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Adrienne Maree Brown

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Adrienne Maree Brown
Brown in 2015
Brown in 2015
Born (1978-09-06) September 6, 1978 (age 45)
El Paso, Texas, US
Alma materColumbia University
GenreAfrofuturism, science fiction, non-fiction; creative non-fiction
SubjectActivism; Community Organizing; Afrofuturism; Black Feminism; Facilitation; Social Justice; Climate Justice

Adrienne Maree Brown, often styled adrienne maree brown (born September 6, 1978), is a writer, activist and facilitator. From 2006 to 2010, she was executive director of the Ruckus Society. She also co-founded and directed the United States League of Young Voters.[1]

Brown describes her thought as postnationalism, and others have described it as Black feminism or womanism. She also supports, among others, the Black Lives Matter and prison abolition movements.

Much of her work as a writer is based on the writings of science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Her first book, Emergent Strategy, was published in 2017. Other books include Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, published in 2019, and We Will Not Cancel Us, published in 2020.

Brown also runs podcasts and has released a music project. Additionally, she works as a doula.

Life and activism


Early life


Brown was born on September 6, 1978, in El Paso, Texas, to a mixed-race couple who met at Clemson University in South Carolina.[2] She is the eldest of three children. Her father was in the military and she spent much of her childhood abroad in Germany (see United States military deployments), as well as in Georgia, New York, and California.[3] As mixed-race children, Brown and her sisters experienced racism in school.[2]

Brown attended Columbia University where she studied African American Studies, political science, and voice.[3] She was at the university when Amadou Diallo was killed by police officers in 1999. She cites this time as being pivotal to the development of her political consciousness, especially regarding issues of policing and race.[2] She identifies as bisexual and has recounted experiences with homophobia and sexual assault.[3]

After graduating from Columbia, Brown began working with the Harm Reduction Coalition in Brooklyn, and served as a social justice facilitator at the Social Forum.[2][3]

She moved to Detroit in 2009 after being invited to consult with Detroit Summer in 2006, and after dating Detroit-based rapper Invincible.[3][4]

Activism in Detroit and onwards


From 2006, Brown worked with social justice organizations in Detroit.[2][3]

In 2006, Brown served as a consultant with Detroit Summer, based out of the Boggs Center.[5] From this Brown developed a strong relationship with Grace Lee Boggs, whom she counts as a mentor.[2][3][6] Brown was a major figure within the Allied Media Conference as a host and facilitator.[7]

Between 2006 and 2010, Brown also worked as the executive director of the Ruckus Society.[3] She co-founded and directed the League of Young/Pissed Off Voters.[2]

Of her work in Detroit, Brown wrote, "Our actions have to be towards the world we want. We need to be guerilla gardening and turning people's heat and water on. We need to be the guerillas putting up solar panels in the hood. That's what Detroit has taught me."[8]

Brown has supported Democratic candidates in presidential elections, encouraging her readers to vote for Joe Biden[9] and Barack Obama.[10]

Brown describes her thought as postnationalism.[11][12] Others have described it as Black feminism or womanism.[13][14]

She has also expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.[15] In her book We Will Not Cancel Us, she expresses support for the prison abolition movement.[16][17]





Brown is currently a contributor to YES!, a magazine focused on solutions journalism.[18] Brown previously contributed to Detroit-based newspaper The Michigan Citizen, and was a sex columnist for Bitch magazine.[19][20]

Books and contributions to books


Brown has published extensively on sex,[21] healing, self-care, trauma,[22] and science fiction.[23] Much of her work as a writer is based on the writings of science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler.[14] Her own writing style has been said to belong to the Afrofuturism genre.[4]

In 2010, she published the Octavia Butler Strategic Reader with Alexis Pauline Gumbs. In 2013, she received a Detroit Knight Arts Challenge Award to run a series of Octavia Butler-based science fiction writing workshops.[5] In 2015, she collaborated with Walidah Imarisha and Sheree Renee Thomas to edit and release Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, a collection of 20 short stories and essays about social justice inspired by Butler.[4][24][25]

