Monthly Archives: October 2015

Lady Brion: Serving the Baltimore Community with Spoken Word

Written by Christy McCurdy

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Bold. Dedicated. Inspirational. These three words perfectly describe Brion Gill, a UB student, community activist, and spoken word poet known as “Lady Brion.” Inspired by the HBO television series, Def Poetry Jam, she has fearlessly stood on stages voicing her passions and convictions since she was twelve years old. Starting with church events and high school debate teams, Lady Brion’s talent has taken her to London, Ghana, Tanzania, and recently, to the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam held in Washington, D.C.

Before qualifying for this prestigious competition, Brion was named the Baltimore Grand Slam Champion—the first female to win in ten years. Along with four other Baltimore
poets, she was then sponsored to compete in the National Poetry Slam hosted in Oakland, California, a week-long group tournament comprised of 72 teams. “It was definitely an anxiety attack all the time,” Brion shared, noting that these slams are like Olympic competitions. “It was an awesome experience to be among this many amazing writers and lyricists.”

Brion Lady Brion Gill by Dubscience 2At Howard University, where Brion received her undergrad degree, she was the “go-to poet on campus.” She performed at numerous campus events and explored many open mic venues in D.C., including Spit-Dat. By far her favorite place to perform, Brion loves the energy and community this small venue exudes. “So many poets get nurtured in that space,” she remembered.

While studying to complete her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts at UB, she continues performing locally and is a deeply committed community activist. She is the resident poet for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), a youth-run organization that pursues equality for the black community in Baltimore. Brion and fellow LBS members served on the frontlines during the Freddie Gray controversy, and the group continues to fight against police misconduct and other civil rights issues.

Brion uses her poetry—focused on the black struggle, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and religious themes—to merge the space between art and activism. “Throughout history, you have artists who are furthering the movement,” she stated. She also volunteers with Dew More Baltimore, a grassroots organization that brought the national Youth Poet Laureate program to Baltimore. This program offers poetry workshops and competitions to at least 300 youth annually, who Brion and other poets teach once a week in over 20 Baltimore City schools.

Following in the footsteps of renowned poets like Amiri Barraka and Maya Angelou, Lady Brion hopes to turn her passion into her livelihood. Using her poetry as a tool to help others, she wants to become a professional poet and teach young aspiring writers at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “I know the transformative power of spoken word, and I want to use that to better my community,” said Brion.

Adventures at MTV with UB Student Laurise McMillian

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Written by Christy McCurdy

There she was: Abbi Jacobson, co-star of Broad City, the popular sitcom television series on Comedy Central. This wasn’t an average day. It was the first day of Laurise McMillian’s summer internship with MTV, and there, before her eyes, stood one of her favorite celebrities. “Seeing a celebrity is one thing,” she remembered, “but seeing the celebrity that you have a poster of in your bedroom and trying not to freak out is super hard.” Laurise had to repress her fan girl side, and she did. MTV didn’t have many rules for their interns, but staying composed during celebrity visits was one of the few.

Besides mastering self-control, Laurise learned a lot during her three-month internship at Viacom, owner of MTV. After discovering their internship program during a media conference in NYC, she was immediately interested. As a UB senior studying Digital Communication and specializing in Media Production, Laurise was a perfect fit for Viacom’s Social Media Marketing Intern position. Her responsibilities ranged from creating ideas for daily Instagram posts, to using a 3D camera to snap photos of celebrity guests like Cody Simpson, Tori Kelly, and Nathan Sykes. Prior to MTV’s Video Music Awards, Laurise brainstormed with employees and other interns to develop a social media strategy for the show. She also designed a CoverGirl sponsor board on Pinterest, connected with Miley Cyrus fans on Twitter, and researched behind-the-scenes data on Snapchat, among a wide variety of other projects.

IMG_0006Laurise would do another internship with MTV in a heartbeat. She loved living in NYC and thrived in Viacom’s creative environment. She wasn’t stuck doing any of the typical intern duties, like making coffee and stuffing envelopes. Viacom truly invested in their interns, and their Intern Welcome Party went above and beyond to prove this. Apparently, cupcakes and ice cream weren’t enough, but what about a surprise performance—in the interns’ honor—by the highly successful music artist, Andy Grammer? Andy commended the interns for sacrificing their summer freedom to invest their time wisely, a choice that Laurise does not regret. “MTV was great to their interns,” she frequently noted. They weren’t strict about dress codes or anything, for that matter. She always felt accepted in the Viacom community, even when she snapchatted a picture of her lunch on MTV’s official Snapchat, instead of her own account, because she forgot to log out.

Looking back, Laurise believes that Viacom’s leading example in expansion and innovation made the biggest impression on her. Their ability to create new ideas and strategies, and have the world copy them, sets them apart. She is already applying the skills she learned at Viacom in her part-time job at UB’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, where her creativity will be a huge asset. Laurise always knew she wanted to pursue a career in media, and her internship with MTV definitely confirmed it.