By Donavee Chappell
F.H. Brown, among other things, is a spoken-word artist, hat designer and painter.
Photos courtesy of F.H. Brown
Felix Hampton (F.H.) Brown is a self-named “edgertainer”: educator and entertainer with a satirical, political edge. He is also a painter and fashion designer. This man wears many hats — in fact, he designs and sells them. His art has been sold at high-end boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Atlanta. His art also is on display at Jackie Joyner-Kersey Boys and Girls Club in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brown, who relocated to Minneapolis from East St. Louis, Illinois, has led a colorful life. He once modeled for the infamous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose erotic work was criticized and censored until his death in 1989. Brown won an Apollo Theater competition in 1995 performing a spoken-word piece called “King, Malcolm & Me.”
He’s also performed in Europe; he recently auditioned for America’s Got Talent on January 22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Felix also auditioned for a French opera through the MacPhail Center for Music and has performed in a number of events throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, most recently at Shiloh Temple’s Black History Month celebration on Feb. 13.
I have done a lot of articles on artists from all walks of life, but there is truly only one Felix Hampton Brown. His persona is one of a kind, for sure. Very confident and charismatic, he performs with true confidence.
I have had the fortune of working with Brown when he performed an edgertainment piece called “Red Tag Sale.” Through his spoken word work, Brown expresses the need for Black people to “wake up and smell the coffee” and see what we are doing to each other. Plus, he offers knowledge and a key component to solving issues in society. In this piece he speaks about an emotional frame of mind a lot our people are in today:
“Red tag sale/all my life I felt like I was in a red tag sale/buying into a way of life that I was doomed to fail/every since they brought my ancestor’s across the seas/I’ve been treated like a dog with frees/put into their penitentiaries/for centuries/Never got my 40 acres and a mule/fought in the Civil War for freedom but I’m still used as a tool/never finished school/can’t read or write/it as if no one cares about my plight/it’s like I’m in a red tag sale/catching hell in a jail cell.
“Red tag sale/We use to be the merchants of Venice/now we are the merchants of whatever they send us/so I throw my hand up/for I just got arrested/for selling some of that fire dope that the narc just tested/Red tag sale.”
These are troubling statements, but nevertheless they are a glimpse into the mind of F.H. Brown’s interpretation of the plight of Black people used in society as a tool for their own demise. Brown has a great passion for change from within and looks to the future through the lens of love, joy, peace and education. He has written plays and spoken word pieces that are true jewels that need to be published in the right forum.
The messages in his compositions are timeless, relevant and thought provoking. Just take a ride with F.H. Brown at any of his performances, and without a doubt one will see his vision for change and awareness of issues that face us all whether Black or White, Latino or otherwise. In the following excerpt from a work called “Born Revolutionary,” he talks about the revolution and where he finds himself in the fight for equality and participation in society:
“In order for me to forget from which I came/I was given a new culture language and name/ you took your shackles off my hands and feet/your technology has replaced them on my mind, knees and speech/this impenetrable heart that I find in you/gives you absolution to treat me inhuman the way you do.
“I’m an insurgent an aborigine from the garden of Eden/abducted from my abode by a band of heathens/the mutinies that accompany your forefathers across the seas/they will not be relinquished by your skullduggery/For I’m an insurgent and an insurgent I will become/the insurrection will fall on your daughters and sons/for your bible says you’ll reap what you sow/and this is yet to be done.”
Again, F.H. Brown hits the nail on the head and says what we as Black people need to say each day to ourselves: I refuse to accept this way of life and will do all I can to reach my own true potential based on the truth about my pedigree as Black kings and Black queens. It’s time to start acting like the thousands of lives lost in the struggle over the past 500 years were not in vain and to stand up for ourselves and demand change from within our own culture.
Brown without question is one of our community’s most eloquent artists and has much wisdom to offer. It is his hope that we elevate each other to the point of awareness and activism to facilitate change in us as a people.
F.H. Brown will be releasing a CD called 912 in spring 2011. If you would like to get in contact with Brown, you can email him at email@example.com.
Donavee Chappell welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org or dchap email@example.com.