Category: Brown Sugar

U.N.I.T.Y- A Brown Sugar Interview with community leader Elle Harris



Photographer ( Antwane Gallashaw )

 Spend any time on social media and you’ll see people talking about the issues women have with each other. Among the “cattiness” however some women are looking for commonalities and working toward unity. Elle Harris of the World Wide Women Group is one of those women looking to empower and create unity. Earlier this year she started a web series called HER Story to celebrate women. This July she continues her mission with the “Return to Royalty” rally in Portsmouth, VA. We interviewed Elle to learn more about her and her event.


BROWN SUGAR-When did you fall in love with hip hop?

ELLE HARRIS- I fell in love with hip hop during the Jay Z/State Property/Dream Team era. I have always had a love for hip hop but these guys did it for me. I was so wrapped up in it that I only wore Roca Wear clothing for a period of time. Not many people know this but “What We Do” by Freeway is my all-time favorite song, I don’t think that will ever change.


BROWN SUGAR-What role do you think music plays on the image of women in our society?

ELLE HARRIS- Music plays the role we allow it to play. There are some women who either: do not know who they are or who are not comfortable with whom they are, so instead they allow the imagery portrayed through music to tell them who they will and should be. So we become sold on this perfect figure, materialistic, overly independent, “too fly” to have friends-woman that we should be according to music standards instead of defining our own identity, or as I like to say creating our own story.


BROWN SUGAR-What does modern day ROYALTY look like to you?

ELLE HARRIS- Modern day royalty is a person that is walking in their purpose. This person does not conform to standards, they create their own. They do not easily accept negativity or criticism as a death sentence, but they take it on full force as a challenge. They find significant others that are going to assist them in building a legacy and support them in areas they may have shortcomings. They work non-stop at making a difference without blatantly making a scene, but when you see them you know their royalty. Lastly, unlike royalty of the past they do not sit on a throne alone they extend a hand so that their brothers and sisters can join them. That’s modern day royalty.


BROWN SUGAR-What are the goals of the “Return to Royalty” Rally?

ELLE HARRIS- One of the primary goals of the Rally is to bridge generational gaps, and to connect women from all races, ages, colors, shapes and sizes. We want to celebrate the life, the legacy, and lineage of the royalty we all possess.


BROWN SUGAR-One of your other stated goals is to cultivate change/break down barriers. How can women do this in their everyday interactions with each other?

ELLE HARRIS- Our barriers are learned behaviors, passed down from generation to generation. Most women I talk to tell me how their moms/mother figure would tell them to never trust women. Some mothers/mother figures even implied that many arguments with other women were spurred by jealousy. An d because the person telling us this is someone we look up to we begin to believe this and so from a young age the seed is planted and we just continuously pass this generalization down. It’s a generational curse. The first thing we can do to break these barriers is to STOP telling our daughters this, we are raising them to be paranoid and insecure. We think it’s the right thing to do because that’s what we have been taught but it only hurts our daughters in the end. Also we need to STOP saying I don’t get along with girls or I only have male friends. That’s a choice, and opinion, not every woman is perfect but there are great ones living amongst us who can understand our frustrations and help bring us to solutions.


BROWN SUGAR-What can women who leave “Return to Royalty” expect to take with them?

ELLE HARRIS- They will leave knowing that it is okay to be amongst other women in a social setting and have fun. We want to instill in some that may not know, that they are queens and princesses. We really didn’t start from the bottom as Drake says, we started from the top and that’s where royalty rests. They will leave knowing that World Wide Women Group sees them in their true form; we look beyond what today may look like because we want to prepare them for tomorrow.


BROWN SUGAR-If you had to choose 3 lessons you’ve learned from your friendships and sisterhoods what would they be?

ELLE HARRIS- This is a great question. Lesson one, be the kind of friend or sister that you would want others to be to you. It may sound cliché but it’s true. For many years I was not a great friend to have and that’s because I did not know how to be a great friend. Then I thought about what I would want from a friend and I became that person and I am blessed to receive that back through many friendships I have. Lesson two, stop making your friends live up to expectations they are not aware of. I used to be a victim of this. We make up these expectations or lists of things we expect people to do for us, without them ever knowing that the list exists. Communication is key talk to them; we are generally hurt by other women this way because we believe they can telepathically read our minds and respond to us in the way we want them to. Lessons three, learn to categorize your friendships. There are levels of friends you have associates, you know people that are cool and that you may go out with from time to time. Then you have confidants they are the ones you can trust to take your secrets to the grave, they will always be an open ear and a shoulder to cry on. Lastly you have the comrade which is your friend to the end they will go the same direction you’re going and they will fight in the trenches with you, challenge you, and call you out when you are wrong. If you find all three of these in one person you keep them close and always value that relationship.


BROWN SUGAR-What can people expect from the World Wide Women’s Group for the remainder of 2013? And in 2014?

