Behind The Scenes

Story by Dave Phillips

August 7, 2017

Mahogany Jones: On our way

Editor’s note: To view the new video, “A Community Anthem,” written and performed by Mahogany Jones, click here. To read more about the process of making the video, click here.

Mahogany Jones sees a lot of herself in the city of Detroit.

“I’m proud to be a Detroiter,” she said. “I represent this city. I feel like me and this city have similar narratives. People misunderstand the beauty of this city and the people of this city, and people discount the ingenuity and the innovation that lives in this city. But we keep showing up and showing out.”

Mahogany’s passion for Detroit and her lyrical writing are what led to her collaboration with United Way. She is the new face of our brand anthem video, to be released Aug. 17. Click here to be among the first to see it.

The video focuses on Mahogany in different locations throughout Southeastern Michigan as she recites her anthem for the community, describing what it means to be “on our way.”

“I was just really excited to get to do it,” said Mahogany, an artist educator who works with K-12 students through the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. Many people submitted poems for consideration for the new brand video, but hers was the standout.

“It’s an honor. United Way really supports a lot of the things I believe in.”

Writing the poem was a painstaking, tedious process, Mahogany said. She sat down and started writing on a Saturday morning. Three hours later, she wasn’t satisfied — the poem sugarcoated some of our community’s problems.

“We’re not delusional,” she said. “Everything is not perfect, but everything is not horrible either. We’re working together to create solutions to continue to make things better.”

Resilience and heart

With that thought in mind, she spent another few hours rewriting different versions before landing on the finished product.

“Between the resilience of the people who live in Detroit and United Way‘s heart for service, I was really inspired,” she said.

Mahogany has been in the spotlight before. She’s released four studio albums and was a four-time Freestyle Friday champion on the former BET TV show “106 and Park.” This project, however, is her first appearance in a brand video. She had to hit marks and re-run the same scene over and over, but throughout the whole project, she remained enthusiastic and upbeat. She was humbled to know that her words will inspire people to get involved in their community and take action.

Mahogany said the project also led her to learn more about United Way, and our work in Education, Economic Prosperity and Health.

“I think that is really powerful,” she said. “All reform has to be holistic. What can we really do to fix things — not patch things up but really empower people to create a sustainable solution?

“Stop giving me fish. Teach me how to fish.”

As Mahogany’s poem says, “This is community, and we are on our way.”

Mahogany Jones poses during a photo shoot