me. If it feels good for you, great, and I'm glad that you have that setting.
Kenrya: Yeah. I'm glad they made it for you. It don't work for me, though. I just turn my shit up as high as it goes.
Erica: Girl. I had to dial it back recently, because I was like, okay, let's change it up again.
Kenrya: Like reset yourself with it?
Erica: Yeah, because, honey, I was like... volume was on max. It wouldn't work. I was like, you know what? Let's change positions and... change the pulsations. Sorry.
Kenrya: Did that help?
Erica: Yeah, it did. We have a quickie where somebody acts like you break your pussy. And not that you could break it, but you can definitely get it used to 10 volume, on your back, so... Yeah. But this is really cool, because to me, the cadence of it falls into a rhythm, which is like your partner falling into a rhythm of knowing your body, and knowing how to play your body.
Erica: And that's really dope.
Kenrya: Have you ever had a partner who knew your body like her baby was a bass player?
Erica: Yeah. And it is amazing. And he actually got it on first try. I think because we talked a lot beforehand. But he knew exactly what to do, how to do it, and it has been... This is one of my current partners. And it has been really great because he jumps in like he done been there non-stop, and I was just like, honey, you don't even got to work for it. I mean, he's working while he's doing it, but there wasn't a lot of "do this, do that," I mean, because I am a lover that... Again, I gets mine. I will tell you what I like, what I need, what I want. And so, it's always lovely when I don't have to do lots of direction. I don't mind giving direction, but when I don't have to it's like, "This was a good situation." What about you?
Kenrya: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, my current partner... I remember when I was telling you all about it after, because... Yeah, I tell.
Erica: We totally kiss and tell. Don't tell you the details. But, I don't need you at Thanksgiving being like, "Hey, left hook! Pass the peas."
Kenrya: Exactly. But I remember the first time we had sex, it was on Christmas. And it was... We went for four rounds within the first... I don't know, 36 hours? And I came five times. It was fantastic.
Kenrya: It was just right out of the gate. And it's funny, because we were lying in bed after sex the other day, and I was like, "So," because I was actually thinking about this, I was like, "How many times would you have given it, if the first time we had sex was trash?" And he was like, "I'm a man. What's trash sex?"
Erica: Oh, God. Oh, God.
Kenrya: He's like, "You got to understand, to men," I mean, obviously this was a generalization, but, "to men, sex is like pizza. You can't have bad pizza." He was like, "Maybe there's a topping on it that you don't want, you just take that shit off and you keep going." He's like, "I like everything else, so if the sex wasn't right from the beginning, I just would have kept fucking you." So, there's that.
Erica: Yeah. I can see that. I can see that. But, trash sex is sh... I mean, like...
Erica: So what if you had a partner...
Kenrya: Trash sex is different. For us, I think, and that's what I told him.
Erica: What? Continue.
Kenrya: Yeah, because see, he was like, "Well, how long would you have gone on?" I was like, "You maybe might have got three times, because I liked everything else about you." I was like, "Because what you got to understand, at least in my experience, as a cis woman who has sex with men, trash sex is often painful. It can be dehumanizing, because it often feels like they're having sex with someone who's not really there, because it means that they're not at all in tune with your needs. They're not being responsive to your body, to what you're saying verbally, to what your body is telling them. They're just trying to get off. And that can cause injury. It can cause a whole bunch of shit." I'm like, "So, for me, in my experience, trash sex has been detrimental to me. So I wouldn't keep doing something like that." And then I told him the story about the jackhammer dude which he had heard before, but I gave some more detail. Yes.
Kenrya: And then he was able to understand why bad sex is bad sex for me. But go ahead, what were you going to say?
Erica: So what if you had a guy... Perfect, great, communicate everything, is great out of the bedroom. And the sex is trash. You all are trying to talk through it, like you're trying... everything... He's respectful. "Hey, this don't work. Let's try it this way." "This ain't working." That was us on our side, doing my fave move, one of my faves. Yeah. Everything else is clicking. And even as you try to work through it, you're trying to work through it together. But it's just like, his dick ain't working.
Kenrya: I think it depends on two things. One of them is timing. So if we a few weeks in, and I think I like everything but the sex is bad, I'm not sticking around for that. I don't have enough invested, and I'm not interested in throwing good shit after bad shit, at that point in the situation. I'm cutting ties. It's cool. We can literally be friends, because for me, if I don't want to have sex with you, for whatever reason, then I don't see a romantic future. And I have absolutely... We were just talking about that. Stop dating men who I thought were fantastic, who were great on paper, who I had a good time with, but who there was literally no spark with. I did not at all feel compelled to put my pussy on them. And so, I ended it, because sex is important to me. And I don't want to be with somebody who I have to do that much work with to make it work.