ELLE HARRIS- 2013 is our launching out year. After the rally we will begin preparing for a pageant we will have for young girls the first quarter of 2014. We are also preparing to launch our image consulting service this year, which will focus not just on looks but holistic well-being. We are excited to partner with another organization on a breast cancer weekend event in October. This year we are in serious grind mode, working hard to let the community know we are here and seeing what we can do to better serve them. 2014 will be a huge year for us; in addition to our other goals we will host our first Weekend Conference for women.


Elle Harris is the founder of the World Wide Women Group, like the page for more information about the rally.


Brown Sugar is written by Angie C. theatre artist, vocalist and educator. Find her on twitter @abitofbrownsuga and email for interview requests, topic submissions and event coverage-

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Brown Sugar: Interview with author Benjamin Daniel



“I love words, words, word…words, words” *Jay Z voice*-

A Brown Sugar interview with author Benjamin Daniel


I love words. I always have. So when I encountered author Benjamin Daniel and his new book, These Long-Tailed Words: Verse and Prose for Everyone I was enraptured. New Jersey-born author Benjamin Daniel has quite a way with words. His first published work explores love and loss, education, music and a range of topics in between. Daniel is a master of prose as well as poetry, making the book a treat for lovers of both forms. Learn more about the captivating Mr. Benjamin Daniel in our Brown Sugar Interview.


BROWN SUGAR – So Benjamin Daniel, when did you fall in love with Hip Hop?

BENJAMIN DANIEL Wow! Somewhere between Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx” and MC Shan’s “The Bridge”, so the mid-80s. I had to tape the shows and grew adept at those pauses right before the DJ broke in. It was exciting, the varieties of rap you could enjoy. My FIRST CD was Redman’s “Whut? Thee Album”. I was a MAJOR fan of East Coast-style rap from the beginning.


BROWN SUGAR – Would you say hip hop or music in general has an impact on your writing?

BENJAMIN DANIEL There are rhythms, ebbs and flows to any writing. I’m cognizant of how words might look and sound in another reader’s mouth. Rap, particularly the lyrically and sonically dense variety, also concerns itself with the “look” and “feel” of a verse or verses.


The best music and writing gives the listener and reader a framework. Writing and rap concern themselves with structure. There are rules, conventions and then, maybe, new and exciting forms like a Frank Lloyd Wright piece or a Dadaist painting or poem.


BROWN SUGAR – What, if any, is the connection with modern-day hip hop and poetry?

BENJAMIN DANIEL Hip hop, as with all popular music, has become a largely commercial exercise, the province of usurers and speculators. I come not to bury hip hop, however, but to praise a goodly portion of it. The ubiquity of the Web and the portability of digital files have made it universal.


Poetry is going away from us. It isn’t taught except in AP classes or colleges and universities. Popular culture has little use for the rigors of Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnets, of puzzling the differences between free and blank verse, of struggling with Eliot’s The Waste Land.


BROWN SUGAR – Tell us about your love for long tailed words and language as a whole.

BENJAMIN DANIEL Language is our cultural, ethic and ideological currency, the all-powerful lens through which we conceive and interact with everything in existence. There’s wonder there, the ability to construct a world whole cloth from nothing more than thoughts put to paper. When I discovered I had any writing ability it was my Paul to Damascus moment. The malleability of language is everything, its best and worst thing. It’s exciting.


BROWN SUGAR-One of my favorite pieces in the book is the poem Taken. When writing something so full of detail and description did you lean on memories, imagination, or something else?

BENJAMIN DANIEL- Yes. All of that. Details invite the reader in, make them a stakeholder in the story’s outcome. It lends veracity to the piece. A trip to and through a place or places like that, the ideas about them, the point at the end of the road where you’ve made your way home? They each inform the work.
BROWN SUGAR – I know you have many language pet peeves. What do you think has led to many of the errors we see daily in social media? Is it a problem simply because it breaks a rule or is it there a larger issue here?

BENJAMIN DANIEL Schools don’t teach grammar, sentence structure and style. They’re teaching students to pass tests, not to think and reason critically. News and media organizations aren’t fact-checking. The pace of the news business is such that those kinds of tasks increase lag time between writing and delivery to market. Students aren’t being taught to engage with a text as a work to be analyzed, but as a series of statements from which to answer multiple choice questions.


BROWN SUGAR – While reading your book These Long Tailed Words: Verse and Prose for Everyone, I was struck by your ability to write both prose and poetry well. Do you have a preference?

BENJAMIN DANIEL Poetry is the sandbox in which I can most easily play with structure and form. It can simultaneously allow for convention while offering multiple opportunities to flout it, though the audience for poetry has shrunk considerably. Prose is where my bread is buttered. Short stories, speeches, news releases, long-form stories, that’s my day job. It’s like trying to choose a favorite child.


BROWN SUGAR – What place do prose and essays have in the current literary landscape?