Her first book, Emergent Strategy, which examines sustainable social change, was released in 2017 by AK Press to critical acclaim.[19][26][27] Brown defines emergence as "the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions" and describes emergent strategy as a "life-code" which is effective both in organizing and personal life.[28]

Emergent Strategy has given way to a series of essays published by AK Press on sustainable transformative justice, including the November 2020 release We Will Not Cancel Us And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice and Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation, out May 2021.[29][30] The 2020 book We Will Not Cancel Us considers questions of harm, accountability, and transformative justice, speaking primarily to an audience of activists and others organizing around prison abolition.[16][17]

Brown has contributed to many anthologies focused on justice, transformation, and feminism, including How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office: The Anti-Politics, Un-Boring Guide to Power (2004), Dreaming in Public: Building the Occupy Movement (2012), Dear Sister (2014), and Feminisms in Motion (2018), How We Fight White Supremacy (2019), and Beyond Survival (2020).[31][32][33][34][35][36]

In Beyond Survival (2020), Brown writes What is/isn’t transformative justice (2020), where she pleads for transformative justice rather than “public takedowns” of individuals who engage in wrongful behaviour. Brown expresses her discontent over public takedowns occurring online whereby persons who commit relatively small harm, such as “saying something messed up” or significant harm such as sexual assault, are publicly torn to shreds. Brown claims this process cultivates a “fear-based adherence to reductive common values”. What is rather needed, she pleads, is transformative justice, as this will truly benefit society. She describes transformative justice as: “justice practices that go all the way to the root of the problem and generate solutions and healing there, such that the conditions that create injustice are transformed”. To pivot towards transformative justice, Brown offers three solutions.[37]

First, Brown pleads we listen to others who have wronged us with “why?” as a framework. She claims it is gratuitous to qualify such persons as being “shady, evil, or psychotic”. According to her “the percentage of psychopaths in the world is just not high enough to justify the ease with which we assign that condition to others”. By asking “why?”, Brown claims we are humanizing those who have harmed us. By posing this question we may understand that grief, abuse, trauma, mental illness, difference, socialization, childhood, scarcity, and loneliness explain peoples’ actions. These answers may scare us, as they make us realize we are possible of the same transgressions. Nevertheless, asking “why?” remains necessary to attain transformative justice.[38]

Second, Brown proposes that we ask ourselves “what can/we learn from this?” when we’ve been harmed by others. According to Brown, “If the only thing [we] can learn from a situation is that some humans do bad things, it’s a waste of [our] precious time – [we] already know that”. Therefore, we must ask ourselves “What can this situation teach me about how to improve our society?”. In this respect, Brown uses the example of Bill Cosby. The defamed comedian is a mass rapist, which is now known. However, had we believed the first woman who came forward and told her story vis-à-vis Cosby, potentially 40 other rapes could have been prevented. Thus, Brown stresses the need to identify perpetrators of harms, to prevent them from re-offending, and “ensure they experience interventions that transform them”.[39]

Third, Brown suggests that we ask ourselves “how can my real-time actions contribute to transforming this situation (versus making it worse)?”. According to Brown, this question is crucial in the age of social media where “we can make our pain viral before we even had the chance to feel it”. She writes that mainstream takedowns and public shamings often happen even before we’ve gotten the facts, which is equally true for interpersonal grieving. Brown underscores that while persons in positions of power must be called out when necessary, calling someone to try to resolve a dispute, when you have cellphone number, can be more beneficial. In real-time, there is space for silence, reflection, growth, and resting, which is absent on social media. For these reasons, Brown suggests trying to get mediation support, thinking of the community, and seeking justice, to address conflict.[40]

Brown ends her piece by stressing that we shouldn’t be pack hunting an external enemy. We are responsible for each other’s transformation and “not the transformation from vibrant flawed humans to bits of ash, but rather the transformation from broken people and communities to whole ones”.[41]