Kenrya: Now, if this were some universe where I had somehow put in several months of getting to know this person, and we hadn't had sex yet and I had somehow fallen... You hear the skepticism in my voice?
Erica: Yeah, I definitely get that. We fuck early.
Kenrya: Yeah. I think I guess I would be more willing to put in some kind of work, but the idea of seeing a sex therapist, or whatever the hell... with somebody, from the beginning, just feels like a lot to me, I'll be honest. Maybe that makes me sound shallow, but I like sex. And I like good sex.
Erica: No, it's a lot of work to go in the beginning. I mean, I definitely believe if we've been together and an issue comes up, by all means let's do it.
Kenrya: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Let's do every fucking thing we can.
Erica: But, yeah, I believe in the beginning it's supposed to be easy.
Kenrya: Yeah, this is the easiest it's ever going to be. You all ain't come to no real obstacles together, so if this shit that's supposed to just fall together ain't falling together, then what is we going to do? I don't know.
Erica: I don't really got to put some shit together.
Erica: I got bills, two kids, and all that bullshit on top. Yeah.
Erica: I agree.
Kenrya: So, I will say that the other part of that though, is what does working for it look like? So, if he can't make me cum with penis and vagina, there's a lot of different ways to have sex, like we just talked about.
Erica: Yeah. Show them up at my house with a bag of toys.
Kenrya: Exactly. If we are able to work together, and he doesn't have insecurities and things like that that keep him from being able to do other things, in order to make sure that I am, one, getting off, but that we're also able to connect intimately... because it's not just about me being able to actually cum, right? It's about the intimacy, as we've been talking about, that can come with having sex with somebody. So if he's willing to invest in that and do that work, then that's different. So I guess it depends on what the work looks like. If the work just looks like, "let's try this different position, let's try this position," I'm good.
Erica: Yeah. But, again, that's a lot of work to put in in the beginning. Well, thankfully, we'll toss one up for those lucky happenstances where we find the right person that just happens to know you. I also feel like that's why women get dickmatized, because it's like "You know my body." It's like girl, he just fucked you well.
Kenrya: Yeah. It can't be the only thing. It has to be part of a constellation of things.
Erica: A constellation of love. That's a ‘70s song. Written by Sly and the Family Stone songs. Sorry. (singing) People in bell-bottoms? No? Okay, fine then. Metamorphosis.
Kenrya: On Soul Train?
Erica: Our final poem. Yeah. Soul Train.
Erica: So, Metamorphosis, our final poem. I looked at this one as just giving yourself to your lover. Handing yourself over wholeheartedly. And that is a revolutionary act. Because I feel like... So right now, that I'm single and healthier, and I am ready for relationship, I realize that it took a while for me to get to the point where I was like, "Yo, I'm ready to love someone." And that was a decision that I had to make because I had been doing so much hard work on myself for so long. I had to get to a place where I wanted to be open enough to give myself. And allow myself to be in love, because I feel like love is revolutionary, like revolution is a change, revolution is a cycle. And being in love and loving someone changes you. It changes how you look at things. It changes how you respond to things. I mean, like the core and the essence of you should never, that shit, don't change. But at the same time, love is a process and it's a metamorphosis.
Kenrya: Yeah, any good process changes you in some way.
Erica: Exactly. And so, I had to get to a point where I was comfortable with allowing that to happen. Does that make sense? Like I say all the time to my therapist, I feel like the work that I've done with her has been like me building this beautiful sandcastle on the beach. And it took me a really long time to be willing to let a wave take it under. And my therapist always said, she would always be like, "Hey, but now you have the tools. Now you know how to rebuild." And I get it. But I was like, "But, girl, this is cute. We don't need to remodel. We're fine right how we are."
Erica: But I'm finally like really... because I've said this, I think I've said to you for a while like, "Okay, I think I'm ready for a relationship." But it'll be more, in the sense of, if I'm walking down a street and a nigga hit me in the head with a shoe, and I'm like, "Ooh, great. We can be together." But I'm finally at the point... Actually, this is what I was going to talk with her today about... Like I'm finally at the point where I'm like, "I want to love somebody. And I want somebody to love me. And I want all of the good and juicy and ugly bits that come with it." You know?
Kenrya: Okay, I have a question.
Erica: Oh, shit.
Kenrya: Does the fact that we are...
Erica: I said I was going to talk to her about it, not you.
Kenrya: Well, bitch. It's too late. And you know this is what I was going to ask your ass after therapy anyway. Is the current situation, and the fact that we are in isolation, a factor there?
