Lincoln Center on Thursday named Mahogany L. Browne its first ever poet in residence, part of its initiative to use its outdoor spaces as New York emerges from pandemic lockdowns.
Browne, 45, is the author of several books, including “Black Girl Magic,” “Chlorine Sky,” and the forthcoming “I Remember Death by Its Proximity to What I Love.” She is also the executive director of the media-literacy organization JustMedia. Poetry, she said in a video interview, is “at the core of everything I do.”
Her residency, named “We Are the Work” in a nod to the Audre Lorde essay “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” will run from July to September and will include in-person and virtual events such as poetry readings, film screenings, discussions and performances. Described as “an artistic call to recharge and unite towards justice within our communities,” “We Are the Work” is part of Restart Stages, an initiative Lincoln Center started earlier this year to bolster its outdoor programming.
“Teachers, abolitionists, writers, filmmakers — anyone widening the lens to reveal the full beautiful-bodied picture, anyone who is assuring we all have the liberties this country promised — that is the work,” Browne said.
Jordana Leigh, Lincoln Center’s senior director of programming, said in a video interview that “we’re looking at having the arts be truly reflective of New York City” and that as organizers were thinking about poets involved in social-justice issues, “Mahogany’s name was one that boiled up a lot.”
Browne plans to collaborate with other poets and writers, including Jacqueline Woodson, Isaac Fitzgerald and Sarah Kay, as part of her residency. She also plans to hold a book fair for children focusing on titles with social-justice themes, as well as a fresh produce giveaway with Seeds in the Middle, a Brooklyn-based charity that helps children start community gardens in addition to other food and health-related programs.
“I was told to dream — dream big. Everything I wanted to do, nothing was said no to,” Browne said. “I’ve been waiting for this kind of Christmas.”
When she visited Lincoln Center in June for a Juneteenth celebration curated by the poet Carl Hancock Rux, Browne said, it was raining. Many people stayed to listen to the performances and bask in the space. That was when she started thinking about the events she would develop during her residency.
“This will be part of the archive when we look back,” Browne said, “at how we came back to ourselves.”