Brown's anthology Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good was released in February 2019,[42] According to Catherine Lizette Gonzalez, on the news site ColorLines, the book "demonstrates how activists can tap into emotional and erotic desires to organize against oppression".[21] The book appeared in April 2019 on The New York Times Best Seller list for paperback nonfiction, where it was number six.[43]

In September 2021, Brown published the novella Grievers, her first long-form work of published fiction.[44]



On March 25, 2021, Brown released an EP titled The Sabbatical Suite. It consists of five songs written on sabbatical in 2020, over beats by her musician friend J-Mythos. She has called it "a small odd intimate music project".[45][46] She also provided background vocals on the 2023 album Javelin by Sufjan Stevens.[47]



Alongside Autumn Brown, Brown runs the podcast, How to Survive the End of the World, which seeks to learn "from the apocalypse with grace, rigor and curiosity" and is currently in its 5th season, as of 2021.[48]

In June 2020, Brown and Toshi Reagon began hosting the podcast Octavia's Parables, which gives an in-depth dive into Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.[49]

On June, 23, 2022, Brown appeared on "On Being with Krista Tippett" on an episode called "We are in a time of new suns”.[50]

Work as a doula


Brown also works as a doula. She identifies as a "radical doula", because she sees it as part of her activism.[51]




  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (AK Press, 2017) ISBN 9781849352604
  • Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation (AK Press, 2021) ISBN 9781849354189
  • We Will Not Cancel Us And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice (AK Press, 2020) ISBN 9781849354226



Edited collections



  • The Sabbatical Suite (2021)
  • End of the World Show (2017- current)
  • Octavia's Parables (2020- current)



Awards and nominations

  • Kresge Literary Arts Fellow (2013)[52]
  • Knights Arts Challenge winner (2013, 2015) [53][54]