Erica: Yeah. I think it is, in the sense that I'm not ready to... I'm not so desperate... We were saying when we were setting up that I want somebody to come rub on my booty. If I could Postmate a nigga to come and rub on my booty... Yes, it would happen. So there's that. But, I do think that this situation has caused me to want to be in a relationship now and be in love, but I think it's more because I've had time to think about the development, and I've been reading old journals, and I've kind of started thinking more about where I was, where I am, where I am at cancer and all of that, and so it's just... I've had more time to think about where I am and what I want, as opposed to just like, "Bitch, I'm ready for somebody to come rub my booty." Because I mean, that's going to happen. Soon as the outside open.
Kenrya: So there's progress and not loneliness.
Erica: Yeah. Soon as the world open, I'm going to get a nigga to come rub my booty. That's no problem. The connection that I'm missing I will get. The intimacy that I'm missing I will get. But I'm ready to go on a journey with someone of love. Now, the problem is... Here comes the nigga. I don't know if I'm quite ready for... I don't want to have to find that person. I just want them to show up. Is the doorbell going to ring? I know, I know, I know. So, yeah. That's the part that I'm like... Because I also... See, now we about to get into some therapy. I also am comfortable just fucking and having fun and having a nigga come to rub on my booty.
Erica: And so, I need to figure out how to move from we fucking, we having fun, to I'm looking for someone to love. And it's hard for me to embrace that process fully, because I don't want to get hurt. There's that fear of getting hurt and putting yourself out there, only for it to fail. And so, it's easy for me to be like, "You know what? We ain't even going to worry about that. You're going to come over, drop off some bomb dick, and head on home."
Kenrya: Are you talking about transitioning particular people from one thing to the other?
Kenrya: ...or transitioning mindset and what you're looking for?
Erica: Transitioning my mindset.
Kenrya: Yeah. I mean, I...
Erica: Because I want to still do the fun fucking, as I'm looking for the right person. Does that make sense?
Kenrya: Right. Well, but here's the thing. Yeah, absolutely. And you can.
Erica: Which means I'm going probably to be hoteps just so that I can strictly keep them in... Your face fix it. So that I can strictly keep them in the place of like, "This ain't going no fucking where. You don't..." [crosstalk 00:43:35] Exactly. Yeah, transitioning my mind from looking... because it's kind of like, you look at a nigga and you're like, "Do-do-do-do. Fuck them." "Do-do-do-do. Relationship." And I'm afraid that I'm going to throw everybody in the "fuck them..."
Kenrya: Yeah, but it can be both, in the end.
Kenrya: So, I'll say this. I think that you can have the folks who you fuck. And maybe that's the people who you're currently fucking, or maybe that's other people who you find. But I think the best way to make the transition is to be super transparent about what you're looking for. So, for me, I knew that I was looking for a relationship. That didn't mean that I didn't want to have sex. But it meant that every person who I engaged with was somebody who met a certain set of criteria, so that if I did decide that they were somebody who I wanted to go... Not even if I did. I didn't even move forward with anybody who didn't meet those criteria. Period.
Kenrya: So, I knew I didn't want anybody who... was so overwhelmed with their misogyny that they couldn't even answer a simple question about R. Kelly or Bill Cosby the right way. Because you'd be surprised how shitty of answers I got from people when I asked about those situations. I didn't want anybody who was homophobic or transphobic, so I asked fucking questions and brought things up to see what their responses would be, and all kinds of shit. I mean, I'm a journalist, so I basically interviewed these niggas without it feeling like an interview.
Kenrya: And if they didn't meet those criteria, pussy wasn't even an option for me, but maybe in your situation, you regulate them to the pussy category. And then, you keep looking and you sort people according to how they respond to your prompts. And then for the folks who make it through that filter, you have an honest conversation about where you are right now and where you want to go. Nobody expects you to lock it down and just be with them, because you just met them today and maybe are going to go on a good date. You know what I mean?
Kenrya: So you can still have the sexy times stuff, but also be working toward the relationship that you want to have. And those things don't have to be mutually exclusive, because hopefully, the person who gets sorted into the "maybe this is a relationship" pile and... Our therapist always says, "You should have at least three of them niggas going at a time anyway." You get to have good sex with one of them. And then that one becomes the one, because all the cylinders are firing. I don't think it has to be an either-or situation.
Erica: Yeah. Well, fair enough.
Kenrya: But I also think that you need to do that exercise I keep telling you to do. And maybe this is a good time to do it, now that you've decided that you want to be in relationships. And do a list of what you want in a mate. And a list of how you want to feel when you are with that person. So that you can use that as a guide as you're moving forward.
Erica: Okay. We'll revisit that.
Erica: You can tell I'm not excited about doing a list.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I can see. It doesn't have to be work, though.
Erica: Yeah. We'll see. I've been staying up a bit late. I've been having my night naps, so maybe it'll be a post-night nap activity.
Kenrya: Yeah, I can see when you get up for your night naps, because my fucking phone is full of all you bitches waking up from your night naps.
