Artist Highlight: Shawntal Brown

By Madison Lowry

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                              Shawntal Brown is currently a junior studying Psychology and Women & Gender studies. With her studies, Shawntal plans to go into Social Psychology research, and study the impact of gender, race, and sexuality on our society. She is also a writer, her poetry focusing on her experiences as a black woman in America and how she finds and understands herself within that identity.                                     

                      Shawntal began to follow social justice issues in 2011 during the Trayvon Martin case. She is an advocate of the Black Lives Matter campaign which focuses on cases of police brutality caused by racial profiling and discrimination. Shawntal believes police brutality to be one of the most pressing issues of today, especially in the wake of the Sandra Bland case, which took an emotional toil on her.

                       “It could have been me. It could have been my friend. It could have been my mom.”

                     Shawntal defines social justice as awareness of what is going on in the world and says that better understanding of the issues helps us find ways to quicken the change to alleviate injustices. She knows that is not simple, though, and people can be overwhelmed by the amount of problems our society faces. Shawntal encourages advocates to not pick and choose their issues, and instead, work collectively  to combat against all oppression.

                     She believes that OU has progressed since her freshman year, but still has a long way to go. She knows there will always be work to do, and the university must continue educating students through diversity training and dialogues about race on campus. She would also like to see more open, safe places for students of color on campus.

Her poetry is featured below. 

The Black Apology

Dear Sir or Madam, I’m sorry for the blackness of my skin.
Let me not speak ebonics around you and your family
Please let me prove that I am not a Rasheeda or a Lashawna
And let you show you that I mean no harm.
Dear Sir or Madam, I am sorry for the blackness of my skin.
Let me adopt your culture you can see that I am not a threat to your society
Let me make sure I enunciate words like four and smile
Dear Sir or Madam, I am sorry for the blackness of my skin.
I apologize for making you uncomfortable by being in the same vicinity as you
To whom it may concern, I notice that you tensed up as I walked in the same confides as you.
I am sorry I’ll just wash the blackness away so you cannot see it any more.
I am sorry, just look past the box braids and afro that I may wear as I speak
Next time I’ll straighten it so it can be similar as European long hair.
Maybe I’ll dye it light brown so it can look like it’s burnette.
I’m sorry.
Dear Sir or Madam, I’m sorry for the blackness of my skin.
Thank you for allowing me to work harder for everything I want in this world
Because working twice as hard to only be half as good in your eyes is an accomplishment I strive for
Because I am almost there but yet I do not make the cut.
Because when they see my name on a resume and if it sounds black enough I might not get the job
Because if they see me walking down the street they clutch on their purse tighter and the lock the door quicker.
Because my black skin was seen as a disgrace years ago and today.
To be black was a sin because the skin was a commodity four hundred years ago
To have ingrained in my brain that I am not a beautiful black queen and should not be treated as one
Instead learning that I am a hood rat, a baby mama, and a welfare collector
I should not have goals and ambitions to strive for.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am sorry my poem about blackness has made you feel uncomfortable.
Maybe your muscle tensed up, maybe you could not look me in my eyes as I apologized to you.
Maybe you understand that black skin is not a sin but…
Dear Sir or Madam
I am not sorry about the blackness of my skin
I will not straightened my nappy curls of my hair to press away the years of oppression
And the oppressed years to come
This blackness of my skin is not an apology I should utter.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Where is my apology for you making me feel lesser about the color of my skin?

Black Beauty

I read a post on Tumblr that said: “how u gon say some shit like ur not into black girls
Son we literally glow in the sun… “
And the warm blood coursing through in my veins under my brown skin
My brown eyes and my kinky, curly, nappy hair, yeah black girls are radiant
My black is beauty
This thought wasn’t so evident before.
If race was discussed, I wouldn’t make a fuss
But I hide away.
Black and me weren’t so synonymous
As I tried to remain anonymous
This skin wasn’t mine because I did not see the beauty in it.
Once upon a time…
This blackness was not mine because I did not see the opportunity in it.
Loving all of me wasn’t the only issue
But trying to love the black in me was.
Then I wanted to love all of blackout of me.
So I spoke eloquently and walk straighter
Maybe they would ignore the color on me
So I perm the curls out of my hair to become less of a Shawntal and more of a Shannon
I would befriend white friends but only to realize that they didn’t see color
Blindingly, I would let my so-to-speak friends exclaim, “How white I was.”
And I would agree how right they were.
I would l shy away from race.
Hearing the word, “Black” made me tremble in private school
Because they would look at me.
I would be the voice for all of slavery.
I would be the voice for all of Civil Rights
I would be the voice for the little white kids in my class when they asked me about my hair.
Now, I realize ignoring the blackness I was born into is not rite of passage of a black beauty.
I write this passage to explain the erasure of my race before me.
I let my brain wash away the black in me.
The black I see.
The black I never tried to be.
Now, this black I see is radiant.
Sun-kissed.
Golden
Glowy.
This is the blackest beauty I will be.
The black is me.
So,
Don’t tell me that Cleopatra did not have deep ebony melanin in her skin
Don’t tell me that my skin is what pharaohs and queens did not look like me in the pyramids of Egypt
Ebony skin is not a sin but a blessing to be seen by all eyes on the Earth

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