  1. ^ "Bio and Booking – adrienne maree brown". Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Scott Campbell, Justin (April 24, 2018). "Earning Our Place on the Planet: An Interview with adrienne maree brown". Longreads. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cooper, Desiree (December 15, 2011). "Social activist challenges groups to create safe spaces for all: Adrienne Maree Brown". Between the Lines. Pride Source Media Group. ISSN 1080-7551.
  4. ^ a b c McGonigal, Mike (June 10, 2015). "The Visionary: Adrienne Maree Brown". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Streeby, Shelley (2018). "World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism". Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism. Vol. 5 (1 ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 9780520294455. JSTOR 10.1525/j.ctv1xxzdb.
  6. ^ Jeffries, Zenobia (March 27, 2017). "The World Is a Miraculous Mess, and It's Going to Be All Right". YES! Magazine. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  7. ^ Jordan, Jerilyn (July 13, 2020). "21st annual Allied Media Conference will go virtual to explore the cross-section of media and social justice". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  8. ^ Generation, Movement (2009). "Resilient Cities: Building Community Control in a Shifting Climate". Race, Poverty & the Environment. 16 (2): 15–18. JSTOR 41555160.
  9. ^ brown, adrienne maree (August 12, 2020). "strategy and kamala feels". Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  10. ^ brown, adrienne maree (January 17, 2012). "obama and revolution". Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  11. ^ Brown, Adrienne Maree. "post-nationalist". Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  12. ^ Brown, Adrienne Maree (January 15, 2021). "post nationalism in the age of cooptation and other dumpster fires". Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  13. ^ Ajani, Ashia (February 11, 2020). "adrienne maree brown Is Helping Us Rethink How We Organize". them. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Bailey, Moya (2013). ""Shaping God": The Power of Octavia Butler's Black Feminist and Womanist SciFi Visions in the Shaping of a New world – An Interview with Adrienne Maree Brown". Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology (3). doi:10.7264/N34F1NNF (inactive June 11, 2024). ISSN 2325-0496.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of June 2024 (link)
  15. ^ Brown, Adrienne Maree (January 10, 2021). "After Attempted Coup, We Must Fight White Supremacy and Sow Revolutionary Love". Truthout. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  16. ^ a b Burton, Nylah (February 9, 2021). "Cancel Culture Is Real, But adrienne maree brown Says We Should Be Careful About Throwing People Away". Shondaland. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  17. ^ a b "We Will Not Cancel Us Book Release Event with Adrienne Maree Brown". YouTube. November 20, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  18. ^ Brown, Adrienne Marie (June 29, 2022). "Murmurations: Returning to the Whole". YES! Magazine.
  19. ^ a b Pérez, Miriam Zoila (December 18, 2017). "17 Women of Color Who Rocked the Resistance in 2017". Colorlines. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "The Pleasure Dome". Bitch Media. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Gonzalez, Catherine Lizette (February 26, 2019). "In 'Pleasure Activism,' Adrienne Maree Brown Dares Us to Get In Touch With Our Needs". Colorlines. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  22. ^ Campbell, Justin Scott (May 11, 2018). "Trauma Makes Weapons of Us All: an interview with adrienne maree brown". Medium. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  23. ^ Retta, Mary (September 10, 2021). "adrienne maree brown Says 'All Organizing Is Science Fiction'". Vulture. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  24. ^ Gottschling, Grace (September 5, 2018). "Social Justice books your kids are reading for college". Campus Reform. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  25. ^ Patton, Venetria K. "Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  26. ^ Jackson, Symone (July 16, 2018). "Revisiting our roots to propel us forward - lessons from Adrienne Maree Brown's "Emergent Strategy"". beneficialstate.org. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  27. ^ Gabriel, Larry (August 23, 2017). "'Emergent Strategy' is food for thought during the time of Trump". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  28. ^ Brown, Adrienne M. (2021). Emergent strategy: shaping change, changing worlds. AK Press. ISBN 978-1-84935-454-7. OCLC 1262784900.
  29. ^ Brown, Adrienne M (2020). We Will Not Cancel Us. AK Press. ISBN 9781849354226.
  30. ^ Brown, Adrienne M (2021). Holding Change. AK Press. ISBN 9781849354189.
  31. ^ How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office: The Anti-Politics, Un-Boring Guide to Power. Soft Skull. 2004. ISBN 1932360085.
  32. ^ Dreaming in Public: Building the Occupy Movement. World Changing. 2012. ISBN 978-1780260846.
  33. ^ Dear Sister. AK Press. 2014. ISBN 9781849351720.
  34. ^ Feminisms in Motion. AK Press. 2018. ISBN 9781849353342.
  35. ^ How We Fight White Supremacy. Bold Type Books. 2019. ISBN 9781568588490.
  36. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625.
  37. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625, p. 1
  38. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625, p. 2
  39. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625, p.2
  40. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625, p.2-3
  41. ^ Beyond Survival. AK Press. 2020. ISBN 9781849353625, p. 3
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  46. ^ "The Sabbatical Suite". Spotify. Retrieved May 26, 2022.
  47. ^ Daniel Kreps (August 14, 2023). "Sufjan Stevens Enlists Bryce Dessner, Covers Neil Young on New Album 'Javelin'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  48. ^ "How to Survive the End of the World". How to Survive the End of the World. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  49. ^ Liptak, Andrew (June 22, 2020). "A New Podcast Will Take a Deep Dive Into Octavia Butler's Parable Novels". Tor.com. Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  50. ^ "adrienne maree brown — "We are in a time of new suns"". The On Being Project. Retrieved July 7, 2023.
  51. ^ Pérez, Miriam Zoila; Brown, Adrienne Maree (March 27, 2013). "Radical Doula Profiles: adrienne maree brown". Radical Doula. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  52. ^ "Adrienne Maree Brown - Kresge Arts in Detroit". Kresge Arts in Detroit. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  53. ^ Scholl, Dennis (September 7, 2013). "Announcing Detroit's Knight Arts Challenge winners". Knight Foundation. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  54. ^ "Knight Arts Challenge Detroit 2015 Winners". knightfoundation.org. Retrieved April 11, 2021.