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One-woman-show: Vegetarian fables

Semaj Brown

Semaj Brown

By Puakea Olaisha Anderson
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — What’s for dinner? If Semaj Brown is cooking, expect vegetables.

Broadside Press poet Semaj Brown performed her one-woman show, “Onion Revolt,” Feb. 17 at University of Detroit Mercy. The 45-minute play about vegetables is adapted from her new story cookbook and CD, “Feast and Fables from the Planted Kingdom.”

“I’m a prodigy of Broadside Press, I am the next Broadside Press,” Brown told the Michigan Citizen. “I do not have to write about civil rights or human rights. I can write about vegetables because of them, they did it for me.”

Brown, a Detroit native who currently resides in Flint, says she was inspired by a segment on her husband Dr. James Brown’s radio show, “Freedom From Fat,” called “What’s for dinner, Mrs. Brown?”

“I went into the studio unprepared because of a family emergency and I made up the fable on the spot and from there the phone lines lit up and people wanted a book,” Brown said. “And that is what I gave them: A book on fables and a CD.”

Brown’s goal is to inspire people to be more health conscious and to eat more vegetables. She and her husband of 11 years became vegetarians and have collectively lost 175 pounds.

“I came home one day and cooked a big meal and told my husband at the dinner table after we ate, ‘I hope you enjoyed this because after this we are becoming vegetarian,’” Brown said.

Brown’s husband, a family physician in Flint, obliged. Brown has found her own way to relay the message to eat more vegetable through theater.

“I want people to have a vegetable conscience and eat purple,” she said.

Sandra Hines, director of “Onion Revolt,” has worked with Brown on several occasions for other shows.

“When she called and asked me to work on (this production) with her, I said, ‘absolutely,’” says Hines.

Hines has been a community activist for over 30 years and has been directing in the arts for over 20 years.

Hines, who’s known Brown for many years, says she enjoys the poet/actress’ creative process.

“These characters were created out of her writing and she started developing them,” she said. “The writing brought out the characters and the characters brought out the show.” Brown and Hines are connected to the community and passionately would like people to understand the importance of consuming more vegetables.

“The main thing is that people understand the importance of vegetables and become more health conscious,” said Hines.

The community must be educated in terms of how important vegetables are to a healthy diet, she says. “It opens the door to dialogue about food and how to eat vegetables.”

Through “Onion Revolt,” Brown and Hines are able to help their audience think more clearly about their eating habits and food choices.

“What you experienced in there is a paradigm shift. Something happened in the audience,” said Brown. “Their concept was changed and now they are thinking, ‘I need to do something about my diet.’”

Brown says health is a social problem and is society’s new revolution. “I think of this as a revolutionary concept. This is our new revolution,” she says. “Mastering yourself is a self-mastery that is a revolutionary concept. When you see someone that is 500 pounds, it’s not because they are greedy — they are addicted to the food.”

Brown plans to move her one-woman show to the Charles H. Wright Museum.

For more information, e-mail Semaj Brown at

Contact Puakea Olaisha Anderson at

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