Erica: My bad! My bad. We literally had a whole thread.
Kenrya: It's fine, I just wake up to 100 and some odd texts.
Erica: We had a whole thread off-thread about... Can't recall, we so pissed. And I said, "She mutes groups. She'll get to us when she wants to." And then our other friend was like, "Oh, carry on!" And we went back to this thread. Like we don't want to leave her out, she's just going to come back in because everyone in that group has Apple phones. It's not like you're coming back to...
Kenrya: [inaudible 00:47:31] messages.
Erica: 200 messages of so-and-so like, what so-and-so said.
Kenrya: Oh, my God.
Kenrya: So-and-so [inaudible 00:47:41].
Erica: So-and-so liked that.
Kenrya: Ooh, friend, can you please get an iPhone?
Erica: Friend, get an iPhone. You know who we talking about.
Kenrya: We love you.
Erica: Everybody know who we talking about. Our friend group knows who we talking about. Okay. What about you and love as a revolutionary act? Since I hogged all your time talking about my issues.
Kenrya: No. I mean, I agree. I think... I've not shied away from talking about the fact that I have generalized anxiety disorder, and also I have PTSD, as a result of the way that relationships have played out. The things that I have been through. Including domestic violence, all kinds of shit. And so for me, the way that love is revolutionary, at this time at least, is that it looks like me being able to be vulnerable. In a lot of different ways.
Kenrya: So, one being able to come out of what I have come out of and not be... I mean, "bitter" is a really simple word, but to not think that everybody sucks, just because I have had some experiences with some really sucky people. And to be able to be hopeful and to continue to try, because I think that there are a lot of people who, when there's no judgements attached to this at fucking all, but who go through shit and are just like, "You know what, I'm done. I don't want to be in a relationship." And I was there. I was like, "I ain't fucking with nobody. I don't want to be in nobody's relationship. I don't want to be in nobody's marriage. I don't want to do any of those things." And it took a lot of time and therapy and healing for me to be able to get to a place where I could open up and do those things. And, like we've talked about, like the... what was it? It wasn't the sex cleanse, but... where we both had to do where we weren't...
Erica: Sex sabbatical.
Kenrya: Yes, the sabbatical, where we weren't allowed to engage with folks who... in any way, sexually or... anyway. Excuse me. And that was a really important part of the process for me, because it helped me to really focus on myself and to take the time I needed to be able to build up to that point.
Kenrya: But I also had vulnerability issues long... that date, way, way, back, and they're not all just tied to romantic relationships, but just to things that happened when I was growing up that kept me from being able to...
Erica: Calling your girlfriends and saying. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: Yeah, like being able to be open about what was going on in my life, or being able to be open about the way that I was feeling, because I was told that the way that I felt was wrong, because gaslighting is a thing in my family. And so, it took me a long time to be able to get to that point. And so, it feels revolutionary to me that I am able to, even future dream, when it comes to relationships. To think about what might be. And to be vulnerable enough to voice those things, not just on this show, but in real life, whereas I was not that person before, because I was always worried that I would get hurt because I had been hurt so many times before.
Kenrya: But it also looks like the fact that the love that we have for ourselves as Black people, and for other Black people, really acts as armor in a world that doesn't really love us. And that feels revolutionary to me. We are told at every fucking turn that we are less desirable, especially Black women. That we are ugly, and I'm dark, that that's a problem and I have been, oh, Lord... talked real bad about because of that, and I'm gorgeous.
Erica: Fine as a motherfucker.
Kenrya: Thank you. But at both on the micro and the macro level, we're told that we're unlovable. And to love ourselves in the face of that, and to love each other, in the face of that...
Erica: Out loud.
Kenrya: That feels like a special type of freedom.
Erica: Yeah. You summed it up so perfectly.
Erica: Love for Black people. Okay, well, that's all I have. So, this wraps up our penultimate episode. We will be back next week.
Kenrya: You love that word. Of the season, because we'll be back.
Erica: Oh, yeah. Let me not say "of this episode" all in this show. Of this season.
Erica: So we will be back next week with the fabulous interview, and then that will wrap up season two.
Erica: Can you believe it?
Kenrya: Kind of, kind of not? Shit's weird.
Erica: Yeah, it is. But, nonetheless, we in this bitch. Woo-woo! So, Erica and Kenrya, two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: Making it clap.
Erica: Wait, girl. Now, you can go. You saw me going up, you could've... Anyway.
Kenrya: I was trying not to hit the mic. Want to do it again?
Erica: You saw me going up, you could've... Okay. Bye, you all.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. We want to hear from you all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. And please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. And find links to our books, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. And remember, The Turn On is now a part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you love at Frolic.media/podcast. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.