She can act. She can dance. And yes, she can sang, too. Branjae proves why she’s a triple threat this holiday season and continues to empower women and inspire hope for all.
Courtesy of Branjae Music
Published 12/03/2020 | Reading Time 6 min 12 sec
By Autumn Brown, Managing Editor
It might be flu (&COVID-19) season, but I have Branjae fever! Tulsa musician, Branjae, exudes charm as she creates content meant to move the needle toward change.
And this season, she’s becoming a triple threat by crossing over into acting — starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Holiday film, “Finding Carlos: A Hip-Hop Holiday Movie.” It’s available on Eventive.
Branjae is a modern-day ‘Harriet [Tubman]’ through her creativity, unapologetic authenticity, and passion for humankind. Branjae has even been featured on a mural in her community.
Branjae stands by a community mural presented by Metro By T-Mobile.
I’m thankful to Branjae for taking the time to sit down and talk with me about her upcoming projects.
Autumn Q1: Branjae, tell me about your childhood. You’re so creative and free-spirited. Tell me about what you were like as a young child.
Branjae A1: I’ve been the same — have always been creative. I’ve always marched to my own beat; always wanted to do things differently — find other ways to do differently than what other people were doing. I think that’s just probably the Aquarius sign in me. I was raised in a Missionary family, [where my] mother, father, brother, and things were musical. My mother was very encouraging as far as going after my talents and gifts that had, and passions that I’ve had in life. And so she’s always been supportive of that. So yeah, from a young age I’ve been creative, I’ve kinda dibbled and dabbled into different things. I’ve always believed that you don’t have to choose one thing in life. [I] have always been diverse in my interests in things to create and be open to new opportunities and new desires. My mom has been crucial and has been a real support system.
Autumn Q2: What drew you to music?
Branjae A2: I don’t think there was a specific moment. It’s kind of always been there, you know. I say that music found me, creativity found me. It wasn’t something that I remember actively trying to pursue or figure out what I wanted to do. I just always knew that’s just where I naturally flowed. And what I wanted to be doing was writing in my notebook, creating stories, creating songs, and you know, making costumes and doing hair and all the things that I do now. It just sort of was always there. There are artists that I saw through my childhood. Like when I first saw Michael Jackson, I knew I could see myself on stage like that. And I was probably five-years-old, just barely tall enough to stand right at the vacuum cleaner handle [her micstand]. So, I remember specifically performing in the living room alone. I’ve always loved music.
Autumn Q3: So, you’re a pretty active social justice advocate. Talk to me about what it means to be active in the movement. And do you ever channel this work into your music?
Branjae A3: You know, social justice is so interesting because I believe that it’s more of a lifestyle. I never really considered myself to be an activist, but just naturally [these] are things that I care about that are wrong in the world, and that I’d like to change. I’ve always wanted unity and harmony. And I’ve always been a person that cared about justice and being fair — and everyone having the right opportunity. That’s always been there since I was little. And, you know, just looking around throughout my community and where I’m living, in our worlds we create, just seeing things that weren’t just, I’ve always been a person to speak out about it. If something unjust is going on I’ve never been the person in the room, along with everyone else, who doesn’t say anything. I’ve always been that person that can’t sleep at night; it’s going to bother me that I should have stood up or I should have brought some awareness to whatever issue. I think it’s more of a lifestyle, justice is something that you naturally want to see. I’m a very, very sensitive person. I don’t know if a lot of people know that about me, but I’m very sensitive to feelings and emotions and energy. And sometimes it’s too great, I have to take breaks and change my focus, but there’s always something that I’m working towards.
Autumn Q4: Branjae, I was struck when I watched your video ‘Streetlight.’ I particularly liked, and found interesting, the flashback to the little girl. Talk to me about Streetlight.
Branjae A4: “Streetlight” is a story, some of it is written but it was inspired by my personal experience going through a part of domestic violence on all sides of that coin; being a victim of domestic violence and becoming the aggressor in new relationships, full with anger, being more violent, too much alcohol. And so I’ve seen domestic violence, how it can present itself. It’s not always man beats woman, there are lots of gray areas and things that are abuse, that people don’t realize is violence and abuse. So in “Streetlight”, I wanted to talk about the issue of domestic violence in our country, in the world. I’m using my personal story as information for it. So [Streetlight represents] three sections of self: the innocence and past self before damage, before violence, before trauma has happened; the present self where you’re in the trauma and reacting to the trauma, and; the higher self who is encouraging and represents another way you can make it through this, you will make it through this. This is you, who made it through. And the party is representative of the community and people out there that are around us to support. I feel for people in those situations, who feel trapped and they want to leave, and they feel like deep, deep down inside they deserve better. I just want to encourage people with my story.
Autumn Q5: And now Streetlight is in London, Paris, and Sydney, it’s gone global! Streetlight was officially selected to internationally debut at the Lift Off Global Network film festival. Talk to me about how that feels.
Branjae A5: It’s really strange. It’s sort of something that I have lots of feelings about; I’m extremely excited and I’m grateful: is my first feeling. And the second feeling is like when you are dreaming and you see yourself, kind of like I saw it happening. My manager is an intentional deliberate creator, and we just imagined “Streetlight” being shown all over the world. For me, it felt like domestic violence isn’t just exclusive to America. We have this problem that’s happening all over the world; and, not only is it happening all over the world but [in] a lot of places, it’s not illegal to beat your wife. For example, in Oklahoma, it’s not considered a crime to strangle your wife, and that’s here. So, I wanted to share the video with as many people as far as it could go to inspire anyone that feels like they’ve had a similar situation. All I want to do is empower people.
Autumn Q6: And now you’re crossing over into acting. Tell me about your upcoming film, ‘Finding Carlos: A Hip-Hop Holiday Movie.’
Branjae A6: It’s actually a remake of the story of the Nutcracker. It’s way more diverse and so is the music. The movie was written and redone by Bobby Moffitt, Jr., and so the feel of the style is more soul, r&b, and hip-hop. I play the Sugar Plum Fairy who is also a singer and a dancer and she kind of had a hard life earlier so she’s got a little edge to her. She works with her community through dance; and the Oklahoma City Ballet is where we filmed it, that was her dance studio. She helps this young boy named Carlos who is struggling with his mother that was an addict, and he’s afraid to be an addict. So it’s a really cool situation, talking about addiction and mental health within minority communities and making it more normalized [to talk about.]
Autumn Q7: The centennial year of the Race Massacre is around the corner. Tell me what it means to be a Tulsan during the middle of such a historical uncovering.
Branjae A7: I’m so emotional right now just with everything going on. I feel saddened, I feel bad because this is something we have to focus on, but I also feel triumphant because I feel like Black people survive through it all. I feel like we’re the strongest people in the world and so that’s encouraging to me. The life and the success of Greenwood, a forever thriving Greenwood, is important to me and is something that we need to always continue to talk about. What we don’t recognize and what we don’t look at or talk about, history will repeat itself. So there are a lot of emotions that are happening surrounding this, I mean 100 years seems like a long time, it’s not. But overall, I am grateful that Black people are thriving, I am grateful that we are continuing to build our communities and each other. I am thankful that we are continuing to talk about these issues that have been in the lockbox for centuries and allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable and open within our community. That’s a part of our healing.