New London Poet Laureate hopes to be a bridge, to inspire
New London — Joshua Brown is many things: an engineer, educator, poet and musician.
And for the next three years the 30-year-old resident will represent the city as its Poet Laureate.
Brown was appointed as the city’s official poet earlier this month with an overwhelming recommendation from a committee that had worked for months to find the successor to Rhonda Ward, the city’s first Poet Laureate.
As to what to expect from Brown in the coming months, he said he hopes to be a conduit and “a bridge between generations, backgrounds and ethnicities.”
“New London is a rich mix of cultures I feel really isn’t highlighted as much as it could be. I think this position will help to rejuvenate the arts, rejuvenate poetry. Poetry never really goes out of style and if you look hard enough you can always find it. I’m looking forward to the best way I can serve.”
Part of his work will include inspiring what he calls “uncomfortable conversations,” a way he said will help push people to grow and become more open-minded.
He’s also set on reaching and inspiring the city’s youth, something he’s already had a hand in doing since 2014 as an engineering teacher and robotics team coach at New London High School.
“They really are our future. They have a voice. They have artistry. They’re oozing with talent that sometimes we end up killing. I hope to encourage and embolden our students, investing in their dreams,” he said. “We need to pull in our youth and hope the older generations takes the time to talk less and listen more.”
Brown grew up in Connecticut, a Navy brat who moved around and landed at one point in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Howard University with a degree in mechanical engineering and has been writing and performing for years as a poet, spoken word and rap artist.
Engineering, he said, is about connecting the dots and solving problems and that same process can be applied to anything.
A self proclaimed “UrbanNerd,” Brown said he started in music playing trombone.
“I credit my ear to those terrible trombone sounds when I was younger,” Brown said.
He also said he spent years suppressing his gift, and “trying to avoid being a stereotypical Black man who raps.”
“But I always say our gifts are not our own. It’s a God given gift and I just want to give back,” he said.
He’s gone on to write and publish poetry with Magik Press Publications, perform and record music and more recently has been participating in poetry slam competitions.
He’s gotten more serious about his music and poetry since moving back to Connecticut and working at Cultured AF in downtown New London where he is the talent acquisition coordinator. He said Cultured AF - and the people there such as Juanita Austin and Ericka Ortiz - has helped to nurture his passion and it is there where he has started connecting with other poets in the area. He’s also been helping to lure them to perform in New London.
Asked how he describes his music, Brown said “I’m rap and hip hop at heart. I love rapping over things you’re not supposed to be rapping over. I want my music and my art form to be an infusion of everything, like a chef blending flavors.”
Brown is a board member at Writer’s Block InK and been a featured artist at numerous venues that include Hygienic Art, Elm City Lit Fest, New London Arts Council Arts Party and Martin Luther King Jr. Open Mic.
Members of the Poet Laureate Selection Committee included Tracee Reiser, Michael Bradford, Chloe Murphy, Clayton Potter and Rhonda Ward. The selection process was aided by City Planner Sybil Tetteh and Public Library of New London Director Madhu Gupta. City Councilor Reona Dyess was the city council liaison to the committee.
Reiser, who led the selection committee, said “Josh is always actively encouraging the appreciation of creative expression through poetry and other art forms.”
She said one of the recommendation letters for Brown read: “He is a voice of the people, who reimagines how words can continue in the tradition of storytelling and community-building. With great certainty do I recommend him to be the city’s poet laureate as he would serve with honor, distinction and effectiveness. ”
Brown gave a taste of his poetry to the City Council during his introduction on April 5. The poem is called a "Country of Immigrants":
We always described America as a Melting Pot
Little did we know this would become a metaphor for us sacrificing our differences
Trading in our uniqueness to be more American to speak more American
I heard a better euphemism is that America is a fruit salad
A myriad of cultures retaining their spices
The irony that the slave trade was invented specifically for spices
People treated as cargo, embargoes on bodies
Lest we forget how most of us were shipped here
And that those who sought Asylum we're cast as burdens
We're estranged to the ghettos
Recognize that ghetto has no color but instead a price tag
The Irish Community was not painted green for St Patty
They steal our jobs they are unclean go back to your country rhetoric that sounds all too familiar as south American children sit in chains
the Italian Community was not always embraced in Olive Gardens
ironically Christopher Columbus statues were erected in order to welcome the Italians yet here we are hundreds of years later debating on Native Land on Whose history should be honored
about whose ancestors massacre was bigger or whose lineage suffered longer
The irony is not lost on me a country of immigrants whose only shared experience is trauma
We recognize and know this to be true, that all men were created equal, yet all people are not judged by the content of their character
In this year 2021 it was believed that flying cars would graze thru clouds, my mother always loved the Jetsons, thou we were expecting robotic maids
here we are, living in a time were orbiting hotels and trips to Mars are not just dreams but instead blueprints
Yet even the concord could not conquer colorism
Hate crimes have risen 150% in the Asian community
Hard to feel the unity when bullets evoke eulogies
Hard to laugh off your tongue and cheek humor when these same rumors lead to the death of, the numbers are still pending
How much blood must spill until we heal
Recognize we bleed red, heels will crush the devils head, we begin to see
As a community, we must continue to speak up, Even when this is no longer trending?
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