Interview: Renaissance Woman Crystal Senter Brown

Crystal Senter Brown models a unique and inspiring blend of creativity, business acumen, community service, and hard work. The daughter of a Baptist Preacher and a painter, Tennessee’s own CSB has been performing poetry since the age of six. She has produced three musical cds and has published three books. Crystal just recently signed a movie deal for her most recent book, a novel entitled “The Rhythm in Blue.” Somehow, while doing all of these things and working full-time for the American Cancer society, this sister also has the time to be a Justice of the Peace, a “side hustle” that has gotten her recognition in Essence and Redbook Magazines. Crystal was glad to take a moment to field a few questions for UrbanCusp:

When did you know that you were destined to be a performer?

My mother enrolled me in a church-based arts program at the age of 5 where we learned about different types of poetry, art, etc. I took the stage for the very first time at the age of 6, when I was asked to perform the poem “The Negro Mother” by Langston Hughes for an area Black History Month program.

You do a little bit of everything – sing, perform poetry, write, act – how do you find time for it all?

I ask myself the same question! Luckily I have a great support system at home- my husband makes everything easier for me by stepping in to help when things get to be too much! I’ve also learned to cut out a lot of “unnecessary” tasks I had taken on over the years to make room for things that are aligned with my personal and professional goals.

You are a prolific tweeter. How have you used social media to expand your brand?

Very carefully. At first I used Twitter as a diary, tweeting about EVERYTHING that came to my mind. But then I learned how important it is to share meaningful content. I try to do that as often as I can. I also have a pretty large following on my Facebook fanpage and I am learning how to do less “marketing” and more “connecting” with the people on my Twitter page and Facebook fanpage. I have sold more books and cd’s over the past few months by sharing less and engaging more.

One of your latest projects is your new book, “The Rhythm in Blue” can you tell us a bit about it and what inspired it?

In November, 2009, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month challenge in which participants write an entire novel in 30 days. Once I finished on November 30, I saved the novel on my computer and never really thought about it again until I was sitting at the Harlem Book Fair with a writer-friend Keshawn Dodds. He encouraged me to get the book off my computer and into the hands of an editor. In fact, Keshawn printed the novel and hand delivered it to an editor for me. What happened next is history!
I self-published “The Rhythm in Blue” on MLK day 2012 and it has done quite well on Kindle and Nook. It is a story we all can relate to: being fed up with our current situation and wanting to escape for a few days. That’s exactly what happened with the main character, Mason Joseph. Mason is an attorney who is originally from Blue, VA, but is practicing law in D.C. He is a few weeks away from marrying Sasha, but she has turned into a bridezilla of sorts, so instead of checking into the nearest hotel, he drives to Blue to the home of one of his oldest and dearest friends, Jasmine. What happens next answers the age-old question: can men and women REALLY be just friends?
The novel also features several other main characters, including a preacher with a past and a first lady with a skeleton in her closet that is bigger than her church hat.

Can you tell us about how you have integrated technology into the experience of your book?

On the book’s companion site:, readers can download Jacob’s sermon, Layla’s poetry and see some of Mama Jennison’s artwork. This gives the book another dimension and allows the reader to really connect with the characters of the book.

Now I have to ask you, you’ve written children’s books, a book centered around church folk, AND you regularly perform erotic poetry, which is really good by the way, do you ever catch any criticism for doing all of that?

Not anymore. People will ALWAYS talk about you behind your back. People will ALWAYS have something to say about how you live your life. But once I understood that I only have ONE person to please (God) I didn’t worry about “people” anymore. As long as I am living my life to please God, nothing else matters. On a side note: Unlike in the past, I now only perform erotic poetry if my husband is in the room/ venue.

What advice would you give aspiring poets/writers/actors/singers/justice of the peacers?

Stay focused on your goal. Don’t allow other people to determine your path. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests that are not aligned with your vision! And above all, have fun! Making money is awesome, but happiness is priceless.

Visit Crystal’s website to find more information about her work: Follow her on Twitter @poetesscrystal and LIKE her facebook fan page is a cutting-edge online magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. The site offers a platform for young adult perspectives, profiles inspirational visionaries and artists, and serves as an online community for change agents who are like-minded. Founded in 2011 by Rahiel Tesfamariam, Urban Cusp highlights voices, ideas and images not commonly found within mainstream media.

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