BENJAMIN DANIEL There’s always places for stories that are told well, for issues-based writing. Junot Diaz does novels and short stories. The New York Times and The New Republic are publishing insightful, biting commentary on the issues we face. These sell. And well.


BROWN SUGAR -What can readers expect from Benjamin Daniel the writer in the future?

BENJAMIN DANIEL - There’s a novel in production now, A Sidewalk Story, scheduled for release in November. Still getting those freelance gigs (though I could always use more, people!) and working in education.


BROWN SUGAR-I know you’re a comic book fan. Any chance of some sort of a true crime comic hybrid type novel from you?

BENJAMIN DANIEL – That’s gonna be the third book. Thanks for the idea and inspiration. Stay tuned to and @writerightpubs on Twitter for news and updates.


Benjamin Daniel is a writer and editor from New Jersey. His publishing company publishes his and other authors’ works. More at

Brown Sugar is written by Angie C. writer, theatre artist, vocalist and educator. Find her on twitter @abitofbrownsuga and email for interview requests, topic submissions and event coverage-


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Brown Sugar: Christian Hip-Hop (LeCrae)



Is there room for Christianity inside the ciphers of mainstream Hip Hop?


Disclaimers* See Bottom

Recently I’ve seen lots of posts by music lovers from the gospel side of the world expressing great joy at seeing gospel artists on reality shows, winning mainstream awards, and being given a “platform” on regular TV. I usually look over these tweets with some guarded cynicism and a crucial side eye. I mean for much of my youth there was all this talk of being set apart, not being of (this/the) world. So here I am now aged 30 years and far removed from the gospel music paradigm. I found myself a bit confused at this new “hey include us’ mentality. So I decided to find out what was going on. At the center of the recent fervor seemed to be a rapper named LeCrae out of Atlanta.

LeCrae’s name was familiar to me, I encountered some of his early stuff and it didn’t suck but I didn’t follow his career. So fast forward to about 2011/2012 and the release of his “Church Clothes” mixtape and his name is everywhere. The Atlanta emcee was everywhere, not just on gospel industry folks’ timelines but everywhere including the Grammys, BET ciphers and the like. These appearances were usually followed by gospel folks’ excitement and “we’re finally being included” type tweets. Cue my side eye and Dora blink. So earlier this week I saw all this talk hit a fever pitch because LeCrae was going to be performing on 106&Park. I said well sheesh let me listen to this young man and see what he has to say and what his performance looked like. I was pleasantly surprised.

I wondered if he was doing the over preaching, guilt inflicting/shaming technique that many gospel rappers seemed to employ. He wasn’t! His song ‘Round of Applause” featuring a verse from B.O.B is actually just what mainstream hip hop needs, BALANCE. The song is about overcoming the odds and making it “out”. It’s about how for him that meant acknowledging and relying on God. I released a sigh of relief. Finally someone found an approach that just might be welcome in hip hop. What’s his formula? He’s actually a hip hop head, like he listened to actually hip hop music before becoming a Christian. He also considers himself an emcee who also happens to be a Christian. This works. In simple terms he has the mainstream platform because he’s relatable and the dude can rhyme.
For far too long I think that was a missing element from many wanna be Christian hip hop artists. They approached rap from outside the culture and they really weren’t good lyrically. What they lacked in skill they made up for with heavily over preached lyrics about super high expectations and sinning.  And really those kinds of songs had no place in Hip Hop. So to answer the title question if an emcee chooses to rhyme about his life from an honest place and that place includes a love for God and family alongside well placed beats and flow, then YES there is a place in mainstream hip hop for them. If that’s not what you’re doing as a Christian rapper then I suggest you just put down the mic.

Positivity and skill will always win in my book. Congrats to Lecrae! I think for so long Christian artists got it wrong it how they attempted to “reach” the masses. Many acted as if they were excluded from the “mainstrea?m” b/c they loved God. Nah a lot of you rappers were excluded because you lacked actual hip hop knowledge and skill. You can’t approach hip hop as an outsider. LeCrae’s interview on 106&Park really says a lot of how I feel about music in general. Make good positive music. What’s a genre? At the end of the day who really cares?


Brown Sugar is written by Angie C for Fresh Radio. Twitter @abitofbrownsuga

Email for interview request, topic suggestions, and event covereage. Angie C is located in Charlotte, North Carolina

LeCrae is a Reach Records artist appearing this summer on the Rock The Bells tour (yep!)


*Disclaimers- 1st- I owned numerous Cross Movement albums in the 90s ( google it lol); however I haven’t owned or listed to any “gospel hip hop” since like high school. And that’s largely because, well, they suck. Well apparently some don’t suck anymore, so let’s explore. 2nd- I dislike music based on the musical merit regardless of genre; to me good music is good music period. There’s no “oh it’s gospel pass, it’s ok for it to suck a little”

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